GSK's sustainability story

Stephanie Caun walks us through GSK's sustainability story and how focused content and external insight played a key role.

The Chartered Governance Institute Awards 2017

We were really pleased to win ‘sustainability disclosure of the year’ at The Chartered Governance Institute Awards 2017 for our Responsible Business Supplement.

The judging criteria for the award included demonstration of engagement with the most important stakeholders for the business and how this drives improvement in performance. Our approach was to develop a performance-led sustainability report – supplemental to our  annual report – using external insight to assist the process.

Concise and accessible

At GSK, we are lucky to have people who are passionate about their area of work and how it can make a difference – whether in relation to increasing the access to healthcare for underserved populations, improving clinical trial transparency or reducing our carbon footprint. This means we have a wealth of content to include in our report, so one challenge was to stay focused and keep it concise and accessible for our audience.

In 2016, we shortened our report to be more focused on providing a performance update on our responsible business commitments. We reduced the report in size by 50%, from 58 to 29 pages, and used our corporate website,, to provide contextual information and background on our programmes. Our website is now our main source of narrative information and detailed case studies, and the Responsible Business site is the section of our website where, on average, visitors spend the most time.

This has had several advantages: a shorter report makes it easier for readers to find the information most relevant to them; it emphasises priority updates, which demonstrate the progress we have made in the last year; prevents the need for repetition of contextual information each year; and there is less burden on the reporting team and our contributors and approvers that input into the process.

Bring the outside in

Seeking insight from external stakeholders is an important part of our approach to responsible business, including reporting. These insights allow us to better understand the expectations of our stakeholders and society.

In 2016, we refreshed our materiality assessment – a process which allows us to assess the most important and impactful issues to our stakeholders and the business. As part of this process, we held in-depth interviews with key representatives from a range of stakeholder groups. Insights from these groups helped us to validate our most material issues, and informed our approach to reporting.

“Seeking insight from external stakeholders is an important part of our approach to responsible business”

As well as more in-depth engagement, we monitor the most pertinent issues for our business on a continuous basis through a range of activities and approaches, from one-to-one meetings with investors through to working groups with our peers and partnerships with non-profits. Through this process, in our 2016 report, we highlighted some of the ‘emerging issues’ from that year and provided more information on the actions we have taken in response.

This included issues like the humanitarian crises in areas such as Syria and South Sudan, and global pandemics such as Zika. In our latest 2017 report, we also introduced a stakeholder engagement table to detail our key stakeholder groups and how we listen and engage with each of them.

For further stakeholder input, in the past two years we have asked Aron Cramer, President and CEO of BSR (Business for Social Responsibility, a global nonprofit organisation), to review and comment on our responsible business approach and reporting, and his commentary is included in the published report. He provided us with a transparent, balanced opinion, drawing out both strengths and areas for improvement so that we can continue to learn and improve.

Evolving our approach

For the past five years, we have reported against our 23 responsible business commitments in the Responsible Business Supplement, making sure we continue to evolve it with good reporting practices. In 2017, we announced a new company goal to be one of the world’s most innovative, best performing and most trusted healthcare companies. Alongside this, we also introduced three new long-term priorities for the company – Innovation, Performance and Trust.

In next year’s report, we will publish a new set of long-term commitments, describing the actions we will be taking to demonstrate our continuing commitment to deliver societal value and support our ‘Trust’ priority. We are looking forward to developing a reporting strategy that allows us to reflect this, and communicate where we can make our biggest impact.

Read the sustainability story of our other winner Unilever and see the full list of award winners

Stephanie Caun is corporate responsibility manager at GSK

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