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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Strategic CSR - AIDs

The article in the url below highlights recent developments by corporations in South Africa, such as the mining company Anglo American, to deal with AIDs infections among its employees. The goal is twofold—to prevent as many employees as possible from becoming HIV+, while helping provide the support and treatment necessary for those who are infected:
“Bosses receive a daily e-mail that shows, statistically speaking, ‘which is the safest mine to have sex’, says John Standish-White, an Anglo executive and a champion of its AIDS policy. Managers are judged by it. There is even a trophy for the mine with the lowest score. Any employee who tests positive for HIV is offered antiretroviral drugs paid for by Anglo. So the 17% of Anglo’s South African staff with HIV can live a normal life. The firm’s big push now is to slow down or stop new infections.”
In response to the firm’s proactive efforts, 80% of all employees have now been tested and the issue of AIDs is openly-discussed:
“The results of all this were better than anyone dared to hope. Free drugs gave workers an incentive to get tested, so many did. Thanks to lobbying by activists and improvements in technology, the price of drugs meanwhile plummeted from roughly $10,000 per person per year in the late 1990s to as little as $100 today. Drug firms made their medicines simpler to take: a pill or two a day instead of lots. Corporate AIDS programmes are starting to pay for themselves by cutting absenteeism and staff turnover, not to mention improving morale. Anglo’s Dr Brink talks of ‘turning a disaster into something we could manage.’”
This approach has affected the overall relationship the firm has with its employees. In short, in relation to its employees, the firm now does not see its responsibility (or self-interest) as confined to the workplace:
“The fight against AIDS has subtly changed the relationship between firms and their workers. Before AIDS, a mine boss at Anglo would worry about rockfalls but feel it none of his business if an employee took risks at home. These days he takes a paternalistic interest in the sex lives of his workers. … Since Anglo started monitoring its workers’ health more closely it has discovered other problems, such as rising obesity and hypertension, and started to tackle them.”
At Anglo American, at least, the business argument for doing so is easy for the firm to make:
“Mining firms have a strong incentive to keep employees healthy, because they are hard to replace. Miners become familiar with the unique geology of the mine where they work. Staff turnover is only 2.4% a year at Anglo. Also, its record in tackling HIV may help it secure the ‘social licence’ to mine in other regions with virulent diseases, such as malaria.”
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Sex, drugs and hope
April 13, 2013
The Economist