As a part of the MNEmerge project, a regional policy workshop was organised at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in Gurgaon, India on the 21st of August, 2015. The aim of the workshop was to discuss the research findings of the MNEmerge team together with the relevant stakeholders, such as policy makers and NGOs, as well as to receive feedback from various experts to further strengthen the ongoing study.
The main theme of the workshop was to discuss the contribution of pharmaceutical MNEs to facilitating access to medicines in India. In addition, the contribution of MNEs to sanitation, agriculture and poverty alleviation in India was discussed in order to form a more holistic picture of the overall impact of MNEs on the Indian society. The research conducted by PHFI indicated that MNEs have established linkages with the local market in India, which has had positive spillover effects in the overall economy by helping in asset and employment creation. MNEs have also undertaken various CSR initiatives, such as patient access programmes and educational and awareness programmes. However, the investments of MNEs in R&D and innovations have been critisised due to the fact that the research priorities of the firms are not in line with the public health priorities in India.
In general, lack of sanitation was highlighted as one of the main societal challenges worldwide, having adverse impacts on the lives of millions of people. Consequently, improvement in sanitation could have wide-ranging positive effects to people’s health and quality of life. MNEs can play an active role through CSR related activities in the improvement of sanitation and are already involved in, for instance, the construction of toilets and the provision of clean drinking water. These activities are seen to bring benefits for firms as well, for instance in the form of improved image and strengthened customer loyalty.