For decades, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) has built strategic capability while simultaneously addressing population health issues. Often they have found that focusing on the social need can both benefit society and lead to business opportunity. For example, through their non-profit work supporting Jonas Salk’s efforts toward a polio vaccine, BD developed the first fully disposable syringe and needle. Years later, BD designed a new syringe that greatly reduced the risk of accidental needle sticks during the response to HIV. This evolved into a major line of business generating more than $2 billion in revenue.
In a recent piece for strategy+business, Eric McNulty profiled the efforts of BD, a member company at the Center for Higher Ambition, to develop the low-cost BD Odon Device to assist women with labor complications, particularly in developing countries. He found that BD uses Higher Ambition efforts such as these to develop core strategic capabilities: building knowledge, attracting and retaining talent, and developing critical relationships.
For example, BD’s Gary Cohen, president for global health and development, told McNulty about how BD’s socially beneficial initiatives have helped the company cultivate core strategic capability:
The Odon Device provides entree into maternal and infant health, a new area for BD. Considering that as many as 10 million women face a serious medical complication from pregnancy each year, this is a significant market opportunity linked to an acute social good;
When the company recruits graduates from top business schools such as Kellogg and Columbia, high-performing students often point out the attraction of BD’s global health work — even when the recruiters represent a different part of the business;
Gaining proficiency at working with multi-stakeholder engagements and fostering cooperative innovation across regions “informs our business strategy more broadly in developing and emerging countries.”
We encourage you to read the full piece and think about what social need your business can meet on the path to developing the strategic capability for long-term success that engages the full range of stakeholders.