Children, Partnership and Hope for the Future
Peter J. Robertson, Vice Chairman
2008 World Malaria Day Business Luncheon
The New York Stock Exchange, New York City, April 25, 2008
It's a pleasure to be here today representing our more than 59,000 Chevron employees. I'm proud to be speaking about a mission and a partnership that is extremely important to Chevron and the communities where we do business.
Let me start by acknowledging the New York Stock Exchange for hosting us today and raising awareness about this vital mission. I also appreciate the United Nations, our fellow businesses, the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] here today and everyone committed to this struggle.
We are well aware of the devastating impact that the silent epidemic of malaria and other infectious diseases have on families across the developing world. Many of them, over the years, have been our families. We have large employee populations working in at-risk regions — more than 14,000 in the Asia-Pacific region and over 7,000 in Africa to mention just two.
Fortunately, we have learned that a comprehensive approach can protect people by combining training, preventive care and treatment. We have seen this approach make an enormous difference in the life of a community. And the changes we've watched are good reason for optimism. We're excited and inspired by the results that can be achieved if the organizations represented here enhance their cooperation against infectious diseases.
Most of us are familiar with the frightful human costs from malaria. Because of the price paid by the young, malaria is an especially grievous adversary. Within sub-Saharan Africa, for example, a child dies every 30 seconds and more than a million children a year lose their lives to malaria.
According to a January report prepared for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, malaria "costs the continent an estimated $12 billion a year in health costs and lost productivity, trapping hundreds of millions of people in a cycle of extreme poverty and perpetual illness."
I'll be sharing some of our efforts with you in a moment, but let me pause to reinforce the largest lesson — the importance of partnership — right now. Partnership for our company represents more than an operating configuration. It is a core value that defines our way of working across every aspect of our business. It speaks to the impact we seek to create as an enterprise. The concept of partnership is central to everything we do and hope to do.
But this approach may bring no more profound benefits than the impact of the partnerships we have joined to battle the scourge of infectious diseases. In this fight, business has had success, and Chevron has been successful because of the partnerships we've formed with governments and NGOs. The great work done by Marathon Oil in this area is another example.
To succeed against an unrelenting adversary like malaria, we need to pool knowledge, share best practices and begin working in concert to roll back the march of this disease.
We are excited by the potential of promising new collaborative efforts, like the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa [CAMA], to do just that. We joined CAMA because we wanted to extend the reach of our well-functioning programs as we learned from the work of others. We know that the scale of the challenge demands a combined front. To succeed against malaria across many countries will be an enormous undertaking.
We know that whatever we are able to do as an individual company will go far further if we leverage our effort through relationships with partners like CAMA, GBC [Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] and the Global Fund. The new alliance between CAMA and GBC shows the potential. The alliance will help to scale-up malaria public-private partnerships and drive knowledge sharing. It would be difficult to find a cause that was in greater need of assistance.
The Business Case
Devastating social costs like those extracted by malaria would naturally arouse the compassion of any thoughtful person. But to make a sustainable commitment to an area of need, we must be able to relate our social investments back to our business interests. Strengthening communities is a goal that is closely aligned with our values.
At the heart of corporate responsibility at Chevron is something we call The Chevron Way. It articulates the values that guide our business decisions every day - integrity, trust, diversity, ingenuity, partnership, environmental stewardship and high performance.
We believe our actions to build sustainable communities must be tightly connected to our core business. Our business case for addressing malaria in Africa has three aspects: employee safety, regional health concerns and sound investment climates.
First, malaria affects our employees and impacts future business growth. At Chevron, we measure careers not in years, but in decades. For that reason, keeping our highly-trained and experienced workforce healthy is one of our highest priorities.
Each employee is valuable to us — in human terms, but also professional terms, carrying as he or she does enormous working knowledge and experience applied to complex projects within highly technical disciplines.
We have more than 40 energy development projects under way in which our share of investment exceeds $1 billion. Many of these projects are in Africa and Asia. So, it should be entirely clear that, in addition to humanitarian concerns, we have a powerful incentive to protect the future of our business by securing the health of our employee population.
We are making major investments in Africa to develop energy projects. We have spent $5 billion over the last five years, and, with our partners, we plan to invest another $17 billion. Most of our workforces in Angola and Nigeria are Angolans and Nigerians, and, within five years, 90 percent of our professional, technical and managerial employees will also come from those countries.
When malaria strikes an employee or family member, lives and jobs are disrupted. Productivity decreases — a single bout of malaria in India and Africa is estimated to cause the loss of 10 to 20 working days.
The next aspect to consider is the regional health consequences. Africa breeds the type of mosquitoes that most effectively transmit malaria to humans. Many African countries lack sufficient health systems and resources to wage effective eradication campaigns.
The disease has a debilitating economic impact. Among the hardest hit are families with extremely low incomes. They are forced to spend about 20 percent of their income on treatment. Public health systems in affected regions spend up to 40 percent of their budgets on outpatient malaria treatment, straining their capacity to address other needs. The daily toll is, of course, sobering. Malaria takes about 3,000 lives every day.
About nine out of every 10 victims fall to the disease in sub-Saharan Africa. And of the rest of the victims, most will be lost in South and Southeast Asia. For that reason, malaria cuts a destructive swath across a number of countries and communities that are critical to our business.
Finally, we need to consider the broader damage that malaria inflicts on a national economy. Malaria weakens economic growth. As a major investor within our communities of operation, we would like to see our investments complemented by those of others. Along with a sound investment climate and functioning societal institutions, a healthy population is a critical factor driving foreign direct investment decisions.
To sustain a profitable business that can contribute to national economic growth, companies need stable, healthy populations and the absence of these conditions imposes a huge opportunity cost on developing economies. There is no doubt that the presence of malaria undermines private sector investment and development.
Those are some of the key business considerations that brought us into this battle. The next logical question is where are we in the struggle?
I think those of us deployed against malaria are approaching what Winston Churchill called "the end of the beginning." We have a long, difficult path to defeat malaria, but we are gaining the tools to win the fight, and we know where to join the battle.
Results: Our Approach In Action
So, the major challenges to making greater inroads against malaria are known obstacles:
- Local health infrastructures must be strengthened
- Community awareness about the seriousness of the disease and importance of prevention must be raised
- Local surveillance systems must be strengthened
- And we must battle insecticide-resistant mosquitoes
The experience of those affected within our communities motivates many of us at Chevron. It's why we're passionate about implementing policies targeting at-risk employees and families that include training, testing and treatment. We believe that using comprehensive approaches gives us the best chance to save lives. Our ultimate goal is to train every at-risk employee and to secure treatment for all of our affected employees and their dependents.
Effective approaches in Africa have included what we call the A-B-C-D method. This strategy is labeled for its key elements: Awareness; Bite prevention; Chemoprophylaxis; and early Diagnosis.
While successful programs share many aspects, we incorporate flexibility to allow anti-malaria efforts to be tailored to their specific circumstances.
Let me share some of our experiences against the disease in Africa.
In Angola, malaria cases at Chevron clinics have fallen from 3,700 in 2005 to 2,100 in 2006. We rolled out our communitywide, comprehensive anti-malaria effort in July 2006. This initiative reduced community malaria infections to 520 for the second half of the year - down from 1,500 and 1,200 during the previous two years. We drove lost work days down to 560 from 1,700, two years before. We reduced clinical admissions by more than a factor of six. And, most importantly, since July 2006, we haven't lost a single Chevron employee or dependent to malaria in our Angolan clinics.
Although there are a number of differences between HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, there are common elements to successful efforts against all these diseases. The success we have found through our HIV/AIDS program in Asia, where we are the largest international energy company, as well as in other regions stems from the approach we developed in Africa. There, babies often contract HIV from their mothers. But knowledge is protecting children.
Our comprehensive HIV/AIDS policy combines training, testing and treatment, and it is making a critical difference. Among Chevron's Angolan population there hasn't been a single mother-to-child transmission of the disease in over two years.
Results like that offer hope for a still greater good: ending malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS as threats to life. Only through true collaboration combining resources, experience, staff and successful strategies can we hope to begin the journey to eradication of malaria.
As the GBC and Booz Allen Hamilton found in their overview, "The Corporate Response to Malaria," companies that plan to use a community-based approach should build on the work of others. According to the study, they should: "see what has worked for others and explore coordination, reinforcement and leveraging opportunities that build capacity and sustainability." Many companies, including our CAMA partners, have undertaken a number of excellent initiatives against the disease.
What has been missing, until recently, has been the potential to unite as a team rather than isolated organizations fighting without leadership, strategic guidance and secondary support. We need to unite our efforts under a collaborative spirit with an unbending commitment to see it through until we succeed everywhere.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, sent just the right message in the U.N.'s Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS last year when he said that, "only when we work together with unity of purpose can we defeat AIDS — unity among governments, the private sector and civil society."
The same can be said for battling any infectious disease. I hope we can count on all of the organizations represented here to stand with us and our partners. Whether your business interests are directly threatened today, or your company considers countries threatened by malaria to be promising future markets, we all have a stake in this fight.
Any company which hopes one day to do business in Africa or South Asia has a compelling interest to participate in the anti-malaria alliance formed by CAMA, the GBC and the Global Fund.
I hope we can count on all of the groups here today to stand beside us in this effort. Millions of children and communities around the world are counting on us.
Thank you for your interest and attention.
Published: April 2008