June 26, 2001
-- Following a meeting today with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan during the U.N. Special Session on AIDS, leaders of some of the world's biggest companies, including The Coca-Cola Company and MTV Networks International, announced their commitments to fight the global AIDS epidemic, and called upon other business leaders to join the cause.
"HIV/AIDS sets unique challenges for society, but business has demonstrated that it can bring some unique strengths to bear on those challenges," said Bill Roedy, President of MTV Networks International and Chair of the Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS (GBC), an international group of companies spearheading the business response to AIDS. "The challenge to all businesses today is to make the scale of their response match the ingenuity and innovation that some have already shown."
Roedy unveiled the GBC's blueprint for business action on AIDS, designed to encourage business leaders to mobilize a response to the epidemic by their own companies. Illustrated with case studies from companies leading the business response to the epidemic, including M*A*C Cosmetics, Unilever and Standard Chartered Bank, the blueprint calls for businesses to implement workplace policies and programs, harness business strengths to solve the problems created by the epidemic, and provide advocacy and leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In today's meeting with Annan and other business leaders, Roedy announced that Richard Holbrooke, former United States ambassador to the United Nations, has been named President and CEO of the GBC.
Holbrooke, in accepting his new leadership role, said his top priorities at the GBC will be to recruit new businesses to join the Council and to encourage more companies to implement business guidelines on AIDS. "My goal is to scale up business involvement in the fight against AIDS," said Holbrooke. "There have been many individual success stories in the business response to the epidemic, but they are not enough. Responding to AIDS must be a rule of good business, not an exception."
Roedy also announced that several new multi-national corporations, including AOL Time Warner, American International Group (AIG), The Coca-Cola Company, M*A*C Cosmetics, Unilever, and Viacom, have joined the GBC. "Let us hope that these new commitments from some of the world's biggest companies mean that with this first UNGASS on HIV/AIDS, we have reached a watershed in the business response," said Roedy. "Working together, the business community has the potential to become a major force in the global campaign against this disease."
Although most of GBC's current members are major corporations, Roedy emphasized that all businesses can make a difference. "Any business that is concerned about AIDS, no matter how large or small, has the potential to contribute in some way to the response to the epidemic," said Roedy. "Everyone in the world is a customer, and businesses are able reach them."
Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, applauded the GBC for its leadership to the business community. "Governments and non-governmental organizations have a substantial role to play in the response to AIDS, but they cannot do it alone," said Piot. "The skills and resources of the world's companies are a vast resource, largely untapped thus far."
Piot added that, for an increasing number of businesses, AIDS is more than a philanthropic concern. "With over 36 million people infected worldwide, HIV is a major threat to global economic stability and business interests. Those who are hardest hit by the epidemic are between the ages of 15 and 49, a time when people are in their most productive years of life."
Carl Ware, Executive Vice President of The Coca-Cola Company, said, "AIDS is a worldwide humanitarian crisis of such proportions that it requires the full attention of the public and private sectors. Governments cannot do it all. The business community must do its part and work pro-actively with governments and other stakeholders."
"The Coca-Cola Company has been at the heart of every community in Africa for decades," added Ware. "The devastating effects of AIDS on communities where we live and work touch us everyday from Cairo to Cape Town. As business leaders, we must utilize our best resources and best practices to help combat this deadly disease."
Last week, The Coca-Cola Company announced a major initiative with The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to implementing the Coca-Cola System's philanthropic and corporate citizenship program in Africa, with UNAIDS.
Roedy noted that businesses are adopting many different approaches to addressing AIDS. "There is no single way for a business to take action on AIDS," said Roedy. "We're seeing companies capitalize on their unique skills and strengths."
As an example, Roedy pointed to efforts at his own company, MTV Networks, to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. MTV's 28 music programming services across Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the United States have featured extensive programming related to HIV/AIDS, including the Emmy award-winning "Staying Alive" documentaries on HIV/AIDS, offered free to other broadcasters around the world.
"With a global audience approaching one billion people, MTV's greatest contribution to this fight is to educate our viewers about AIDS and reduce the stigma associated with the disease," said Roedy.
The Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS (www.gbcaids.com) is a group of companies dedicated to increasing business action in response to the epidemic. Founded at the end of 1997, the Council works through its members and partner organizations to offer leadership and advocacy to the business community, to encourage and inform business action with employees and their communities, and to help companies enlist their core strengths in tackling the challenges of HIV/AIDS.
Council members include: AOL Time Warner, American International Group, Bristol Myers Squibb, Calvin Klein, The Coca-Cola Company, Edelman PR Worldwide, Eskom, GlaxoSmithKline, Industries Villares, Levi Strauss, M*A*C Cosmetics, MTV Networks International, Merck & Co., Polaroid, SSL International, Standard Chartered Bank, Tata Iron and Steel Co., Telepar, The Body Shop International, Unilever, and Viacom.