GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a global healthcare business, with pharmaceutical, vaccines and consumer healthcare divisions. It employs over 100,000 employees and had a combined turnover of £27.9 billion (€31.8 billion/$37.7 billion) in 2016.
In 2016, GSK was – for the fifth year running – the highest ranked pharmaceutical company in the well regarded Access to Medicine Index. It has been recognised for its commitment to research and development (R&D) for low- and middle-income countries and has a large number of R&D projects that target independently identified, high-priority product gaps.
However, the company’s reputation for sustainable business practices has been significantly affected by two high profile scandals. In 2012, the company agreed a $3 billion settlement – the largest in the industry to date – with the US Department of Justice for its role in promoting drugs for unapproved purposes. In 2014, a Chinese court found GSK guilty of bribing non‐government personnel between 2007 and 2013 and the company was fined nearly $500 million, with suspended prison sentences for four executives.
What we did
In 2012, we spoke to the chair to understand the lessons learned by the company to avoid a repeat of the mis-selling scandal in the US. In 2013, shortly after we learned of the further scandal in China, we engaged with the company to gain assurances that it would take the issue seriously. We spoke to the chair and later the senior independent director to express concerns that in spite of a review of the remuneration of its sales force in the US, further issues had arisen in China.