|The Business Response to HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 2000, 79 p.)|
|SECTION 5. PROFILES OF BUSINESS ACTIVITIES IN RESPONSE TO HIV/AIDS|
Key lesson: Innovative programme involving core business practices
· Business description:
American International Assurance (AIA), a subsidiary of American International Group, the leading US-based international insurance organisation, was established in Thailand in 1938. AIA is the largest life insurance company in Thailand. In December 1999, AIA had a market share of over 45 percent, 2 million policyholders, over 97,000 million baht (approx. $US 1,600 million) in assets, premium income of 34,000 million baht and writes 6,300 million baht in new premiums each year.
· Number of employees:
+66 2 634 8888
+66 2 266 7847
1. Motivation for action
AIA first began to recognise the seriousness of the spread of HIV/AIDS in 1992 when Thailand was experiencing a rapid rise in HIV rates. They recognised the leading role that the public sector and NGOs had taken, but believed they needed support in order to achieve a greater impact on the epidemic. Thus, they sought to complement this work by applying business expertise and resources through partnership in the response to HIV/AIDS. AIA regards a response to HIV/AIDS as an essential part of its commitment to its customers and corporate philosophy, and its role in society. Moreover, as a life insurance company, AIA has a clear vested interest in the health and wellbeing of its clients and national community in terms of direct costs on insurance payments and future markets.
2. Business response to HIV/AIDS
From 1992 to 1999 AIA entered into partnership with various NGOs and public health organisations on a range of projects involving community donations and corporate philanthropy, focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention. For example, in 1993 they partnered CARE International Thailand in an on-going HIV/AIDS prevention programme for factory workers in the Samut Prakarn Province, creating an HIV/AIDS information network and support to individuals and the community. In addition, AIA provide HIV/AIDS education and information on prevention to its workforce and supply HIV/AIDS information manuals to its policyholders (over 2 million distributed). AIA have undertaken to advocate for greater business involvement in the response to HIV/AIDS. In October 1999, AIA and several other business leaders from the Asia-Pacific region signed an executive declaration of commitment against HIV/AIDS, setting out to recognise businesses responsibilities and the critical role they can play. For example, the declaration states:
With access to marketing, organisational resources and communication technologies and the ability to mobilise employees and in turn local communities, businesses are in a unique position to implement effective HIV/AIDS prevention programmes and play a major role in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Significantly, AIA recently set itself the task of integrating HIV/AIDS initiatives into its core business operations, in this way assuring the sustainability of response. A study in 1997 showed many Thai businesses still had not initiated HIV/AIDS workplace programmes, which AIA attributed to a perceived lack of incentives and tangible benefits. As a result AIA have developed the following programme:
Evaluation and Accreditation Programme
In the latter part of 1999, AIA, in partnership with the Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS (TBCA), a business membership NGO providing leadership in the business response to HIV/AIDS, set about developing an innovative evaluation and accreditation programme. This is aimed at providing credited premium value to companies implementing HIV/AIDS policies and education programmes in the workplace.
The primary aim of this programme is to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and non-discrimination in the workplace of AIA policyholders using financial incentives. Through an accreditation scheme indexing the strength of policyholders workplace and community HIV/AIDS programmes, these companies will be rewarded with a 5-10 percent credited premium value group life insurance. There are three percentage levels offered (5, 7 and 10 percent) which will depend upon the accreditation scoring, assessed by the TBCA regarding the following activities:
1. Policy on HIV/AIDS
2. HIV/AIDS staff training
3. HIV/AIDS staff information and education
5. Collaboration from staff living with HIV/AIDS
6. Policies/procedures providing a supportive environment for staff with HIV/AIDS
7. Assistance of staff living with HIV/AIDS
8. HIV/AIDS activities in the community
Accreditation is followed by two evaluation stages, once on entry to the scheme and once before the yearly renewal of the policy. In this way companies are given an incentive to improve programmes, as assessed through measurable progress in knowledge, behaviour and attitudes of the workforce. The costs to AIA of this programme in 1999 were approximately 3.3 million baht (circa. $US 85,000), which includes the development costs.
In addition, AIA recognise that current and potential policyholders will need to be provided with the technical capacity to undertake HIV/AIDS programmes, and the information to develop a clear understanding of the resulting company and community benefits. AIA experience has shown that the best method of achieving this is to develop partnerships with existing government and nongovernmental organisations specialising in HIV/AIDS responses.
3. Results and lessons
Given that the Evaluation and Accreditation Programme is in its infancy, it is not possible to assess its effectiveness. It is however an excellent example of how businesses can begin to assess ways in which core business practices may be affected by HIV/AIDS and then develop innovative mechanisms to contain the economic and human impacts.
For AIA the potential benefits go beyond the positive public perception gains of AIA as a socially responsible business and leader in the response to HIV/AIDS. They include the potential reductions in direct costs (insurance payouts) as a result of healthier workforces amongst its policyholders. In addition, it has the potential to attract new business as a result of AIA demonstrating its commitment to its customers, and the potential gains for policyholders through obtaining credited premium value group insurance.
In addition, the work AIA has undertaken over the years has highlighted the importance of partnerships with NGOs and governmental organisations in scaling-up responses and providing the necessary expertise and understanding of HIV/AIDS issues and networks. The TBCA in particular has been important in assisting AIA in developing credible, effective and innovative programmes.