by William Roedy
Chairman and CEO (ret.) MTV Networks International
GBCHealth Board Member
I was at the very first meeting to discuss forming a council to aggregate the business response to HIV/AIDS. It took place in Scotland and included the Editor at the Financial Times, several pharmaceutical companies, myself (MTV Networks) and my then-assistant, Georgia Arnold, who was about to take on the CSR (corporate social responsibility) role in our company.
The pharmaceutical companies were at the time getting heat for not making treatment more affordable, even though the R&D was quite expensive. From this gathering we formed the Global Business Council. To the best of my recollection, this was around 1997. As I was the only non-pharmaceutical company representative, we were chosen shortly thereafter to chair the council. MTV had also already been doing prevention and anti-stigma messages on the channel between the music videos.
During the next couple of years our membership grew modestly to approximately 35 companies. We also started to recognize those companies with the best HIV/AIDS policies and external activities and the GBC Awards were born. We implemented a best practice program to encourage companies to learn from one another. I held GBC meetings at Davos, where leading businesses were already located.
After approximately three years as Chair, I was approached by Richard Holbrooke, who had recently left his job as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In his UN job, Richard had developed a close relationship to the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, and convinced him to hold a Security Council meeting on the AIDS pandemic, the first of its kind.
As I was quite excited about Richard joining the GBC, I held an introduction meeting with him at the Viacom offices in the spring of 2000. I wanted to make a strong impression on GBC's status, so I picked the biggest and most important office in the Viacom building. We had several other conversations and basically negotiated our way through a variety of issues, eventually reaching an agreement.
Some of the conversations were quite long, and I recall after a particularly lengthy phone call on a Saturday afternoon that I asked, was this how he pushed through the Dayton Accords? He said yes, but with the help of a strong assist from the NATO military forces!
By this time, GBC had its team of about 20 employees in the Viacom building. Richard had an amazing list of business and government contacts, and the GBC soon benefited hugely, by dramatically increasing its membership. I stayed on as Chair, eventually leaving about a year later, while Richard was President, Richard kindly arranged for Bill Clinton to give an award for my time as Chair.
As MTV looks for any excuse to have a party, we arranged for Wyclef Jean and Lionel Richie to perform with the usual assortment of celebrities, including Miss Universe, Naomi Campbell and others. Richard's time with the GBC brought more growth and credibility. One year we had Bono speak at our Berlin meeting. Another time, MTV arranged for Elton John to speak at the London meeting.
Since these early days, the GBC has grown, changed its name from Council to Coalition, widened the mission to TB, malaria, and eventually became GBCHealth.
It has been a remarkable history, driven mostly by a hugely dedicated and professional staff, unselfishly working 24/7 to help business improve health initiatives globally. Its success can be measured in many ways, but probably best by the evolution of thousands of companies forming their own internal departments to improve global health.
After my time as Chair, I've had the privilege to stay involved, with roles as a Board Member and Chair of the Advisory Board. It has been a wonderful ride, with countless achievements, and I have been fortunate to witness the entire history of the Coalition. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the executive staff, the board and most importantly to the member companies. It has been, and is now, a wonderful collaboration of commitment, imagination and leadership that has truly made a difference.
My experience can be summed up by a strong personal belief that I repeat:
“DOING GOOD IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS.”
You do good for your customers, your employees and your brand.