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Social Capitalists: PSI

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner


Karl Hofmann, president and CEO
Washington, DC
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PSI uses the private sector to improve the health of millions of low-income people in more than 60 developing countries. With programs in malaria, reproductive health, child survival and HIV, PSI makes branded health products and services available at affordable prices to address the most pressing health needs of the poor in a measurable way.

The Problem

Every day, thousands of people in the developing world suffer and die from AIDS, malaria, poor sanitation and poor nutrition because of a lack of access to basic health information, products and services. Most of these deaths are preventable through inexpensive health products and services. Every year, more than 500,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes because they lack the means to space their births or limit their family size.

PSI's Solution

For almost 40 years, PSI has been applying private sector marketing strategies to improve public health of low-income and vulnerable people. By marketing and distributing brand name health products and offering franchised health services, PSI gives people options for improving their health. In 2006, PSI products, services and campaigns directly prevented, among other outcomes, an estimated:

  • 209,000 HIV infections
  • 6.7 million unintended pregnancies
  • 28 million malaria episodes
  • 2.2 million diarrhea episodes

And it gave many more people the opportunity to avoid death and disability from other common diseases.

PSI's Vision and Strategy

Opportunities to make markets work for the poor will only increase over time as incomes rise and globalization increases. More and more businesses understand that their engagement with the poor is not just good for society, but good for their bottom line as well. Strategically, PSI will continue the expansion of its line of products and services with a focus on those that address the most serious health problems of the developing world in the most cost-effective way. It anticipates a growing number of increasingly active partnerships with leaders in the packaged goods, pharmaceutical and financial sectors (like its current partnership with Procter & Gamble mentioned below) that will allow substantial numbers of poor to benefit from the research and development, marketing, distribution and finance capacities of the private sector.

Strategic Partnerships

PSI's strategic partnerships range across the spectrum of different economic sectors -- public, private, entertainment, corporate, etc. PSI's two cause-related marketing campaigns -— YouthAIDS and Five & Alive -— use media, pop culture, music, theatre and sport to prevent HIV infection among adolescents and common but deadly diseases among children under five. Here are two other examples of PSI's private sector partnerships:

  • Since 2003, PSI has partnered with Procter & Gamble to bring a life-saving household water treatment product to poor people. The partnership leverages P&G's technology with PSI’s knowledge of markets in the developing world to provide a product that makes even the dirtiest water clear and potable in just 25 minutes. For the first time in its corporate history, P&G has permitted an outside entity (PSI) to handle its brand.
  • In 2007, Scojo Foundation (a fellow Social Capitalist Award winner) and PSI signed a five-year agreement to make reading glasses available to the millions of Africans who lack this simple, essential health product and tool for economic development. As a result, approximately 300,000 people will receive new glasses in 13 African countries.

Commitments to scale up both of these partnerships were announced at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2007.

PSI also partners with leading corporations such as ALDO, Alcoa, Anthropologie, British Petroleum, Cartier, Coca-Cola, Condé Nast, ExxonMobil, KIEHL's Since 1851, Levi's, Merck and Pfizer, Roberto Coin and Virgin Mobile.