Why Global Pharmaceutical Giant GSK Became Part of the Satell Institute


By making long-term commitments and getting its employees involved in the work, the new SI member has a strategy that will pay dividends for communities — and the company.

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“Giving back is really important to a lot of our employees,” says Becki Lynch, Head of Charitable Investments at international pharmaceutical company GSK. “For some people, it’s a really key part of who they are at GSK.”

Giving back is also a key part of what GSK is. A brand new Satell Institute member, the mammoth and influential company — which employs 70,000 people around the world and whose U.S. hubs are in Philadelphia and Durham, North Carolina — has long been a purpose-driven organization. It puts a strong focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, using its charitable giving to support key initiatives and numerous nonprofits, while also creating opportunities for thousands of its employees to be part of its efforts.

Among the many philanthropic initiatives GSK is involved with are its well-known GSK Science in the Summer program, which provides hands-on science instruction to kids in community settings; the GSK IMPACT Awards, which provides unrestricted awards to 20 nonprofits every year; and the Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective, a collective impact effort done in partnership with the Philadelphia Education Fund (and 55 other members).

In this conversation, Becki Lynch talks about GSK’s strategic approach to charitable giving; why giving back to the community is also good for the company; and the invaluable benefits GSK gets from belonging to the Satell Institute.

At GSK my role is to oversee…
… our corporate charitable giving in the U.S. and the U.K. In the U.S. we’re focused on the Philadelphia region, as well as the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Those are the regions where we have the largest number of employees. I’m also responsible for our global employee volunteering programs.

We refocused our charitable giving approach…
…about two or three years ago around three specific themes, to make sure that it really aligns with the goals we have across our CSR or “Trust” strategy.

One is “Health for People,” which is focused on improving health and wellbeing systems for people who are vulnerable or marginalized. The second is “Health for the Planet,” which is focused on our company’s sustainability goals of carbon neutrality, water use and restoration, and general care for nature. The last one is “Innovators for the Future,” which is around STEM education – but with a specific focus on equity. We’re thinking about how to improve educational opportunities for people who are traditionally under-represented in STEM careers.

With our new charitable giving strategy…
… we wanted to make sure we were being smart about putting ourselves into areas where we could make a difference, and especially where we could have our employees and their skills make a difference.

One great example of that…
…is the Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective. We’ve partnered with the Philadelphia Education Fund on STEM education for many years. This most recent partnership started in 2020.

We really wanted to have a depth program. And so we thought: Let’s focus on a place where we have a lot of STEM jobs and try to enhance the overall pipeline of individuals who are coming into the company and into STEM fields generally, and really focus for a long period of time on that whole journey. We made a 10-year, $10 million commitment in 2020.

Within the STEM Equity Collective…
…staff from the Philadelphia Education Fund actually work alongside staff from GSK. The executive director of the collective is a full-time GSK person, and then we have a number of GSK employees who come in in part-time roles and support different pieces of the work. We’ve had 15 or 20 GSK employees who’ve worked alongside PEF since we started in 2020. The idea is, we’re giving grant money to support this, as well as putting our own people and their smart brains into running this collective.

Our charitable giving approach is…
…a lot more than writing a check. It’s really important that it’s not just my little charitable team that’s involved in working with these community organizations, but that we involve lots and lots of people within the company in the work. That’s not only a more valuable contribution, but it’s more valuable to GSK if our people can experience the work for themselves.

We are definitely getting great feedback…
…from employees. Everybody in the company can contribute one or two full days to volunteering. And if they’re working on a skills-based project, like the Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective, they can get up to four days to support that program. We’re giving employees more time, we’re giving them more connections to our partners, and we’re keeping those things focused on our CSR themes. So I think it’s really helped energize everybody.

Another great example of employee involvement is…
…our IMPACT Awards program. We gave unrestricted awards to 10 nonprofits in Philadelphia and 10 nonprofits in North Carolina, and then we hosted a rapid-fire brainstorming event for several of them with our employees. The nonprofits brought pressing problems they’re facing, and then you had all these people from across different disciplines within GSK being able to give feedback and support them in developing solutions.

We received amazing feedback from the nonprofits. But the feedback from employees was also so positive and so different from just watching a ceremony of people getting checks. They really felt like they personally were able to contribute.

We got involved with the Satell Institute…
…through Farah Jimenez at PEF. Since we were already working so closely together, she thought it would be a good opportunity for us to make the commitment in order to be a part of it.

I’m really excited…
… about the Satell Institute. Since the pandemic, I’ve had less and less interaction with peers, especially within the region. So to be able to turn out and see what other people are doing, to be able to connect with other funders and corporates and see what we can do together, is exciting.

It’s nice to just take that time out and hear from others. It sparks a lot of new ideas and creative things. And I’m glad the Satell Institute makes that possible.

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