A Licence to Co-operate: Governments and corporations champion a new era of collaboration

May 07, 2019
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This article is part of the Forum Network series on International Co-operation and will feed into upcoming discussions at OECD Forum 2019.

Around the world, technological advancement, shifting demographics and globalisation are rapidly reshaping our society. While dramatic gains have been made in reducing poverty, increasing life expectancy and broadening economic opportunity, these trends also pose new and increasingly interconnected challenges. 

Photo by Karen Maes on Unsplash

The threats we face today transcend borders, sectors and generations. From addressing the healthcare needs of rapidly aging societies to supporting migrating populations and addressing the impact of our changing climate, there are no simple solutions to today’s most pressing issues. 

While governments, civil society and corporations are already working on solutions, it is only through collaborating with one another that we can truly achieve sustainable, meaningful progress.

Realising the potential of public-private collaboration

Providing sustainable platforms for governments and business to partner with one another is an integral part of fostering inclusive growth and well-being. The OECD is a key enabler of such collaboration. By bridging the gap between the private and public sectors, the OECD can further amplify their impact.


The private sector has significant experience, resources and capabilities to address society’s biggest issues with speed and agility. This includes the ability to rapidly identify and develop innovative products and solutions, globally-distributed infrastructure and logistics capabilities to reach those in need and leading capabilities and know how in areas such as data sciences, artificial intelligence and more.

When these resources are combined with those possessed by governments, including the ability to finance large initiatives and to deploy new interventions at scale, there is tremendous potential to positively transform the lives of billions of people.

Igniting change through innovative thinking

As the world’s largest healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson works with governments and citizens across the globe to identify solutions that can change the trajectory of health for humanity.   

An example of such work is All Policies for a Healthy Europe (AP4HE), an initiative that aims to improve European citizens’ well-being and reduce health inequality. This cross-sector initiative calls for a redesigned government approach to policymaking one in which the health and well-being of each individual citizen is at its core. 

All Policies for a Healthy Europe

Johnson & Johnson also works with Global Citizen, a social action platform striving for increased government, civil society and private sector engagement and investment to end extreme poverty by 2030. Through a combination of local efforts, multimedia content and consumer engagement, Johnson & Johnson and Global Citizen have activated advocates around challenges such as HIV/AIDS, improving maternal and new-born health and more. 

Initiatives like these are promising, yet much more still needs to be done to broaden and deepen collaboration between the private sector and governments. While these alliances may seem like “no brainers”, too many barriers exist to foster greater engagement.  


Charting a new path forward

Whether due to concerns about potential conflicts of interest, lack of defined channels for communication or legal or regulatory constraints, the private sector has too often been relegated to the side lines of international collaborations to address societies’ challenges. In today’s world, with increased transparency and accountability, as well as greater expectations for civic engagement from customers and the general public, companies can and should play a greater role. Working through the OECD and others, I am confident in our ability to find common ground and achieve more together than we ever thought possible.   

  • What are the barriers for large-scale collaboration between corporations and governments to address society’s biggest challenges?
  • How do corporations obtain a “licence to operate” to engage in social initiatives without being perceived as only doing it for profit, media attention or positive brand association?
  • Which pressing policy issues represent the best opportunity for corporate leaders and advocates to drive the most change?

Continue the conversation and help us co-create the agenda

All of the discussions you have on the Forum Network inform our thinking for the OECD Forum event each year – respond to Joaquin's questions and give your opinions by commenting to help us co-create the agenda

Related Topics 

CEO ActivismHealthOECD Forum 2019

Find out more about OECD Forum 2019: World in EMotion 

OECD Forum 2019: World in EMotion

Banner image: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Joaquin Duato

Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee, Johnson & Johnson

4 Comments

Philippe Ducos 4 months ago

May be the PPP model applied to social policies, such as combatting against poverty, helping elderly people for instance suffering long term diseases,... make sense. The key would be to foster a scheme whereas the private sector does not make massive profits, but only a reasonable profit.

I am volunteer for a brainstorming session about that.

Philippe Ducos


Quentin Wilson 4 months ago

Beyond the potential advantages of business-government collaboration, including researchers and practitioners in the circle would enhance this approach.  Further, the process of collaboration is a science itself. Perhaps Johnson and Johnson would like to use a model known as a Networked Improvement Community, developed by IHI and promoted by the Carnegie Foundation, to tackle one of these challenges. 

I volunteer for such an effort. 

Dorina Grossu 4 months ago

The systems are rather set on using an antagonistic approach as Gov.'s interests are different than the private org. Gov.'s have the banks, therefore, control the inflation/deflation through taxes (in rich countries), while private org. have investors that try to make their profits as large as possible.

Both need changes to combat poverty, lack of education, lack of healthcare, lack of policies etc. in countries. IT platform can enhance and facilitate yet the current systems might be already way above the current ability to control due to the global approach. 

ISO standards for environment are not even being followed since the environment has been neglected by these large enterprises with the Gov.'s agreements in many of the poor(er) countries. So, starting to educate and offer clean water, energy that is efficient, IT access for communication etc. are the bases while the monetary system require tight control to prevent corruption.

michael hopkins 4 months ago

How do corporations obtain a “licence to operate” to engage in social initiatives without being perceived as only doing it for profit, media attention or positive brand association?  

Is a ridiculous question. If a corporation doesnt make profits it cant survive.  The questions is 'How'' profits are made not profits per se. Consequently all actions to and from a corporation's stakeholders must be responsible, the basic tenet of CSR/Sustainability. Further discussion on csrfi.com happy reading!