The "New Zealand Consensus Framework" was signed last week at the 2021 APEC Business Ethics for Small and Medium Enterprises Forum, according to a release issued by the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group and received here on Monday.
The framework builds upon nine similar agreements for ethical collaboration that bring together more than 300 health organizations representing thousands of companies and which affect hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals as well as millions of patients.
Consensus frameworks enable relevant stakeholders, including industries, healthcare professionals, patient groups, and governments, to work together by aligning shared principles.
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In his opening remarks at the forum, the 2021 APEC Chair of Senior Officials, Vangelis Vitalis, highlighted the strong correlation between business ethics and productivity and how ethical businesses across the region can help drive business productivity by three to six percent per year.
"At a time when we need to get access to vaccines and related medical equipment, this framework allows policymakers, the private sectors, and others, to work together in finding consensus and supporting the region’s economic recovery," Vitalis affirmed.
Vitalis is concurrently the deputy secretary of Trade and Economic Affairs of New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Representing the private sector, former chief executive officer of the Medical Technology Association of New Zealand Faye Sumner affirmed that the framework creates a set of ethical standards to guide collaboration among patient organizations, healthcare professionals, and industry players.
"No one group can achieve an ethical environment in these sectors alone," Vitalis stated.
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Research -- co-funded by APEC and presented at the forum by Ethisphere and Royal Holloway, University of London -- found that small businesses in health-related sectors with established ethics and compliance programs had significantly stronger economic performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ethics and compliance programs include employee training, written standard awareness and communication, anti-corruption policy coverage, and risk assessment.
The research also found that customers and industry peers are the main drivers for small businesses to embrace integrity and adopt business ethics.
"As we continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and facilitate an inclusive recovery, it is crucial for us to provide businesses with a transparent and predictable environment where we can no longer afford to disregard the importance of business ethics," Chair of the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group Norlela Suhailee stated.
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"This is especially significant for micro, small, and medium enterprises. As they are smaller in size and have lesser resources, they are more vulnerable to unethical conduct," Suhailee pointed out.
This year’s activities follow the historic launch of Vision 2025, the initiative’s roadmap endorsed by APEC SME Ministers in 2020, which includes modernizing APEC principles and providing SME capacity building through the APEC Leaders in Ethics and Integrity Program (LEIP) in the biopharmaceutical sector and the Global Distributor’s Compliance Toolkit in the medical technology sector.
"As we continue to work together to help our societies recover from the pandemic and to be better prepared for the next one, APEC should continue to serve as a driving force to realize consensus frameworks for economies worldwide. It is clear we are only at the start of this movement," Director General of International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations Thomas Cueni noted.
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