Corporate contributions to health – the case of Bayer CropScience from the capability approach perspective

Moczadlo, Regina; Strotmann, Harald; Volkert, Jürgen (2014). 'Corporate contributions to health – the case of Bayer CropScience from the capability approach perspective' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

The potential of corporate SHD contributions, risks and limitations has not gained much attention in the Capability Approach (CA) literature up to now. In our paper we adopt an explicit capability approach perspective to analyze this corporate potential based on new primary data of the Bayer CropScience Model Village Project in rural Karnataka in India for which the authors of this paper provide an independent evaluation (Volkert, Strotmann, Moczadlo, 2014). While doing business with the farmers who are suppliers selling cotton seeds to Bayer CropScience, the firm plans to implement measures that both contribute to sustainable human development in the village, and also to the success of the company.

What can be expected from a German Transnational Corporation like Bayer CropScience is the generation of employment and income. However, as has been shown by the CA and other development studies, a variety of further well-being dimensions and means are important for people's well-being which may be remarkably improved, neglected or violated by TNCs.

The focus of the people-centered CA lies on the capabilities and real freedoms that people value and have reason to value (Sen 1999). Therefore, we start with our findings regarding the value that the villagers attach to the capability to be healthy as well as with respect to their perceptions of related freedoms, restrictions and potential for improvement.

Health has a major influence on the capability of people to participate in the economic and social life. Good nutrition is a prerequisite for living a healthy life and a central element of human freedom (Sen, 1992, 44). The human right of health has several influencing factors like '…nutrition, lifestyle, education, women's empowerment, and the extent of inequality and unfreedom in a society.' (Sen, 2008, 2010).

For analyzing the capability to be healthy and related functionings (Venkatapuram 2011) in the villages, we base our findings on own primary micro data from a representative household survey. The questionnaire includes amongst others health related questions and questions to health perceptions of the respondents. Two diagnostic health camps carried out by medical doctors provided complementing results.

The quantitative survey was conducted in in two model and two control villages of rural Karnataka in 2011. In total, the analyses can draw upon a representative sample of about 2,300 realized interviews in almost 1,000 households, thereby covering 75% of the villages' households of all castes. During the survey the villagers' weight and height were also measured which allows to calculate their body mass index (BMI). Furthermore, in 2012 and 2013 14 FGDs with more than 200 villagers have been carried out.

Subjective health perceptions are important to identify individual suffering. However, they can be severely misleading as a result of adaptation to social experiences and circumstances. As Sen (2009: 284-285) puts it: 'The internal view of the patient may be seriously limited by his or her knowledge and social experience. A person reared in a community with great many diseases and little medical facilities may be inclined to take certain symptoms as 'normal' when they are clinically preventable.'In the villages, this is a major issue: in our quantitative survey as well as in the FGDs people attached a high value to the capability to be healthy and very few of them saw restrictions to achieve this. However, a remarkable gap between these opinions and realities has been indicated by our BMI measurement and confirmed by the medical health camp doctors. The results show that malnutrition is a severe problem in the villages and exceeds rural India averages (NFHS-3, 2007). This is a crucial issue as malnourishment causes lower resistance to infections, hence a higher prevalence of diseases. These misperceptions (Vellakkal et al., 2013) can be caused by adaptation to social circumstances and experiences, but also due to lack of education, available health facilities and public information of illness and remedy. Corresponding with this, health awareness of the villagers has been found to be very low.

We discuss the impacts of these findings on local human development as well as consequences and options for the Bayer CropScience. Although corporate goals are strategically self-interested and differ from the villagers' goals, improving the health situation can also be in the corporate interest. This is the case when people's health improvements foster their productivity, income, purchasing power and ability to invest in better technologies which in turn improves the TNC's supply chain.

However, fostering health is a complex, multidimensional issue. As such, also requirements like identifying needs of information and awareness raising, for reaching the people and for trust building are discussed together with necessary complementary steps of education and training, hygiene and daily habits (cooking, sanitation etc.). We finally draw conclusions on the potential and challenges of such a win-win strategy together with risks of corporate neglect or violations of SHD in the villages. 

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