Impact Chronicles

African Stories of Social Impact, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Profit vs Purpose: The Struggle of For-Profit Companies in the Face of a Pandemic

Profit vs Purpose: The Struggle of For-Profit Companies in the Face of a Pandemic

I can imagine the quandary that most corporates are in right now. Having to pay people who are not coming to work. If your company manufactures non-essentials that also means your revenue has taken a knock. Worse, if you are in the Healthcare department, chances are, many are looking at you sideways for selling things that people need amidst a pandemic, while your investor may be pushing you to increase your prices and profit from the virus. So what matters more, Profit or Purpose?  Could this be a lesson to companies on the importance of social good and having your customer’s and employee’s backs? Are we, the customers expecting too much?

Gilead Science offices

Earlier this week a company called Gilead Sciences (If you watch Handmaids Tale, the irony is not lost on you!) was under all sorts of fire on social media when it was revealed that they supposedly had the COVID-19 cure but would not share it with China because China wanted to mass-produce the medication and give it out for free. Profit over Purpose collided. Hypothetically speaking, if you were the CEO or founder of Gilead, what would you have done? Give out the drug for the greater good? Even if that means all the years and millions spent on research would end in you not earning a single cent but saving millions of lives? According to The Intercept, Gilead Sciences and other medical supply firms are facing investor pressure to consider ways to profit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Healthcare service providers seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. While it makes financial sense to “make money while blood is on the streets”,  it is a difficult thing to do. At times like these, I believe striking a balance is essential. As it turns out, the drug that Gilead Sciences has produced, Remdesivir, was developed in partnership with the University of Alabama through a grant from the federal US government’s National Institutes of Health. This partnership may be the reason why the company has been donating products in a bid to assist with the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Striking a balance might mean availing services and products at a low cost through government/stakeholder subsidies or matching sales to donations. In the face of a global crisis, companies are tested and it seems important for everyone to remember that we are all humans and Social Good must prevail.


Jocelyn is a Digital Storyteller who believes that the fusion of Social Impact Storytelling and Business Development is the key to the growth and sustainability of the social enterprise sector in Africa. Through her organization, Impact Chronicles, Jocelyn empowers African social enterprises and amplifies the message of Impact and Innovation to audiences the world over. She envisions the continent’s Changemakers thriving through collaboration and opportunities facilitated by Impact Chronicles

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