Integrity, honesty and fairness
Governance, organisational culture and stewardship

Related material matters and sustainable development goals

Material matters:
4. Harness the power of technology

Sustainable Development Goals:
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

Governance and sustainability

We see governance as a critical component of value creation, promoting strategic decision-making that balances short-, medium- and long-term outcomes to reconcile the interests of the Group, stakeholders and society. The Group is committed to a values-based and ethical culture, built on the principles of non-discrimination, fairness, integrity and transparency. Compliance with Discovery’s values is monitored throughout the organisation.

Details on corporate governance, including our Board of Directors, governance structures, and performance against maintaining an ethical culture, delivering good performance, ensuring effective control and maintaining legitimacy, can be found in the 2020 Discovery Governance Report.

The Board of Directors of Discovery (the Board) has delegated some of its responsibilities to appropriately constituted Board Committees to assist the Board in the fulfilment of its responsibilities, established in line with the requirements of the Companies Act and King IV™ Report on Corporate Governance for South Africa, 2016. The Chairperson of each Board Committee, who is appointed by the Board, reports directly to the Group Board after each meeting, allowing the Board to monitor performance and ensure that the committees are acting in line with the delegations provided.

Preventing corruption, fraud and waste

Fraud, waste and abuse in the medical scheme environment is on the rise and failure to address this poses a material risk to the sustainability of medical schemes. In light of escalating medical inflation and costs of healthcare, all medical schemes have a clear obligation to actively manage these challenges and to protect the integrity of the healthcare system. Discovery Health invests substantial resources to address and manage fraud, waste and abuse in a fair and responsible manner on behalf of all its client medical schemes and members.

As part of the functions of its Compliance department, Discovery has a specialised team of over 100 analysts and professional investigators that uses forensic software systems to identify unusual claim patterns. Also, the majority of cases that are investigated result from external tip-offs from members, other practitioners and other third-party whistle-blowers who are active partners in efforts to remove corruption from the healthcare system. Discovery Health is obliged to actively investigate every single case arising from a tip-off.

Our fraud investigation processes are objective, impartial and fact-based. They comply fully with applicable legislation and have been tested or approved through external legal reviews, senior counsel opinions and court judgments.

Discovery Health’s efforts to curb fraud, waste and abuse in the healthcare system resulted in a substantial R260 million recovered on behalf of client schemes at the end of August 2020. In quantifying the impact of fraudulent activities on medical schemes, Discovery Health estimates that at least R1.7 billion of member’s money would be lost to fraudulent claims per year in the absence of effective fraud control activities.

As part of an industry-wide collaboration to combat fraud, waste and abuse, Discovery is actively supporting the Council for Medical Schemes and working with all stakeholders to guard against the corrosive effects of corruption in the healthcare system.

If you would like to report any suspicious behaviour relating to fraud, waste and abuse, you can call 0800 00 45 11 (toll free phone number) or email

Discovery also encourages reports related to fraud, including an incentive for whistle-blowers to receive up to 10% of monies recovered by contacting 43477 via SMS, calling 0800 004 500 toll-free or emailing

Alleged bias in fraud investigation process

In 2019, following a fraud-themed summit hosted by the Council for Medical Schemes, a group of doctors raised allegations that Discovery Health was part of a group of medical schemes involved in the racial profiling of doctors in forensic investigations.

Discovery Health participated in a Section 59 Investigation convened by the Council for Medical Schemes into these allegations in early 2020, presenting a detailed synopsis of our forensic processes as well as our rigorous analysis of the outcomes of our investigation processes. Our analysis, which has been verified by external independent reviews, clearly confirms that there is no evidence of either implicit or explicit racial bias in our fraud investigation processes.

As part of its presentation, Discovery Health noted that the approach to forensic investigations balances the need for fiduciary protection of member funds with the need to limit any delays in the payment of claims. In this respect, Discovery Health data shows that:

The vast majority of providers submit claims directly without difficulty in applying coding requirements

Over 94% of claims submitted to medical schemes that Discovery Health administers are paid within four to five days

The vast majority of practitioners do not engage in fraud, waste and abuse activities.

Discovery Health’s internal processes are compliant with legislation and are not related to demographics. Potential fraud and waste cases are identified using sophisticated statistical analysis that applies 30 independent metrics, with none of these related to the demographics of healthcare professionals.

Discovery Health’s analysis also found that once an investigation is initiated, the proportion of investigations that lead to valid findings and to the recovery of funds show no differential by race. This clearly demonstrates that once cases are identified for investigation, there is no evidence of any racial bias in the investigation process itself.

The final report of the Section 59 Investigation Panel is due to be published at a fraud, waste and abuse summit, with a revised date for the summit expected to be announced in October 2020. Discovery Health continues to work with the other stakeholders on the fraud, waste and abuse Steering Committee established by the Council for Medical Schemes (which includes provider groups) to address concerns regarding fraud, waste and abuse management and forensic processes.

Building a highly ethical culture

Ethics is at the heart of sustainability, as the conscience of an organisation.

- Tswelopele Kodisang, Discovery Chief People Officer

With 12 980 people in Discovery Group, it is crucial for the organisation to set the required standards for values-driven behaviour and drive a culture of ethical business practice. We are working to build a culture that is inclusive and accountable, where our people are valued and developed, and where ethics consciously informs decision making.

Discovery’s values and Leadership Charter set standards for appropriate conduct in the organisation. The Ethics Office strategy supports organisational ethics through a focus on:

Leadership setting the example for ethical conduct

Reinforcing the Group’s values in how we operate as individuals and as a collective

Promoting discussions on ethics in the course of business

Ongoing communication, training and awareness.

The Discovery Ethics Charter defines the jurisdiction and operational standards for the Group Ethics Office. It was reviewed, updated and approved by Social and Ethics Committee in December 2019.

Details on Discovery’s involement in the GIBS Ethics Barometer survey can be found in Our stories: Measuring and understanding ethical conduct

Details on the Group’s efforts in mainitaing an ethical culture, including the ethics management approach and governance structures, can be found in the 2020 Discovery Governance Report

Increasing the reach of ethics

The Group Ethics Office supports a large number of employees in multiple locations around the world. To do so effectively, the Group Ethics Office implemented the Ethics Ambassador Programme to expand its reach and have a clearer view of ethical issues across the Group. Ethics Ambassadors are respected employees, irrespective of their job level; they assist in creating and maintaining a high awareness of ethics in their area of influence and assist in identifying and addressing potential ethical consequences of business decisions.

By the end of June 2020, business units had nominated 74 individuals and 33 Ambassadors have completed the specialist Ambassador training programme.

The Group Ethics Office assisted Discovery Health to design a framework to consider and assess international partner opportunities, and to determine how to prioritise optimal partners for international expansion through the lens of ethical and reputational risk, beyond the economic business case. Advisory services are being facilitated by the Ethics Office, with input from external specialists in relevant fields.

The Group Ethics Office assists Discovery Health by attending weekly Executive Case Review meetings to provide ethical guidance during decision-making processes regarding member claim exceptions. The Ethics Office reports on material cases dealt with at these meetings to the Social and Ethics Committee.

As a business partner to the Group Ethics Office, Group Compliance continues to strengthen engagements with non-South African entities within the Discovery Group and identify matters that should be brought to the attention of the Social and Ethics Committee.

Ethics training and awareness

Training forms an important component of integrating and driving ethical behaviour and awareness. In 2020, 1 325 employees were trained on ethics and 8 743 employees successful completed online ethics training courses. The Ethics Office is also rolling out an online video series to all employees, called ‘Ethics – Everyone’s Responsibility’, to increase understanding and personal responsibility for ethics.

The Ethics Office is providing a training intervention on Behavioural Ethics that aims to improve the ethical decision-making capacity of employees. The emphasis of the training is to sensitise employees to the impact of social forces on their ethical decision-making and conduct, helping them withstand negative organisational behavioural tendencies such as groupthink, peer pressure, role/contextual pressure, blind obedience to authority and group apathy.

The Behavioural Ethics training programme started in January 2020 with 464 middle-management employees trained during the financial year. The programme will also be rolled-out in our international markets, beginning with the United States.

Additional indicators on ethics can be found in Supplementary environmental, social and governance information.

Information stewardship

We have a significant duty of care to our members who trust us with their data, and we do everything we can to minimise the risk of breaches to our systems.

- Derek Wilcocks, Discovery’s Chief Information Officer

Data is a key enabler of our Shared-value Insurance model. Without it, we would not be able to track and incentivise healthy behaviours, and measure if those behaviours are achieving real impact. But we are cognisant that our reputation is ultimately held in how we contract with our clients, which includes how we use data and how clients trust us with managing their data.

Discovery is unique in terms of the volumes of data we collect and analyse. We have a comprehensive Data Governance Policy Framework covering all aspects of the collection, use and retention of data. Over the year, we have focused on reinforcing the data governance foundation across the Group. This includes driving data quality initiatives, and instituting relevant governance forums, data stewards and working group initiatives to drive data management that align to data privacy requirements.

The Data Governance and Data Management Policy has been reviewed to include governance structures, data quality, data sharing and data classification. We established a Data Governance Forum, which is convened on a quarterly basis and chaired by the Group Chief Information Officer.

To protect client information, we have robust processes controlling access to specific systems and databases. Teams that perform analysis on data drawn from different businesses can only access consolidated and anonymised data stored in a central data lake, where access is strictly controlled.

With rapid advances in technology and big data, we are working to ensure that data management includes consideration of ethics and fair use in how our products are delivered. Supported by the Group Ethics Office, we aim to anticipate ethical issues and proactively build solutions into our products.

Also, with cyber security as an ongoing challenge, Discovery’s data-centric model is critical to safeguard vital information while ensuring it is available to build, enhance and deliver products suited to the needs of our clients. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing a growing role in information security, as they are in other areas of the business. During the year, cyber-security training was rolled out across the South African operations.

The Group Ethics Office is providing an advisory role on megatrends that may impact the Group, including the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. With the increasing pace of advancement in these fields, a more proactive approach to ethics is crucial in protecting the interests of our clients and remaining true to our values.

In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act came into effect on 1 July 2020, as did the one-year transition period. The Act sets out a comprehensive set of conditions for governing the collection, processing, storage, communication and disclosure of personal information. Strict rules will be applied to the disclosure of personal information to any third party. Data breaches will require disclosure to impacted data subjects and the Information Regulator, and may result in financial penalties.

Discovery has undertaken a phased approach to the Protection of Personal Information Act, with impact assessments conducted by all product houses to determine the scope of the Act implementation and to prioritise high-risk areas. The first phase addressed high-risk areas (across secure communications, direct marketing consent, data anonymisation and governance), with the second stage addressing all remaining risks. Discovery’s Protection of Personal Information Act programme will ensure that Discovery is fully compliant with the Act by 30 June 2021. The programme is driven from Group level and supported by the highest executive level in the Group.

Environmental stewardship

Discovery is committed to reducing our environmental impact and to continually improving our environmental performance as an integral part of our business strategy. Our environmental performance refers to the measurable outcome of our ability to meet environmental objectives and targets. We recognise that environmental risks and opportunities may have an impact on the key strategic competencies that create and deliver value to Discovery’s business model.

In March 2017, we commenced a process to integrate the Waste Recycling Policy, Climate Change policy and Environmental Policy into one policy, to support compliance and align to relevant legislative frameworks, in particular the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998. After wide consultation and development, a consolidated and revised Environmental Policy will be presented to the Social and Ethics Committee. Over and above compliance related requirements, the aim of the Environmental Policy will be to outline the objective for Discovery to integrate environmental concerns into strategic and operational planning processes.

Discovery is a member of the CDP (previously named the Carbon Disclosure Project) and provides annual disclosures against the CDP questionnaire. Discovery is also developing a Climate Change Strategy and Reporting framework, providing governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets guidance for aligning to the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

Detail on the Climate Change and Reporting Strategy are included in Supplementary environmental, social and governance information.

Discovery measures its greenhouse gas emissions in its South African, United States and United Kingdom operations. Our greenhouse gas emissions are generated primarily through electricity consumption, fugitive emissions and stationary fuels (diesel), and includes emissions generated by our employees' travel into work each day.

Download the independent third-party verification of the greenhouse gas emissions inventory reported by Discovery Limited, carried out in accordance with the International Standard ISO 14064-3 (2006): Specification with guidance for the validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions here

As significant consumers of power and water, we have designed our data centres to be as efficient as possible and use energy and water efficient air-based chillers to augment cooling. We are also decreasing energy consumption by switching off all non-essential lights each weekday and keeping them off over weekends, where possible.

We run comprehensive recycling stations in the pause areas at our 1 Discovery Place and Sable Park campuses. The 1 Discovery Place waste area has been registered with the Gauteng’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development after a site audit of the area was carried out by the Department of Agriculture for ISO14001 certification purposes in January 2020.

Approximately 72% of the waste generated on our campuses is recycled. All our waste is managed and disposed of by specialised and certified service providers.

We also provide home recycling stations for our employees to bring in and dispose their household waste. This includes glass, tin and packaging, and extends to e-waste (such as computers, computer components, mobile phones and electronic appliances) and hazardous waste (such as light bulbs, florescent tubes and batteries).

Discovery participates in the Advisory Committee on Environment and Society, a quarterly forum run by the National Business Initiative, of which we are a member. The Advisory Committee on Environment and Society’s key mandate is to advance environmental programmes between government and the private sector that focus on climate change, energy and water, as well as the implementation of the National Development Plan.

Raising awareness among Discovery employees about environmental issues – including climate change – is an ongoing process, and is overseen by our environmental forum. In August 2019, we rolled out an initiative in 1 Discovery Place to change behaviour regarding single-use plastics and reduce company-generated plastic waste. Permanent employees were provided with a glass bottle for drinking water throughout the day, so eradicating the use of paper and plastic cups in our offices. We also placed mugs at all pause area to replace the vending of paper cups. From an average of 180 000 single-use plastic and paper cups used on a monthly basis, we had reduced this to 28 000 paper cups and 7 000 plastic bottle (used for meetings, functions and training events, and in contractor areas of the building) by February 2020.

Key indicators and details on our environmental performance are included in Supplementary environmental, social and governance information

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