Daiichi Sankyo’s transatlantic sustainability managers are conveying a clear message. To further bolster its impressive sustainability record, we at Daiichi Sankyo need to pursue a broad range of sustainability topics and commitments while ensuring full compliance and transparency to achieve our goals.
Chris Sharry divides his time between fulfilling Daiichi Sankyo’s corporate sustainability function in the United States, which involves coordinating with colleagues in Japan and Europe, providing vital data to drive goals and developing regional initiatives, and responding to increasing demands for stringent compliance and transparent rules on data privacy. “During the pandemic, I decided to switch course from accounting and explore my new passion for sustainability. My boss liked that I had a compliance background and was pursuing a Master’s in sustainability at the University of Columbia.”
Meanwhile, in her newly established role as Director of Sustainability for Daiichi Sankyo Europe (DSE), Dr. Susanne Ehrenreich-Blazekovic is striving to bring Daiichi Sankyo’s sustainability efforts closer to affiliates in Europe by facilitating communication with the headquarters in Japan, adapting requirements to fit regional needs, and building a coherent framework to support locally inspired initiatives. “DSE was keen to broaden the range of sustainability topics to include environmental, social, employee-related, legal, and compliance issues. That immediately appealed to me and I just felt I would be able to really drive sustainability forward.” Both managers are enthusiastic about steering sustainability at Daiichi Sankyo, a healthcare company that prioritizes patients not only through our products, but also through our willingness to listen and invest in sustainable initiatives long-term and the passion of senior management and employees to play their part.
As a healthcare company, our business objectives intersect with sustainability goals by providing patients in need with effective pharmaceutical products. However, the pursuit of sustainability in the pharmaceutical business is complex and requires long-term vision.
For Susanne, the most important commitment in this pursuit involves manufacturing Daiichi Sankyo products in the most sustainable way to generate the most positive impact on patients’ lives. However, the company’s sustainability ideals, which also encompass human rights, diversity and inclusion, social engagement, supplier assessments, and compliance along with the environment, sometimes clash with business needs. “A supplier might not comply with all our sustainable requirements, but we might really need their equipment or service to manufacture a specific product. We then face clashing interests between running a business and the desire to run it in the most sustainable way possible, be it the environment, social/employee issues or compliance requirements. The challenge is to find ways to balance all sides.”
Chris finds the championing of sustainability motives in the healthcare field extremely rewarding, whether it be supporting the company’s oncology units in the United States or fulfilling a societal and environmental role by expanding access to medications across the world. He particularly wants to see more attention paid to deforestation of tropical rainforests with their bounty of potentially vital plants and compounds. “Deforestation means we might lose that biodiversity forever, and the idea of mankind taking away something that can help our society is truly tragic. For any company, but particularly for Daiichi Sankyo working in the manufacturing and research and development of pharmaceuticals, loss of biodiversity is a major concern and something we need to advocate against.”
Sustainability goals don’t often yield rapid results, but Daiichi Sankyo is keen to convince people in today’s instant-access internet era that investing time and resources at the corporate level is worthwhile. “I think Daiichi Sankyo does a great job of expressing the value of sustainability to patients and society at large in its messaging, and it practices what it preaches when it comes to valuing the environment and society in which we operate,” explains Chris. “Sustainability isn't just a short-term endeavor. We have goals set all the way up to 2050. That may look like a long way to go, but it isn’t really.” “It's also true that mindset changes take time,” adds Susanne. “Our CEO Sunao Manabe’s passion for sustainability really sets the tone for the rest of the organization and makes it much easier for us to then tell people internally that sustainability is an integral part of who we are and want to be as a company.”
There's a considerable push at Daiichi Sankyo to identify communities around the world, especially in developing nations, that are facing health disparities and inequities, and to promote education and awareness services in those communities to address issues early and make a real difference. The company also contributes sustainably to local communities in Europe and the United States and has provided major investment for a wind park in the Pfaffenhofen, Germany where its production plant is located.
One of the most challenging and rewarding things for the sustainability teams involves convincing employees within the Daiichi Sankyo group of companies that every little bit of sustainability counts, and that everyone can contribute, even if only by turning off lights when they aren’t needed and being mindful of or evening avoiding the use of plastics in the office, and also doing the same at home. The Sustainability Post Box established at the Pfaffenhofen plant has brimmed with suggestions, many of which have already been assessed and adopted.
“It’s evident that the drive to contribute to society doesn’t come just from the top, but from our people at every level of the organization, who are enthusiastic about making a difference to society, however small,” says Susanne, highlighting several activities by employees and affiliates in Europe.
Each year, Daiichi Sankyo France holds an annual volunteering day, with everyone in the office spending the day helping local communities. Recently, charitable donations from Daiichi Sankyo Europe
Similarly, in the United States, employees are given the opportunity each year to receive the name and Christmas list of underprivileged children. “Last year, just a few hours in, the organization said they had run out of children’s names to provide,” says Chris. “Daiichi Sankyo does a great job of encouraging employees to go out and either volunteer or just be a part of their community, because small things do matter.” “Companies should not be detached from the community. We are a part of the town or regional communities in which we do business, so we should give back, and we want to,” adds Susanne. “It would be nice to share best practice activities throughout Daiichi Sankyo globally to inspire each other.”
Daiichi Sankyo’s corporate culture revolves around its slogan: “Passion for innovation. Compassion for patients,” and the innovation part not only relates to products but also to sustainability.
Compared to extremely large pharmaceutical companies, Daiichi Sankyo’s agile willingness to tackle challenges, invest, and set tough targets often enables it to punch above its weight in the sustainability stakes, with the company being included on the CDP A List for climate change for the last three consecutive years.
“I do think this goes back to our Japanese-origin culture,” concludes Chris. “We commit to sustainability because it's what's best for society around us. Yes, we do expect revenue growth, but we're not solely focused on making profits. We put our patients first and ensure that Daiichi Sankyo, our society and our environment sustain over the long term. That’s the balance we need to keep focused on, because, after all, that’s the whole purpose of sustainability.” For Susanne, the One DS Culture initiative is so important for the company to promote growth and sustainability. “We need to speak with one voice about our strategy, and the next steps to continuously improve and ensure we conduct business responsibly from Tokyo to Europe to the US and South America, and to the rest of Asia. If we all work together on further advancing sustainability at Daiichi Sankyo, we will continue to thrive.”
Chris Sharry, Manager of Compliance and Sustainability, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. (DSI) US Certified Public Account, worked with a healthcare investment company and a global consultancy before joining Daiichi Sankyo in 2021
Dr. Susanne Ehrenreich-Blazekovic, Director Sustainability, Daiichi Sankyo Europe (DSE) Joined Daiichi Sankyo in 2022 after working in various sustainability positions at a global gas and engineering company
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