Active ownership: a time-consuming burden, or a useful exercise? To find out how companies look at this, Robeco talked to Alexander Klauser, Head of Sustainability Communications at Swiss healthcare company Roche.
Robeco’s active ownership team recently concluded an engagement on ESG risks and opportunities in the biopharmaceutical industry. Roche was one of the eleven companies under engagement. Robeco talked to Alexander Klauser about five material topics, i.e. innovation management, product quality & safety management, business ethics, clinical trial transparency and access to medicine.
“Medicines account for only a small part of health costs (16%, WHO 2017). When we do our job right – extend patients’ lives – we help to reduce the other
“In our pricing, we strive for the right balance between ensuring people have access to the medicines they need, while investing in future breakthroughs. We have a very high threshold for new medicines. It’s no use developing a subpar product which will not deliver additional benefit for patients. Our business is a lot more riskier than ten years ago, and as a company we need to earn a premium to take this risk. After all, we might fail in certain medicines and when this happens, we need to have the financial power to carry on. We have open discussions about this with our stakeholders.
“We know that quality and safety – not harming patients – are our license to operate. We are among the most highly regulated industries. We appreciate that you flagged this topic, as it confirmed the high importance we attach to it. In our talks, you highlighted very important issues, such as product recalls. You made us more aware that any warning letter or recall will result in Roche being punished by the market.”
“We can exclude systematic, but we cannot exclude individual violations. However, we guarantee that we do not turn a blind eye if things go wrong. There is zero tolerance, and any wrongdoing will be sanctioned. To enable our company to operate with high standards, we transformed from ‘formal compliance’ to ‘business-integrated sustainable compliance’. For example, we do not simply record payments we make to doctors and hospitals, but our line management critically examines the purpose of the payments. Why are we making these payments? What is their impact on society? Being transparent about this creates trust.”
“We share information on all Roche-sponsored safety and efficacy studies, also when the outcome is negative. This helps physicians, patients and healthcare providers to make informed treatment decisions. It can also enable researchers to build on our research and that of others, in the hope of advancing scientific progress. We are making progress but acknowledge that our work is far from complete. We are committed to working with industry partners and others in the scientific community to advance opportunities for data sharing.
“The engagement with you confirmed that it doesn’t help healthcare if companies are not transparent about their clinical trials. We have to address this as an industry.”
“Access to our products is a critical part of our strategy. Also from a business perspective, it’s important to know how we can get the medicine and tests to people who really need it. Many patients lack access to the most essential health services. Often, the problem lies not only in the price of medicines but also in the system - for example, if the medical infrastructure or mandatory health insurance is lacking. The only way to achieve enduring solutions is working together in each country to ensure that all factors such as awareness, diagnosis, healthcare capacity and funding are addressed. We have access plans for 75 countries.
“In addition, access to medicine needs to be tackled by multiple stakeholders. Certain governments, for example, allocate more money to military purposes than to medicine. They should reevaluate their priorities and look beyond the next elections. In countries with little money to spend, we work with insurance companies to find financial solutions and make sure people get the medicine they need.
“In our discussions, you made us aware of the importance of transparency. We now make our internal access goals publicly available.
“You really pointed our attention to questions that you as investors have. This makes us more aware of what you need. We now have a more integrated way of talking about our business, addressing both financial and non-financial issues. All our employees are subject to impact analysis in their performance review. This is in line with your focus on impact investing, as you explained during our conversations. Also, the questions we get from investors such as Robeco form an important input for our discussions within the company.
“What was particularly insightful was your input on the impact of our business on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We have a strategy that aims to make a ‘net positive impact on society’. Our honest discussions about the UN SDGs helped our internal processes. In short, our work with you continues to support Roche in staying ahead of the curve on sustainability.
当資料は情報提供を目的として、Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V.が作成した英文資料、もしくはその英文資料をロベコ・ジャパン株式会社が翻訳したものです。資料中の個別の金融商品の売買の勧誘や推奨等を目的とするものではありません。記載された情報は十分信頼できるものであると考えておりますが、その正確性、完全性を保証するものではありません。意見や見通しはあくまで作成日における弊社の判断に基づくものであり、今後予告なしに変更されることがあります。運用状況、市場動向、意見等は、過去の一時点あるいは過去の一定期間についてのものであり、過去の実績は将来の運用成果を保証または示唆するものではありません。また、記載された投資方針・戦略等は全ての投資家の皆様に適合するとは限りません。当資料は法律、税務、会計面での助言の提供を意図するものではありません。
商号等： ロベコ・ジャパン株式会社 金融商品取引業者 関東財務局長（金商）第２７８０号
加入協会： 一般社団法人 日本投資顧問業協会