Marrying the twin goals of growing a global business and supporting sustainable development can be a challenge for large corporations. At global biopharmaceutical company UCB, we strive to meet the expectations of customers who want us to deliver sustainable solutions for people living with severe chronic diseases. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide guidance to address these goals. At UCB, offering “access to health” and “improving sustainability” are critical components of our social, economic and ecological long-term engagement.
UCB has adopted actions supporting the 17 SDGs. As improving the health of people living with severe chronic diseases is core to UCB, actions translating SDG 3, “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” is critical. Our executive committee has endorsed actions accelerating access to quality and innovative medicine and to contribute to a world with holistic, sustainable development for everyone.
UCB’s corporate patient value strategy reflects unambiguously its priority to be a sustainable company, within existing ecosystems. That means delivering sustainability for patients, shareholders and stakeholders. These priorities drive us to use natural resources in smart and responsible ways, to include sustainability indicators early in the design and development of new molecules, and to re-engineer manufacturing and laboratory processes.
We routinely perform sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk identification, yielding better insights from stakeholders from all layers of the society, worldwide. In 2018, UCB completed a new stakeholder assessment of materiality topics. It provided a better understanding of which economic, environmental and societal issues matter and how a “shared value” for patients can be created within the spirit of the SDGs – especially, SDG 3.
This process also emphasised a need to engage employees. They play a key role in delivering on these actions and an open dialogue culture stands as a guarantee of interactive engagement. It enables UCB to strive for agility, innovation, humility and simplicity in critical actions to create value for people living with severe chronic diseases. And it ensures sustainable growth and fosters interaction with local communities.
Making an impact
UCB has prioritised the Corporate Societal Responsibility’s “Access to Quality Care” vision acceleration, together with partners, capacity building healthcare professionals, improving community and family awareness of epilepsy, and decreasing health barriers for people living with epilepsy in selected low- and middle-income countries. The CSR department works under a shared responsibility philosophy.
In Africa, the CSR department supports six initiatives in five countries. Our partners, the Brothers of Charity; Department of Neurology, Ghent University; Department of Pediatric Neurology, KU Leuven; Humanity and Inclusion (all in Belgium), DukeMedicine, Global Neurosurgery and Neuroscience (US); OneFamilyHealth Foundation (UK); and the UCB Societal Responsibility Fund at the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium), are essential to reaching our ambitious health targets.
We’ve had some notable success in Asia too. In 2013, UCB partnered with the Red Cross Society of China and, since then, over 2,500 village doctors of ethnic minorities in remote China from 11 provinces were trained. Close to 500,000 people benefitted from the knowledge and skills acquired. In 2013, UCB also partnered with Project HOPE at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center. The “Rainbow Bridge” initiative serves unmet needs of children living with epilepsy. Over 340,000 children and their families were helped with close to 2,400 doctors trained. Training on epilepsy is now also provided to school teachers and communities in order to reduce the stigma and barriers of social re-integration of those children. To us, the SDGs are an asset – a set of “commandments” by which to live. We will continue to play our part to deliver what patients want: better lives and a healthier planet.
UCB has taken the bold step of devising a “climate health” strategy. Our green strategy uses the Ecological Wealth of Nations carbon footprint data, as an ecological “climate health” indicator. UCB’s environmental stewardship resulted in a stringent, comprehensive and long-term strategy and action plan to be carbon neutral by 2030, in line with the ambitions determined by the Paris Agreement at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties.
We determine the right balance between carbon reduction and compensation using the “Science Based Targets”. Carbon reduction targets are designed to make production sites target energy efficiency and renewable energy and to influence carbon reduction of suppliers and contract manufacturing organisations. Changing behaviours of employees at work and at home is also important. Carbon compensation is managed through reforestation and avoidance of deforestation initiatives in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).