Applying a Biopharma Lens to ESG Optics

In June, the Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose® (CECP) along with the Biopharma Sustainability Roundtable (BSRT) joined forces to present the Biopharma CEO Investor Forum. While the CECP regularly holds investor forums of CEOs from multiple industries, this event specifically focused on biopharma and CEOs from small to large pharma participated.

Center to the missions of both CECP and the BSRT is environmental, social and governance (ESG). ESG initiatives among the S&P 500 are more developed, as they have the resources, as well as longer exposure to the community of public company investors who have largely adopted ESG as a means to determine all-over stakeholder value. That is, to escape the short-termism of current equity markets that overvalue short-term financial targets vs. long-term initiatives that drive corporate value.

As we have learned over the past year from our Sustainability columnist Sandor Schoichet (https://www.pharmexec.com/topic/sustainability), co-founder of BSRT, biopharma needs to collectively show up and put its hat in the ESG ring so as not to risk being dictated to or limited to metrics that don’t properly reflect the industry. For example, climate change issues are a concern, but more so for the utilities sector. Whereas biopharma’s ESG centers closely with patient access to medicines and pricing, as well as diversity and inclusion, R&D, and attracting talent for innovation.

Guidances and frameworks, along with white papers from both BSRT and CECP, and its partner KKS Advisors , are described by Schoichet here. In the BSRT article, it noted that its Guidance 2.0 efforts are being used by both biopharma companies and investors to streamline their ESG communications and as a tool to think about ESG strategy. Particularly, on the investor side, they noted that it can offer perspective and comparability even across a wide range of biopharma companies.

That can be attested to by the diverse group of companies presenting at the Biopharma CEO Investor Forum. They included alumni presenter Emma Walmsley, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, Christophe Weber, CEO of Takeda and Ken Frazier, taking a victory lap in his closing days as CEO at Merck. Other CEOs included Paul Hudson from Sanofi, Hervé Hoppenot, CEO, Incyte, Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, and his mRNA COVID vaccine companion-in-arms Stéphane Bancel CEO of Moderna, and Jean-Christophe Tellier, CEO of UCB.

Each company is on its ESG journey, with some further along that others, but clearly all have taken the ESG communications, transparency and disclosures to heart, as evidenced by their presentations. Some of the videos from the event can be found here.

As noted in our July issue features on diversity and inclusion (D&I) and its derivative terms, the cultural impact of the Black Lives Matter movement spurred by the murder of George Floyd, led biopharma on a deeper examination of what D&I means and how it should be addressed. This was also clearly evident in the Forum presentations, where CEOs shared either their own feelings on the events, and outlined their company’s plans in those areas.