Living Sustainability | With Marcello Cattani, Sanofi Italy

Anchoring sustainability is not only a strategic, but a human concern. It requires a mind shift at all levels of large, complex organizations. How are leaders, especially at the current time, bridging the gap between a sustainable vision, and action? And how can it be done better?

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is now anchored in corporate CSR strategy worldwide. Not only is there an undeniable moral case for doing business sustainably, shareholders and other stakeholder groups are actively scrutinizing the track record and plans of organizations before doing business with them, joining, or investing in them. And yet the 2030 Agenda contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. Tackling these is a daunting task. 

 

We talk with Marcello Cattani, President and General Manager of Sanofi Italy and a winner of the 2021 CEOforLIFE award. How is Sanofi tackling its CSR agenda; what are the highlights, challenges, and lessons learned? He shares his insights with Amrop. 

 

Marcello Cattani has over 20 years’ experience in the multinational chemical-pharmaceutical sector at national, European and international level, for world-leading multinationals. He joined Sanofi in 2015 and in 2019 was appointed General Manager of Sanofi Genzyme, the division of Sanofi in Italy specialized in rare diseases, multiple sclerosis, oncology and immunology.   

 

In April 2020, he stepped into the leadership role at country level. Through synergistic work between the four business units Sanofi operates in Italy (general medicines, specialty care, vaccines and consumer healthcare) he is guiding Sanofi’s innovation and growth on the Italian market and its relationship with main stakeholders. He also chairs the steering committee of Sanofi in Italy with the aim of accelerating the path of cultural and strategic transformation traced in recent months by group CEO Paul Hudson.  

 

Born in Milan and living in Parma, Marcello Cattani has a degree in Biological Sciences with a biomolecular address cum laude and specialization in Chemistry and Food Technology. 

 

 

Executive Summary | Living Sustainability: Leadership Keys 

 

1 - AN ENGAGING CSR STRATEGY & CULTURE 

 

Set the corporate true north — map it, and live it 

  • Sanofi’s people have a clear point of view about our role in the world and a plan to ensure a positive societal impact across all our business, with a strong focus on the expectations of our people and other stakeholders. 
  • This unique context led us to elevate our ambition for our Corporate Social Responsibility strategy and embed it into our mission to transform lives and our vision for a better future. It had to be more than a poster by the elevator or a tick-the-box exercise.” 
  • Each area has been reinforced by specific initiatives that we’re conducting in coordination with our global program, in order to join forces at all levels of the company. 

 

Bring out the best in everyone 

  • Looking at the employee dimensions, we are focusing on creating a work environment where we can bring our best selves. Our employees must feel able to bring their best selves to work and unleash their full potential to boost sustainability. 
  • The key factor is to concretely activate people by building collective initiatives that they can feel close to and useful. For this reason, the criteria with which we develop CSR programmes are inspired by four factors: the ability to meet a specific need, the identification of a specific segment of the community, leveraging partnerships with credible and key stakeholders at all levels and being measurable. 

 

Connect through diversity 

For a start it’s about building representative leadership. By that we mean leadership and teams that reflect the diversity of our communities and that embrace this vision in order to leverage diverse perspectives and be fully connected to our patients’ and customers’ needs.  

Looking outside, we turn to engagement with our diverse communities. People must be engaged to positively impact the society in which we live and work. 

 

Understand your own true north 

I have always believed that running a business carries with it responsibilities that go beyond the business, for two reasons. The first is exercising responsibility towards the outside world: the company is part of a large community, it operates within it, influences it and is influenced by it. It is a continuous osmosis of knowledge and cultures that mutually enrich each other. The second is about responsibility towards the inside: the company is, itself, a community: it is made up of people with skills and needs, who live and exchange experiences every day. 

 

2 - A RELEVANT FOCUS 

 

Focus on the sweet spot 

Sanofi is focussing on areas where it is uniquely positioned to make a difference that can be scaled and sustained over time. 

 

Link strategy to finance 

  • Sanofi is the first major biopharmaceutical company to integrate environmental and social elements into its credit lines and business strategy 
  • The strategy has significant elements within our own corporate organization such as the establishment of a CSR Committee at Board level and increasing the CSR component in the variable part of the CEO’s salary, demonstrating his commitment to achieving concrete objectives.” 
  • The company has also decided to link part of its long-term financing to the achievement of two objectives by 2025. The first is to eradicate polio, where we are making enormous efforts. The second is to achieve a 30% reduction in our carbon footprint. 

 

3 - SUSTAINED MOMENTUM 

 

Persevere through adversity 

  • Sanofi reinforced its commitment to CSR during the crisis. 
  • Also at local level [the pandemic] has led us to think of new solutions to interact with our stakeholders, to think of services for patients, to accelerate our internal processes to strengthen the impact we make on people’s lives. 

 

Establish long-term traction 

Considering sustainability as a variable within a company is short-sighted. Sustainability must be an integral part of continuous development over time and a driver for that, not only from the point of view of business, but also in terms of how the company relates to its internal and external stakeholders 

 

Sanofi on the Frontlines 

From its beginnings in 1885 when Louis Pasteur successfully treated Joseph Meister with the first rabies vaccine, Sanofi is today a world-leading pharmaceuticals player. It is present in 90 countries, with over 100,000 employees and a wide and differentiated portfolio. It operates 21 research and development sites for medicines, clinical research and vaccines, with its healthcare solutions available in 170 countries worldwide. 

 

Behind these topline statistics, the organization has been on a transformation path over recent years in a move from traditional pharma to biopharma.  

 

CEO Paul Hudson took the helm in 2020 and is now leading the execution of Sanofi’s ‘Play to Win’ strategy, a 5-year plan whose stated ambition is to leverage breakthrough science to change medical and foster a workplace where people can bring their ‘best selves’ to work. The strategy sharpens Sanofi’s focus on key R&D areas, including immunology, vaccines, hemophilia, oncology and rare diseases.  

 

Since the onset of the global pandemic, big pharma has been center stage. Whilst prioritizing the development of its own two Covid-19 vaccine candidates, Sanofi is using its manufacturing capability to support global vaccine rollout: supporting the production and supply of BioNTech’s approved vaccine, (co-developed with Pfizer), as well as the two vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. 

 

In the middle of the global pandemic, Sanofi renewed its commitment to placing sustainability and social responsibility at the core of its long-term strategy.  

 

Marcello Cattani explains. 

 

Amrop: Sustainability has an important place on Sanofi’s agenda. And you have previously said that health, now more than ever, is fed by a combination of research, knowledge and professionalism. You have spoken of pooling clinical studies and pathways, for example, as the key to opening new opportunities as well as bearing the costs of innovation. 

 

I strongly confirm our commitment to society and our company-wide responsible approach as a unique qualification for a leading global company like Sanofi. We have a clear point of view about our role in the world and a plan to ensure a positive societal impact across all our business, with a strong focus on the expectations of our people and other stakeholders. These issues clearly rank at the same level as our ambition to discover breakthrough medicines for patients. 

 

Looking at the sustainability agenda in Sanofi, what aspect do you consider the most important?  

We have a proud history of supporting society, but we want to do more in areas where we are uniquely positioned to make a difference that can be scaled and sustained over time. To achieve that goal, our CSR priorities are fully integrated into every part of our Play to Win strategy. In fact, Sanofi is the first major biopharmaceutical company to integrate environmental and social elements into its credit lines and business strategy. 

 

Sanofi has launched a new social impact strategy, can you tell us more about that? 

The strategy has significant elements within our own corporate organization such as the establishment of a CSR Committee at Board level and increasing the CSR component in the variable part of the CEO’s salary, demonstrating his commitment to achieving concrete objectives.  

The company has also decided to link part of its long-term financing to the achievement of two objectives by 2025. The first is to eradicate polio, where we are making enormous efforts. The second is to achieve a 30% reduction in our carbon footprint. 

 

Can you elaborate on the overall scope, ambition, roadmap? 

As Sanofi, our primary mission is to ensure access to well-being for people around the world and we look at sustainability in a holistic way, integrating economic, social and environmental considerations. In particular, our commitment is built on four pillars: ‘affordable access’, ‘R&D for unmet needs’, ‘efficiency and sustainability’, and ‘beyond the workplace’. Each area has been reinforced by specific initiatives that we’re conducting in coordination with our global program, in order to join forces at all levels of the company. 

 

For example, when we talk about ‘affordable access’ we mean donating 100,000 vials to treat patients of rare diseases every year, free of charge. The pillar ‘R&D for unmet needs’ is also focused on vulnerable communities. In this area our goal is to develop innovative medicines to eliminate cancer deaths in children. ‘Efficiency and sustainability’ in Sanofi means, among other objectives, 100% eco-design for all our new products by 2025 and 100% of renewable electricity in all our sites by 2030. 

 

What is your personal perspective on sustainability and Sanofi’s role in that? 

I have always believed that running a business carries with it responsibilities that go beyond the business, for two reasons. The first is exercising responsibility towards the outside world: the company is part of a large community, it operates within it, it influences it and is influenced by it. It is a continuous osmosis of knowledge and cultures that mutually enrich each other. The second is about responsibility towards the inside: the company is, itself, a community: it is made up of people with skills and needs, who live and exchange experiences every day. 

 

In this respect, my role is to encourage the creation of an internal culture that will enable us to achieve the ambitious goals we have set ourselves. We have summarized these in the claim #WeCanDoMore, which is about identifying new needs, new frontiers and opportunities that a company like Sanofi must consider from a social, environmental and economic-social point of view. 

 

This is a commitment that we believe should be shared with all players in the sector through a virtuous system to help meet public health needs. A concrete example of this is our decision to support BioNTech in the production of their vaccine to combat Covid-19 and promote access to the vaccine for all. 

 

It has been famously said that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Thinking about your sustainability agenda, what change in mindset has been needed to bring it alive? 

Indeed this is a very ambitious challenge that needs organizational involvement at all levels. For a start it’s about building representative leadership. By that we mean leadership and teams that reflect the diversity of our communities and that embrace this vision in order to leverage diverse perspectives and be fully connected to our patients’ and customers’ needs.  

 

Looking at the employee dimensions, we are focusing on creating a work environment where we can bring our best selves. Our employees must feel able to bring their best selves to work and unleash their full potential to boost sustainability. Finally, looking outside, we turn to engagement with our diverse communities. People must be engaged to positively impact the society in which we live and work. 

 

What still needs to change, in your opinion?  

This is a journey that has only just begun and which rests on the solid foundations of a company that has always been committed to patients and the community, and which also needs a country context that further stimulates the evolution of businesses and individuals. 

 

What do you see as the keys to transforming the ways in which your people think and act? 

I believe that the key factor is to concretely activate people in these projects by building collective initiatives that they can feel close to and useful. For this reason, the criteria with which we develop CSR programmes are inspired by four factors: the ability to meet a specific need, the identification of a specific segment of the community, leveraging partnerships with credible and key stakeholders at all levels and being measurable. 

 

What if any moments in your sustainability program have you personally found particularly challenging and why?  What solution/s did you find?  

The pandemic has forced us to question nearly every aspect of our lives: how we live and work, and how we connect with our communities and the planet. Importantly, it has also exacerbated and highlighted existing inequalities and inequities. Yet as challenging as 2020 was, it also brought us — Sanofi and the pharmaceutical industry — closer to our purpose than at any other time in living memory. 

 

With our work stripped down to the bare essentials of maintaining the supply of medicines and vaccines for patients and finding ways to advance science at an incredibly fast pace, I had the opportunity to see in real time the strength of a purpose-driven organization, striving to do the right thing. 

 

This unique context led us to elevate our ambition for our Corporate Social Responsibility strategy and embed it into our mission to transform lives and our vision for a better future. It had to be more than a poster by the elevator or a tick-the-box exercise.  

 

Also at local level this has led us to think of new solutions to interact with our stakeholders, to think of services for patients, to accelerate our internal processes to strengthen the impact we make on people’s lives. For example, I think about our Home Care Programme serving more than 250 patients with rare diseases, the fact that we activated home delivery during the pandemic to avoid patients going to hospital, limiting inhomogeneity on the territory, and our first projects in telemedicine (with the first examples in oncology, hematology, dermatology and neurology.)  

 

What breakthrough moments have you found positive or inspiring? 

The pandemic in particular was very rich in new insights and thoughts for me. It was immediately clear that only people, with their commitment, would allow us to overcome problems that might have seemed unthinkable only the day before. I realized how important and far-sighted the path started in the company towards a more human approach was. Without this culture, everything would have been more difficult. 

 

Finally, what advice do you have for fellow leaders seeking to bring the sustainability agenda alive in their organizations? 

Considering sustainability as a variable within a company is short-sighted. Sustainability must be an integral part of continuous development over time and a driver for that, not only from the point of view of business, but also in terms of how the company relates to its internal and external stakeholders. 

 

Living Sustainability | CSR in Action | Highlighted Sanofi Initiatives* 

 

GLOBAL 

    • Long term financing: by 2025, eradication of polio and a 30% reduction in carbon footprint 
    • Personal commitment of global CEO: Increased CSR component in variable salary 
    • Supporting global vaccine rollout: Using Sanofi manufacturing capability 
    • Efficiency & sustainability:100% Eco-design all new products (by 2025), renewable electricity on all sites (by 2030) 
    • Affordable access:100.000 vials donated every year to treat patients of rare diseases 
    • R&D for unmet needs and helping vulnerable communities: developing innovative medicines to eliminate cancer deaths in children

 

LOCAL 

    • Homecare Program: Homecare program in rare diseases, > 250 patients (estimated), home delivery service and Telemedicine Projects 
    • Women Empowerment & LGBT Inclusion: Diversity & Inclusion program  
    • Telefono donna - #èoradievolversi: A brand activism campaign for the eradication of violence against women: MaketoCare 
      Innovative projects aimed at providing a better quality of life for patients and caregivers 
    • PerchèSì: A contest and hackathon aimed at young people to communicate and raise awareness about vaccines 
    • Più unici che rari: An educational campaign to promote the values of uniqueness and inclusion among young children 
    • #SeNeParliNonèRaro: International Rare Disease Day a campaign to promote inclusion and break down barriers for people living with a rare disease 
    • #AncheioManifesto: The Manifesto for Non-Hostile Communication against the violence of words 
    • Climate Change & Planet Mobilization: Environmental sustainability program to minimize the potential environmental impacts of our business 

About CEOforLIFE 

 

CEOforLIFE was born in Italy in 2019. It is a working group of business leaders who want to turn commitment to the UN 2030 Agenda into action.  

 

Its founder Giordano Fatali is motivated by a quite literal wake-up call. He has said that many people, like him, “are not really living their life to the full, but in a dormant almost unconscious way. They trudge along day in, day out over and over again, doing heaps of activities with no real purpose or meaning.” 

 

As its name suggests, CEOs are key to the CEOforLIFE project. After all, as Fatali says, these are the business leaders with the biggest impact on the socio-economic fabric and its networks. For true impact and positive change, organizations need a new vision along with clear common goals, a forward-thinking agenda and people who share the same values, he believes. He has unshakeable faith in the ability of CEO’s to make it happen. After all, “they are pragmatic people, leading small or large groups of people... generating a wave of real change towards promoting and defending life, in all its shapes and forms.” 

 

Cross-fertilization catalyzes change. CEOforLIFE is, amongst other things, a hub that assembles SDG-sensitive and committed CEOs. Its annual meeting program enables these leaders to share experiences and promote projects, ideas and thoughts to stakeholders (institutions, other CEOs, and the media, for example). The annual CEOforLIFE Award is given to those who have set new standards of excellence. In March 2021, 40 CEOs, including Marcello Cattani and Amrop’s Annika Farin, were honored in front of a stakeholder audience comprising representatives from institutions, business and the media. 

 

*Selected highlights at the time of publication. For the full and latest picture visit sanofi.com and sanofi.it 

 

With thanks to Antonio Pellerano, Managing Partner, Amrop Italy