Collaborators? Patients? Caregivers? As much as we strive to divide the world into categories, these tend to disappear the moment we talk about wellbeing and health. For over 85 years, Chiesi – a biopharmaceutical company represented in thirty countries – has aimed to improve quality of life for everyone, by having a positive impact on the environment and society. Underlying every action taken are the concepts of shared value and empathy. How do these two elements contribute to improving people's lives? We asked three members of the Chiesi Group's Diversity&Inclusion Committee.
Chiesi's identity has always been linked to scientific research, with the company's main goal being to improve health through innovative therapeutic solutions. Among other things, Chiesi is working to achieve a fully patient-centred approach, where empathy and an understanding of the real needs of people living with an illness are the key concepts. What are your thoughts on this journey and what challenges remain?
Research and collaboration with the scientific community have always been part of our DNA, so much so that over 20 percent of our revenue is invested in research. There is a continuous exchange of knowledge with all stakeholders, with the aim of creating innovation to benefit patients’ health. Patients are primarily people, not just recipients of care. After all, the role of the patient has undergone important changes over time. Patients are increasingly protagonists in making choices related to their health. We believe that the concept of care must go beyond making medications available, to include the outcome of our actions on society. When we talk about patients' needs, having a mindset that is open to diversity and inclusion becomes crucial: diverse teams that do not engage in homogeneous thinking are more likely to be innovative and to approach people’s needs empathetically. Only if we are constantly listening to patients can truly useful innovation take off, and dialogue with the patient community allows us to plan strategies that can create appropriate responses to their real needs.
However, in addition to patients there are also caregivers: relatives, friends, colleagues. What is Chiesi doing to centre this group of people as well?
For Chiesi, involving the entire community, both patients and caregivers, is crucial. The pandemic has increased the burden on caregivers. In Italy, for example, about 14% of the population is engaged in caring for frail family members. As a pharmaceutical company, we insist on the process of systematically including the perspectives of both patients and caregivers, and we activate support programmes through educational opportunities for patients and family members. Finally, in order to truly make an impact, it is crucial throughout patients’ journeys to raise awareness using digital channels and all the tools that are currently available.
How does Chiesi approach the issue of disability inside and outside the company?
At Chiesi, we have been reflecting deeply on disability, and disability has become our main D&I focus in 2023. The goal is to create a working environment where people with disabilities, whether these are temporary or permanent, feel completely included. We operate in many very different regulatory environments, depending on location. After identifying the relevant law, we create an ‘awareness path’ that is supported by actions that can break down all kinds of prejudices and barriers. We have, in addition, established Affinity Networks, voluntary groups of colleagues who reflect on specific areas of diversity. We want to fuel conversations through proposals shared by our employees, both internally and externally, and with the collaboration of relevant associations and organisations. Indeed, it is important to understand how other organisations are working to learn about new best practices.
At Chiesi, among the more than 6,000 employees, there are of course many people who are patients or caregivers themselves. What perspective do you think they bring or could bring to a pharmaceutical company like Chiesi?
Chiesi's philosophy centres the patient. Our employees’ contributions are therefore fundamental because they allow the organisation to have a greater impact and to have a clearer grasp of patients’ and caregivers’ expectations. The starting point of any Affinity Network is therefore precisely people’s daily experience, as well as listening to all of the voices involved, which is made possible through educational workshops that stimulate reflection and awareness. In this sense, a welcoming and inclusive work environment is needed to improve all our employees’ experiences of the workplace.
The concept of caring for the community and pursuing the goal of creating shared value for people, society and the environment is in Chiesi’s DNA – Chiesi is a Benefit Company and B Corp certified. How is this identity reflected in actions that improve quality of life for the people (within and outside of the company) and communities where Chiesi operates and has a presence?
The key concept for Chiesi is that of shared value, which guides business decisions with the aim of combining the creation of value for the company with social progress. In recent years we have, therefore, structured our sustainability strategy based on this concept, to ensure it is integrated and applied in all dimensions of our business.
Even before embarking on the path that led Chiesi to become B Corp certified, the company's focus on its people and community was already strong. My role, established in 2015, was initially created to deal with the company's impact on the local community. But that wasn’t all! The ultimate goal of improving quality of life for patients and people, and the specific focus on local communities, were included in our bylaws when Chiesi became a Benefit Company in 2018: this means that the company is also legally committed to achieving and verifying these goals.
Specifically, what is it critical to emphasise when thinking about the Chiesi Group's identity and its work involving the most vulnerable, such as those living with a disability? How does this theme fit into the values of the company and the B Corp community?
In recent years we have been developing an increasingly structured path for diversity inclusion. We are paying particular attention to the issue of disability, which is very important to our colleagues and the entire community in Parma. Internally, among other various actions taken, for example, we activated a job station, through the Itaca Parma Project, which provides for the inclusion in the company of people with a history of mental health issues.
As part of our community development activities, we support and work with local organisations that make it possible for people with disabilities to enter the workforce, and we have supported the activation of a support network for frail people living in Parma. This is a complementary commitment to what the company does internally, reflecting the values that guide us every day.