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EF: Could you share the current priorities on your agenda and what we can expect from Ferrer in 2024?
AC: Ferrer’s future is linked to the objectives we put in place when I became Country Manager a year and a half ago, a responsibility that is both a source of pride and a great challenge. Ferrer is a company with the very specific and genuine purpose of making a positive impact in society. The main objective is to achieve our social and environmental aims while also ensuring a workplace in which we care for and develop our people in line with the company’s three strategic pillars. To do this, we are committed to becoming an innovative and competitive pharmaceutical company in a scenario where large international companies dominate. I aim to guarantee the company’s financial sustainability and prepare it for a promising future by ensuring business continuity together with new and forthcoming launches.
EF: Could you elaborate on the company’s three strategic pillars?
AC: The three pillars of our strategic plan to create a positive impact in society are:
- Great People: We foster a people-centered culture based on trust and accountability, in which talent thrives
- Livable Planet: We promote the protection of the environment for our own good
- Social Justice: We work to contribute to a fairer, more equitable society in which everyone has access to the same opportunities
As a company, globally, in our daily operations, we try to ensure that the major company decisions, as well as the decisions made by each member of the team, are aligned with these pillars.
EF: What are the contributions to the production and exports of Ferrer's footprint in Spain?
AC: The company is based in Spain, and so most of its production is carried out locally. In Sant Cugat del Valles, we have a pharmaceutical production plant and a chemical manufacturing plant, with another pharmaceutical plant in Esplugues de Llobregat, all in the Barcelona area. The international logistics center is also in Spain, and we distribute our products worldwide, so the level of exports is enormous. Spain continues to be Ferrer's single largest market, but today, the international market is increasingly important, currently representing around 56% of Ferrer's activity.
EF: We know of Ferrer’s medical research centers, the Cardiovascular Polypill, etc., but how does Ferrer guarantee innovation in Spain?
AC: We have many innovative projects, but taking a leadership role in this area is challenging. Innovation is an inherent part of the pharmaceutical industry, with some companies focused more on innovation and others on generic development. We have always been committed to transformative therapeutics; for example, the Cardiovascular Polypill is intended for a specific medical need in the cardiovascular area. The project was created in conjunction with the Spanish Ministry of Health and the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC), a public-private collaboration. This is a strategic model that many laboratories follow as we aim to achieve common goals in new innovative areas.
We have several initiatives in the field of innovation, one called “Living Lab,” based on collaborative innovation and information sharing with a range of centers and participants in the health ecosystem. We carry out projects in Barcelona and elsewhere with the goal of collaborating, connecting, and designing cutting-edge solutions. We look for unmet medical needs together with various stakeholders within the healthcare ecosystem. Another innovation initiative is the “Ferrer 4 Future” program, now in its fifth year. It challenges the entrepreneurial ecosystem, startups, and technology-based companies to solve relevant medical issues. This year, we released an open international pharmaceutical challenge to identify companies working on digital, technological, and innovative solutions for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a pathology that still lacks a strong range of effective treatments. Our upcoming launches are all in this direction: we have a drug for a specific pathology in our development pipeline, so we aim to complement it from a more digital or technological perspective.
Today, Spain is one of the best countries in the world to carry out clinical trials, especially from an administrative point of view. It is committed to innovation and scientific excellence, which favors the development of these initiatives. They can be high-risk projects, which we consider worthwhile because if we succeed, we can make a difference and make a significant impact in society, which is, of course, coherent with our purpose. Our ambition is to address unmet clinical needs for patients with ALS.
EF: Could you elaborate on Ferrer’s social actions or social impact initiatives?
AC: Initiatives that support the company's purpose are the basis of our pharmaceutical development, and, as such, we focus on therapeutic areas in which we can offer solutions that respond to the clear and critical needs of patients. Most large international pharmaceutical companies hesitate to enter therapeutic areas such as pulmonary and vascular diseases, some neurological disorders, and rare diseases because they do not have sufficient commercial appeal. However, due to our philosophy and purpose, we direct our business development towards unmet needs that genuinely transform people's lives.
Furthermore, for many years, Ferrer has put its purpose into practice through a number of foundations that are very active in making a difference in society. In the last three years, over 40% of the company's net profits have been channeled into social and environmental projects. In 2022, this figure reached 47% of total profits. We collaborate with the Liceu Conservatory of Barcelona, financing the musical education of young people with talent but without the resources required to access such a prestigious institution. We are also carrying out a study to demonstrate how musical education can improve cognitive development and, therefore, have a positive impact on the future of young people's lives. Through our Ferrer for Food program, we promote urban kitchen gardens, in which we grow produce that is later prepared and cooked in our industrial kitchen and then distributed through a range of local associations to provide nutritionally complete meals to people in vulnerable situations, thereby ensuring a dignified and healthy diet. This past year, we have reached our initial goal of serving one million meals - approximately four thousand daily.
One of our main goals is also to influence others so that they follow our path. As such, the company has launched a number of initiatives to promote a new way of doing business. “Suppliers for Good” is one such project through which we engage with our supply chain so that it is aligned with our purpose. We help companies incorporate sustainable practices into their activities, and we share our solidarity initiatives with them so that they realize that projects with social impact are compatible with their business practices. We do the same with our business partners, sharing our vision and accompanying them to increase their positive impact. Our social activity is not designed to get headlines; it is just our way of understanding the business. We believe it is the right thing to do. We don't publicize our activities; we simply report them so that other companies can be inspired and join us.
EF: What is Ferrer's strategy to foster and attract the best talent and then retain it?
AC: The genuine purpose of a company influences the day-to-day activities, and so is key in holding on to talent. It is always possible to earn more money in a bigger company, but living and feeling the company's purpose as your own is a huge factor. New generations are increasingly attracted by values and less, perhaps, by economic gains or other individual benefits. In the future, a strong purpose will be increasingly important for recruitment; it is already attracting people to the company. When we ask new hires why they chose us, it is not the products or the remuneration but the genuine purpose and the fact that we work for something more than shareholder profit. It’s a vital factor in attracting and retaining staff. We are not a perfect company - we work every day to improve - but I am convinced that our positive image has to do with our purpose. Our singular vision convinces people that they are in the right place, dedicating their efforts to something worthwhile.
EF: Considering innovation, social impact, and financial sustainability, what main pillars make a health system sustainable?
AC: We have a responsibility, almost an obligation, to put business profitability and social benefit at the same level. That said, it needs to be clear that we are not an NGO; we are a profit-orientated company because, without profit, there is no project. But the social and environmental positive impact we seek to generate are equally important. It should also be very high on the healthcare ecosystem agenda. The organization's actions or initiatives must promote this way of doing business, and the B Corp movement is a great initiative in this sense. We were certified B Corp in 2022, and we believe that it is something that marks us out as a company that prioritizes both social good and profit. The B Corp movement promotes the recognition of this approach to business. There are now examples that, in some countries, are being recognized on a legislative level. In Spain, we are in the process of creating statutory recognition for this type of company so that their existence is promoted and encouraged. We are in a Western capitalist model, with fewer B Corp companies than there should be; if they were prioritized, levers could be used to change and advance towards a more sustainable world.