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EF: How has your mission evolved in the last five years as a country manager in Germany?
AE: I began as the country manager for the newly founded affiliate, Ferrer Deutschland. It has been an exhilarating journey witnessing the significant changes and developments that have taken place over the years.
Ferrer is a purpose-driven company with a well-defined and strong purpose. The company's single-family owners drive this purpose to make a positive impact on society. This purpose is deeply ingrained within the company and is evident in how it is lived and felt throughout the organization.
Our success rests on three main pillars: Great people to promote a people-centred culture based on trust and accountability, in which talent thrives; a Livable Planet, to foster environmental protection for our own good and that of future generations; and Social Justice, to support people in vulnerable situations, contribute to a fairer and more equitable society and to ensure equality of opportunity.
Through its foundation initiatives, Ferrer has launched various valuable programs, including creating urban gardens in Spain that provide healthy food to people in vulnerable situations in the Barcelona metropolitan area. This initiative caters to both environmental and social sustainability. It is one of Ferrer's many excellent initiatives in recent years to promote sustainability and social justice. It is noteworthy that Germany's focus on sustainability aligns well with Ferrer's global sustainability initiative.
EF: As the general manager for Germany, what key initiatives or pillars should a manager have to share the purpose with their staff?
AE: Effective management is not just about making public statements but about integrating sustainable practices into everyday life. In Germany, we are committed to promoting these pillars by transitioning our fleet to electric vehicles, illustrating our commitment to implementing sustainable initiatives. Ferrer has launched several excellent initiatives, including the Days for Good, where employees worldwide participate in volunteer activities. In 2021, 420 volunteers contributed over 1,300 hours to social and environmental projects, underscoring the company's dedication to sustainability and social responsibility.
Last year, Ferrer was certified as a B Corp worldwide, making it the first of its kind and ranking it among the top 25% B Corp-certified companies in the world, with an impressive score. This accomplishment indicates the company's genuine commitment to supporting sustainability initiatives and positively impacting society.
EF: Can you elaborate on Ferrer’s portfolio of products translated into the German market? And what are your expectations for the future?
AE: We greatly emphasize developing specialized solutions for targeted indications in hospital settings. Drawing on its extensive experience in two main therapeutic areas, namely pulmonary vascular and interstitial lung diseases, and neurological disorders, Ferrer's German branch offers a portfolio of specialized solutions tailored to the needs of hospitals. This portfolio currently encompasses three distinct therapeutic areas: psychiatry, anesthesiology, and intensive care/cardiology intervention, all closely linked to neurology. We constantly strive to offer innovative solutions that positively impact patients and healthcare professionals, and we work in close partnership with hospitals to achieve this goal.
EF: Is Ferrer looking for partnerships within the German market or globally? And what is the value of these types of partnerships?
AE: Establishing a robust and sustainable supply chain is crucial for any company, and partnerships with other firms can be instrumental in achieving this goal. Ferrer has a long-standing track record of forging successful partnerships with other companies on a global scale and recognizes the value of collaboration in building a sustainable portfolio. Although the German branch of Ferrer currently has limited partnerships, the company remains committed to exploring new avenues for growth and innovation.
EF: What are your expectations for the future?
AE: Ferrer recently signed an agreement with the Swiss clinical-stage biotechnology company Asceneuron to develop specialized treatments for patients with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a rare and debilitating neurological condition. We are also conducting a phase three trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), another rare and life-threatening disease. Ferrer is committed to bringing these innovative treatments to market to improve patients' lives. Developing treatments for rare diseases requires a highly specialized and complex process, particularly in diagnostics and therapies. Despite the challenges posed by regulatory and political transitions in Germany, Ferrer is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of medical research to bring transformative solutions to patients.
EF: How can we raise awareness of pharmaceutical companies like Ferrer’s research-oriented approach and foster an environment conducive to continued innovation?
AE: Germany has recently shifted its approach towards the availability of treatments for rare diseases. The focus for the future lies in crafting a compelling value proposition for stakeholders, which ensures patient safety and efficacy. Striking a balance between these two priorities while pushing for innovation presents a formidable challenge. Achieving this delicate equilibrium requires a nuanced understanding of the complexities of guaranteeing safety and efficacy while simultaneously driving progress in rare disease treatments.
EF: How is Ferrer continuously driving innovation globally, especially from a sustainable point of view?
AE: To enhance the quality of life for patients and maximize societal impact, improving our work practices and business management is imperative. This entails a strategic approach to patient care incorporating cutting-edge medical interventions and fostering innovation in the healthcare industry. By embracing these principles, we can develop a patient-centric ecosystem that empowers individuals to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives while generating positive externalities for the broader community. Achieving this requires a commitment to excellence and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances while always placing the patient's needs at the forefront of decision-making.
As a science-based company, we are steadfast in our commitment to developing transformative solutions for patients in need. Our focus is primarily on two therapeutic areas that address severe and debilitating diseases with low prevalence. By honing our efforts in these areas, we hope to provide alternative therapeutic options where none exist. As shown with our Phase II and III studies, we remain committed to these patients in order to bring potential solutions in those areas with unmet needs. Our investment in research and development is significant. In 2021 alone, the total amount invested was 43.5 million euros.
EF: What key milestones, lessons, and moments have you experienced from this management position at Ferrer?
AE: When considering what to celebrate, I prefer to focus on our team's collective initiatives and shared commitment toward our main purpose and goals rather than specific individual accomplishments. The overall willingness of each company member to contribute to our purpose drives our success, rather than any particular topic. In recognizing this collective effort, we can take pride in our accomplishments and continue working together to achieve our shared vision.
EF: How do you share the purpose of Ferrer within the company among the employees and customers, and how do you make sure it is understood?
AE: As I mentioned earlier, the company’s strategic plan only has three pillars, Great People, Livable Planet and Social Justice. As such, every single employee must take this into account before making any decision. This guarantees that we are all working in the same direction, towards our purpose of making a positive impact in society.
Moreover, there have been numerous initiatives in the last couple of years to transform the company’s culture, like leadership programs, soft skill trainings, and internal communications campaigns to make sure everyone is on board.
To put an example, the corporate volunteering program at Ferrer, which is available to all of our employees worldwide, focuses on combining social and environmental projects aligned with the work of affiliated foundations, allowing employees to experience the impact of their contributions firsthand. For example, employees may harvest potatoes in urban gardens or prepare meals for those in vulnerable situations in industrial kitchens.
Ferrer has also reimagined its sales force events, turning them into opportunities for social action in the communities where they occur. Instead of team-building activities, the company channels resources toward projects that improve people's lives, such as restocking social community centers, painting schools, and setting up urban gardens. Last year more than 400 employees volunteered, and we managed to restock community centers and helped paint two schools. This sense of purpose extends to Ferrer's therapeutic areas, with sales and marketing teams always striving to improve people's well-being.
Throughout the company, teams often approach us with proposals, suggestions, and recommendations on how to help. Recently, a sales manager presented an initiative to the management board wherein a small Medical Center outside of Barcelona would allow Ferrer to plant a green garden on its roof. In exchange, Ferrer would provide the resources necessary to install and maintain the garden. The garden would serve as an activity for patients and doctors to care for the crops, combining our business with our people and the local community. Such initiatives reflect our commitment to integration and cooperation. These initiatives are not merely a communication plan but a living, breathing part of the company culture, embraced by employees at every level. Indeed, the CEO's vision is to use the pharmaceutical business to generate substantial social change rather than an end in itself. Ferrer had worked internally with this purpose for the past four years, which was externally recognized when the company received the B Corp certification. Sharing their experience is not about boasting but encouraging other companies to follow suit.
Ferrer's owner, Sergi Ferrer-Salat, sees profit in reinvesting in social change rather than an end in itself. The owner always tells us that our purpose will remain the same even if we were to start manufacturing tables tomorrow. The company's purpose marks everything it does, and the CEO has successfully imparted this vision to every employee. The difference is that Ferrer's sense of purpose is not part of a CSR or corporate volunteering program but is integrated into the company's fabric.
Ferrer's commitment to social responsibility is evident through various initiatives undertaken at a global and regional level. Ferrer cultivates a shared purpose by involving employees in meaningful initiatives, making it an attractive company. While the larger company in Spain has a wider reach, the smaller German team also contributes to such efforts. For instance, German employees donated personal belongings such as clothes and books for a social cause last year. Such programs demonstrate that Ferrer prioritizes social transformation. This translates into the company's purpose in every country, including Germany.
EF: How can we enhance these initiatives in the German market and amplify Ferrer's positive social impact in Germany?
AE: As the German affiliate expands, its primary focus is reinvesting in social and environmental initiatives. By prioritizing these critical areas, we seek to create a sustainable business model that generates economic benefits that can then be reinvested positively to society and the environment. This strategy stems from a keen awareness of the increasing size and volume of the affiliate and the recognition of the responsibility that comes with such growth.
Besides prioritizing social and environmental responsibility, the company places equal emphasis on caring for its employees, referred to as the "Great People" pillar. The company's purpose is aligned with this approach, recognizing that a commitment to giving back to society must begin with taking care of one's own. This commitment to caring for its employees is vital to the company's DNA and ability to serve communities in vulnerable situations and reinvest profits into social and environmental programs effectively. Overall, the company's purpose is deeply ingrained in all its operations, from portfolio building to benefit reinvestment, creating a shared sense of purpose among its employees.