The pharmaceutical industry is about social responsibility: to improve health and help local communities


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Last year was an important time for me personally, taking on the role of president and CEO of Astellas Pharma Europe. As we head into 2012, one of my key focuses is building on our foundation of strong shared goals.

We are a global company and know without shared goals we would not be able to maintain our growth or perform strongly towards our objective to be an employer of choice. Engagement is essential and HR a key business partner, in association with a strong management team, to help us to live our values.

Astellas is a young company, formed six years ago from the merger of two long-established Japanese pharmaceutical companies, Yamanouchi and Fujisawa. The 'clean slate' of a new identity has been an asset. We have been able to attract and keep great talent - proven by consistently high ratings in employee surveys - and inspire innovation. But we are mindful of the importance of continuing to build the Astellas identity. Many aspects of Japanese corporate culture are inherent in how we work. We have a strong emphasis on quality; the Japanese kaizen (continuous improvement) approach is ingrained in our culture. This means across the board we keep looking to improve our products and our organisation's effectiveness.

Since the merger, we have looked at how we can instil a greater sense of social responsibility across Astellas. I believe the pharmaceutical industry is about social responsibility. Our job is to try and improve health; as an organisation we also aim to help local communities. One successful initiative we run is 'Changing Tomorrow' day, which enables each employee across all Astellas offices to take part in charity events. We have completed the second year of the initiative and employees at every level of the company have been involved. I spent the day at a local school making healthy snacks and smoothies. It is important to give back and help people realise that we are part of a broader community, not just a company.

One further aspect I believe helps strengthen the sense of shared goals across Astellas is that we do our best to keep the focus on patient needs, rather than exclusively looking at what the competition is doing. We have to make sure we get to the right patient, with the right product at the right time. There are always local issues that affect each country: for example, the changing landscape in emerging markets in Europe and austerity measures in more established markets, which have led to price cuts. However, if we were always looking behind our backs at our competitors, it would detract from our overall position and, more importantly, distract us from our customers' needs, which unite us regardless of the region.

We are growing in a number of product and geographic areas. For example, we are investing a lot into developing innovative treatments in the field of oncology. There is a high level of unmet need in this area, which creates a high level of motivation for our staff: so far, we have 12 different therapies in product development and globally we invest approximately 20% of our sales into research.

We want to keep building Astellas as a successful pharmaceutical. We need to maintain a focus on patient needs and our sense of social responsibility. Keeping these as shared goals will ensure a bright future for us as an organisation and for our employees as individuals.

Ken Jones (pictured) is president and CEO of Astellas Pharma Europe


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