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“Without IP rights protection, there is no innovation, and without innovation, there would be no progress for our planet”
Group General Counsel, Andreas Bohrer, at Lonza, a Swiss multinational manufacturing company in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, speaks to Leaders League about the future of ESG initiatives and intellectual property in Switzerland and abroad, the importance of participating in policy-making to further develop the legal environment, as well as his leadership principals to empower and inspire his team.
Leaders League: You have extensive in-house legal experience, and you currently work as Group General Counsel at Lonza. However, you started your career as an external counsel. What was the reasoning behind this decision? How does this help you with your current activities?
Andreas Bohrer: To be successful, a General Counsel needs to excel as a functional expert, trusted adviser, and leader. All of these elements require a breadth of experience and depth of knowledge. My professional experience working at law firms in Zurich, Geneva, and New York set the foundation for my in-house career in the banking and healthcare industries. I recommend young talents broaden their experience and collect competencies by working on both sides of the legal profession.
The future will see no ESG without the knowledge of lawyers – and no lawyers without knowledge of ESG
What important trends and developments are you seeing in the pharmaceutical industry?
Pharma is a regulated industry, and one trend is that regulatory requirements from the financial industry spread out and are introduced to pharma and other sectors. Another trend is the rise of ESG (environment, social, governance) and sustainability regulation. ESG is no longer at the discretion of the company, and binding legal rules increasingly complement best practices. In short, the future will see no ESG without the knowledge of lawyers – and no lawyers without knowledge of ESG.
Regarding ESG initiatives, what are your goals for Lonza? How is the company minimizing its impact on the environment?
Sustainability is one of our five core strategic priorities. We continue to progress on our sustainability and ESG commitments based on seven UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on reducing greenhouse gas, energy, and waste intensity. ESG targets are part of the employee bonus calculations across Lonza. The ESG journey continues, and our aspirations are ambitious. This aligns with our company purpose – to enable a healthier world.
You are also a board member of economiesuisse, the top-level industry association of the Swiss economy, and scienceindustries, the association of life science companies in Switzerland. How does this activity work hand-in-hand with your current position as well as impact public policies?
Lawyers should not only react to laws and implement them but take a driving seat and shape the legal framework. The law is a major factor in whether companies can succeed and whether countries can be attractive for job creation and economic welfare. It is our obligation as lawyers to raise our voices and promote better regulation for the benefit of the companies and their stakeholders. Industry associations such as economiesuisse and scienceindustries are instrumental in promoting a legal framework that allows the economy to create sustainable value.
The law is a major factor in whether companies can succeed and whether countries can be attractive for job creation and economic welfare
You were a part of the expert panel that drafted the new Swiss Code of Best Practice for Corporate Governance. What is the relevance of this code for companies and for counsel in Switzerland?
The Swiss Code of Best Practice for Corporate Governance is a success story of creating progress through self-regulation. In contrast to binding law, it provides companies with standards of best practice that are tested and accepted in the market, allow for flexibility, and can be amended in light of new developments. For example, the Swiss Code of Best Practice for Corporate Governance has swiftly adapted to the rise of ESG and included a set of modern, future-oriented sustainability principles. It is like mountain climbing: to make it to the top of best-in-class corporate governance, companies need a guide. The Swiss Code of Best Practice for Corporate Governance is the guide for Swiss companies to good governance.
Intellectual property (IP) is imperative in the world of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. What role can it play in supporting future innovation in these industries?
Intellectual property rights enable innovators to earn the benefits of their innovation. In industries where innovation comes with a significant cost, as in pharma, IP protection is a key prerequisite for future innovation. And innovation is the prerequisite to curing the diseases of today and solving the challenges of tomorrow. Without IP rights protection, there is no innovation, and without innovation, there would be no progress for our planet.
What are your leadership principles at the company and how do you further develop the skills of your current team?
As a General Counsel, I succeed through the success of my team, hence talent development is key. Talent development is a joint responsibility held by the individual employees and the company. The company provides the framework, while the employees are responsible for their past and current performance, future potential, commitment, and initiative. Careers cannot be planned because too many factors can influence professional life – but eligibility can be planned. This means that every one of us in the legal profession needs to define our aspirations and then determine what competencies are required to become eligible for positions aligned with our aspirations. This thought process forms an individual’s development plan – the starting point for every employee to begin collecting the necessary competencies.
For leadership principles, I very much believe in empowerment, teamwork, and trust: as an individual, I can only contribute my own time and effort, hence my impact is limited. As a leader, I can also motivate others to contribute, thereby multiplying the impact. This requires, however, that I empower my team to perform. That being said, empowerment requires mutual trust: if I do not trust my team, I will not empower them; if my team does not trust me, they will not feel empowered to perform. Trust is the basis for empowerment. Equally important is teamwork – it helps create trust among team members and increases efficiency.
What do you look for when selecting outside counsel?
We look for law firms and outside counsel that commit to being true long-term partners to us. As with every partnership, both sides should be aligned, professional, experts in their fields, with sound judgment, business acumen, values and integrity, and an ethical compass. Further, outside counsel needs to be reliable, no-nonsense, and down-to-earth. One of their main value-adds is their experience and know-how from working with a number of comparable peer companies and their expertise in assessing topics from both a thorough legal perspective and a risk-based pragmatic approach. Outside counsel should know the law, should know Lonza and its business activities, as well as our risk appetite. Outside counsel will be upfront and transparent, speak up, and raise concerns with the General Counsel if warranted. As with every partnership, it is a give-and-take that needs to be fair to both sides. In sum, the outside counsel must be a true “consigliere” to the company.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment while working at Lonza?
I would like to mention the acquisition and integration of Capsugel in 2016/2017, the sale of the specialty chemicals division in 2021, and the ESG efforts that we are currently implementing. However, these achievements are not mine, but those of the entire team. The successes are the result of the cross-functional teamwork of highly professional, committed, and purpose-driven colleagues at Lonza, a testament to the quality and can-do attitude of our employees. My role and contribution are that of a servant leader, developing and supporting my team and helping to remove roadblocks.
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