Throughout 2020, we worked tirelessly to manage our business through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our business of delivering medical treatments and microbial control solutions proved critical in the fight against COVID-19 and led to the categorization of Lonza as an “essential business”. As such, our license to operate remained intact in nearly all markets with only temporary interruptions in some of our Specialty Ingredients sites.
Even before the scale of the pandemic was fully recognized, we set up a global Lonza Taskforce and implemented global pandemic guidance for our employees. We closely monitored the spread and development of the pandemic, adapting global and local measures, as required, to ensure the continuing safety of our global employee community, whilst also maintaining business continuity as a supplier of essential products and services. Such measures included the implementation of COVID-19 specific components of business continuity plans at each site, restrictions on all international business travel and the requirement that employees should work from their homes if they were able to do so. At all times, local rules and restrictions implemented by different jurisdictions were carefully observed and followed.
While we were able to control and support our operations, we remained dependent on suppliers for raw materials and logistics companies to deliver them. Our teams worked diligently across our supply chain to minimize any disruption, keeping in close contact with suppliers and customers to mitigate any delays arising from a stretched supply chain.
Group General Counsel
In the early days of the pandemic, the Global COVID-19 Taskforce established a set of agreed behaviors to steer our response: no panic, and no complacency. Achieving the best possible outcome from a challenging situation has remained our end goal and guiding star.
As a global business with a strong internal network, we called on the experience of our teams in China and Singapore early in the pandemic to ensure we were prepared for the eventual spread of the virus to Europe and the Americas. The success of our approach depended on remaining one step ahead of the virus whenever possible. For example, we undertook extensive risk analysis and scenario planning in anticipation of the “second wave” of infection, which commenced in Europe and the Americas during the latter half of 2020.
For Lonza, the pandemic provided an opportunity to support not only our customers and their patients through continuous business operations, but also our employees and their families by promoting safety in the workplace. In addition, we had the opportunity to provide support to local communities around our sites. Last, but certainly not least, we have been pleased and proud to support our customers in commercializing their therapies and treatments to control the COVID-19 virus.
While the pandemic has caused multiple global challenges, it has also demonstrated that our work can make a significant difference to people’s lives. As an essential business, we bring our energy, experience and expertise to help solve one of the most significant issues yet faced by humankind in the third millennium.
To help steer the company through the pandemic, a Global COVID-19 Taskforce was formed in January 2020. This included representatives from a wide range of functions across the business, including Operations, Legal, HR, EHS&S, Corporate Risk and Strategy Implementation, and Communications. This group has worked throughout the pandemic to address challenges, protect Lonza’s employees and to help ensure business continuity.
As the pandemic has progressed, additional working groups have been formed to tackle the specific challenges that have arisen. Regional working groups for the EMEA, APAC and the Americas regions were convened, as well as groups to address more specific issues such as personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and supply chain. Each of these working groups report into the Global COVID-19 Taskforce to ensure a consistent response across the business.
The Taskforce was also responsible for scenario planning to ensure that the business was set up to respond to anticipated challenges. During the first months of the pandemic, the group centralized plans for the anticipated “second wave” of infections. As this new wave of infections spread across many markets in the latter half of 2020, all our sites remained operational thanks to the measures taken, based on learnings from the “first wave” of the pandemic. These measures enable us to ensure the continued health and safety of our global employee community and business continuity for our customers.
Since the start of the pandemic, we remained steadfast that employee safety was our top priority. As a manufacturing company, factory- and laboratory-based employees needed to continue to attend work to maintain business continuity. For our site-based colleagues, we made specific provisions for each site to afford the highest possible levels of safety to all employees. Such measures included daily temperature screening, social distancing on site, the provision of mandatory personal protective equipment, increased disinfecting schedules and split team working arrangements. At our Visp (CH) site, we opened a testing center outside the site premises to offer COVID-19 tests for employees who showed symptoms of the virus, or who were requested to test by the SwissCOVID app.
For our employees who transitioned to working remotely, additional resources were provided to assist with the shift and further IT measures were established to ensure that our systems could support the increase in agile and remote working practices. We also provided guidance to help employees make optimal use of our remote working technologies and maintain strong levels of cybersecurity.
The wellbeing of our employee community has been a continuing focus throughout the pandemic. Cognizant of the impact that the pandemic may have on employee mental health, our HR teams have offered advice and support where needed. As an example, our Employee Assistance Program was launched in 2020 and provides a confidential counselling service designed to help employees and their families to navigate any professional or private challenges.
Alongside the extensive work undertaken to protect and engage the global employee community, we also worked closely with customers and investors throughout the pandemic. Many investors were rightly concerned by potential financial and economic impacts arising from high levels of macroeconomic uncertainty.
In response to these concerns, we provided an unscheduled quantitative update on our financial performance at the end of Q1 2020. We also provided and attended a number of virtual investor roadshows and conferences throughout the year. In line with the local Swiss regulations and measures to fight COVID-19, we decided to conduct the Lonza Annual General Meeting in 2020 solely by voting through the independent proxy, and without the physical attendance of shareholders. This measure allowed us to hold the Annual General Meeting as planned, in a virtual format.
Our Half-Year 2020 results presentation was executed as a hybrid event. In addition, we held a hybrid Investor Update in October where we provided visibility on the status of COVID-19-related customer projects, as well as information on our new divisional structure, divisional priorities and our 2023 Mid-Term Guidance. Both events were conducted in line with local Swiss regulations including the limitation on number of people being physically present, and the continuing management of social distancing provisions for those who were able to attend.
As a leading global biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing company, it was important to us to participate in projects that support the global efforts against COVID-19. As our business and people demonstrated their resilience by maintaining operations and managing supplies, we were well positioned as a global partner of choice for customers in search of advanced and robust manufacturing capabilities.
In this context, we have received more than 200 enquiries to collaborate with customers on COVID-19 related projects. From an early stage, we chose to focus our energy and attention on those projects where our involvement would create the most beneficial outcomes. Below, we provide a snapshot of the projects that we have supported throughout the year:
In addition to these group-wide efforts in the fight against COVID-19, our sites have undertaken local initiatives to support the communities in which they operate. These initiatives included hand sanitizer production to provide to hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions in Visp (CH) and Williamsport (USA). We have also supported NGO Hand in Hand Switzerland’s emergency plan and delivered sanitizers to 500,000 households in rural, underprivileged communities. Furthermore, we have provided community support, such as donating more than 10,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to the medical teams in Colmar (FR). For more information, please refer to our Sustainability Report.