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Biogen Idec: Caring deeply

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Biogen Idec prides itself in the business of transforming lives of patients. Corporate citizenship is deeply ingrained into the company’s day-to-day business activities and is a cultural imperative across the organisation. The company is the first US-based biotech to be listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability index and has the topmost Carbon Disclosure Score in biotech sector as a part of the ‘Carbon Disclosure Project.’

Caring for the community

“CSR is a significant commitment for the business community to take responsibility for. Many issues fall under the umbrella of CSR and companies need to examine what is relevant to them and is achievable.”
Sameer Savkur
Managing Director, Biogen Idec

Sharing his views Sameer Savkur, Managing Director, Biogen Idec says, “CSR is a significant commitment for the business community to take responsibility for. Many issues fall under the umbrella of CSR and companies need to examine what is relevant to them and is achievable. CSR should be viewed as an investment for the company and worked at. After all, the industry does not operate in isolation from the rest of society, particularly since its employees and stakeholders are drawn from the wider community.”

In line with its commitment to corporate citizenship, the company has taken the onus of strengthening the communities in and around the locations it operates in. To this tune, Biogen Idec’s ‘Care Deeply Volunteer Day’ was introduced across the company’s largest locations in 2011 and rolled out globally to Biogen Idec offices in 2012. The worldwide project enables employees to participate in meaningful community service projects by giving them a paid day off and increase the role of employee volunteerism with focus on patients, science education and local communities. More than 1,600 employees embarked on Care Deeply Volunteer Day initiatives in 2012, participating in more than 80 projects in 22 countries around the world. In 2013, more than 1,900 employees volunteered in 28 countries around the world on more than 152 individual projects, making this the company’s largest volunteer effort ever. 2014 is trending to exceed the mark with 32 locations participating.

Last year employees served approximately over 300 volunteer hours in more than 12 cities across India. In Gurgaon, employees provided prosthetics to a kid suffering from cerebral palsy and organised a green drive at Khusboo Welfare Society, a voluntary non-governmental organisation that works for the development, education and rehabilitation of children and young adults with mental and multiple disabilities. In Chandigarh and Bangalore, employees along with their families engaged with children of Bal Niketan and Angel Orphanage while in Kolkata they counseled kids at St Mary’s Orphanage and guided them on livelihood and career opportunities. This year the company plans to focus the projects on the philosophy of CEO, C = children, E= environment, O= old age; to make substantial impact for society’s betterment.

Measuring the impact

Pitches in Savkur, “At Biogen, philanthropy serves as a centerpiece for our global corporate social responsibility efforts. Biogen Idec is in the business of transforming lives of the patients we serve and corporate citizenship is incorporated into day-to-day business activities. Ultimately, our success is measured by the impact on people’s lives and the quality of life associated with that change.” An assessment of the hours of service done by the employees and the number of NGOs involved is an indication of the extent of impact. The company also anecdotally measures the impact on employee’s satisfaction from the project; pride in working for the company and the staff and people served by the NGOs.

Philanthropy serves as a centrepiece of its global corporate social responsibility efforts. In May this year, it partnered with Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB to donate one billion international units of clotting factor therapy to humanitarian aid programs dedicated to raising the standard of care for people with haemophilia in the developing world over the next 10 years. This is the largest donation of clotting factors in the history of haemophilia, and it will go to people who are in desperate need of treatment. It is anticipated that the initiative will help physicians treat more than 75,000 joint bleeding episodes and 2,000 life-threatening bleeding episodes.

According to the World Federation of Haemophilia, approximately 75 per cent of people with haemophilia are undertreated or receive no treatment at all. Because of this severe shortage of therapy, children in developing countries are often unable to walk, play or go to school and many people with haemophilia die before they reach adulthood.

Besides community efforts, donating therapy to help patient populations, the company is also dedicated to fostering innovation in healthcare and the life sciences by helping to support future researchers and clinicians from the youngest learners to those making science a career. Towards this, the Biogen Idec Community Lab is the longest-running, hands-on corporate science lab in the US. A second Community Lab at the company’s RTP site in North Carolina is to come up soon to help inspire more students to become the scientists of tomorrow. The lab exposes middle and high school students to hands-on, real-world science with a fun and interactive approach and has already helped 20,000 students in Greater Boston to experience real laboratory science.

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