Over the course of this year, we have seen the escalation of an unprecedented crisis, COVID-19. This global pandemic has brought with it the emergence of previously unthought-of organizational risks. Now, almost a year into the pandemic, we wanted to reflect on the critical role that compliance teams play in crisis management efforts.
To tackle the topic, we talked to Stacey Hanna, General Counsel of Global Ethics & Compliance at Lonza, one of the manufacturers of a vaccine for COVID-19. Lonza is a global provider of integrated healthcare solutions operating in more than 120 countries within its two branches: Pharma, Biotech & Nutrition, and Specialty Ingredients. Before leading Lonza’s compliance efforts, Stacey began her career at an international law firm in Manhattan and in-house at pharma giant Pfizer. She began working in compliance during her time at Capsugel, a Pfizer spin-off company that was purchased by KKR & Co. in 2011 and sold to Lonza in 2017. After the acquisition in 2017, Stacey was asked to join Lonza to lead their first standalone ethics and compliance department and program. At Lonza, she is responsible globally for anti-bribery and anti-corruption, antitrust, trade compliance, enterprise risk management, and U.S. government relations.
The webinar was part of our now-virtual event series ‘Compliance Heroes’, where we aim to bring the compliance community together to share knowledge and highlight leaders in the industry. To learn more about the pivotal role that Lonza’s compliance team has played in managing the crisis, keep reading:
Adam Kaiser (AK): How did Lonza address crisis management at the beginning of the pandemic?
Stacey Hanna (SH): Lonza has large operations in China, and when the pandemic started our Chinese offices were actually managing the situation largely within the country, since at that time, no one knew the virus would escalate to a global level. Quickly after, however, a few of us from legal and the global communications started to see signs that the crisis could escalate, which led us to spearhead a global COVID task-force led by my boss, the Group General Counsel, to lend a hand to our Chinese colleagues. As the pandemic evolved, each location developed its own sub-task force. I am a member of the global COVID-19 task force and lead the Americas COVID-19 task force, along with some other members of my compliance team.
AK: How did your presence in the biotech and chemical industries impact your strategy for crisis management?
SH: Our presence defined our strategy in some way. At the moment, we are at the forefront of combatting the virus in two main ways, we are manufacturing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, and also manufacturing U.S. EPA-approved (Environmental Protection Agency) disinfectants, which kills COVID-19 on surfaces.
Considering that a large number of our workforce are essential workers who have been working tirelessly to manufacturer products to help combat the pandemic, our main priority when launching our strategy was the safety and well-being of our employees. Both our essential workers onsite at our facilities, and our employees who continue to work hard from their home offices.
The second priority was business continuity. Because of what we do and especially in the two areas I mentioned, it was fundamental to keep our sites running. To do so, we had to keep our people healthy and as safe as possible – as a result, we put many elements in place early to ensure that our people would be as safe and protected as possible to help combat the virus around the globe. For example, we instituted temperature screening, increased cleaning and disinfecting, mask-wearing where social distancing cannot be maintained, and social distancing, as well.
AK: How has technology played a role in the crisis management at Lonza?
SH: For most companies, the automatic answer is that this has forced years of change into a few months in terms of technological adaptation, essentially forcing people that were not tech-savvy to become familiar with new tech platforms when working from home, myself included.
One of the other ways in which technology and GAN, in particular, helped us a lot, was to use existing platforms to automate parts of our crisis-communication with employees. GAN’s automated Q&A functionality helped us automate answers to may COVID-related questions.
Concerning our manufacturing sites, technology also enabled us to reduce the number of workers needing to travel to other sites by allowing some of our technicians to guide other colleagues in machine-repairs off-site by using virtual goggles.
AK: How can organizations best prepare for managing a crisis of the dimension of COVID?
SH: Considering that some type of organizational risk is likely to happen again in the future, I would encourage organizations to go and look back at what were the biggest learnings from this pandemic. This time, we had to make quick decisions on the fly, and at least from our experience, this has helped us notice certain areas where we could make improvements. Even though these areas might not be huge, our natural tendency is to continue moving without reflecting on and mitigating those areas that could use some work. I think businesses should identify learnings from this crisis and take the time after this has abated to make changes, that may help in the event of another crisis situation.
AK: Why is compliance well-positioned to take a leadership role in crisis management?
SH: I think compliance is well-positioned to take on a leadership role in crisis management because of its global reach and birdseye view. In multinational corporations like Lonza, compliance is very used to working with colleagues from around the globe on a myriad of different issues. This can be useful, especially during this crisis, when every country and colleague has been impacted in some way.
I also believe that even though compliance has changed from being more of a ‘firefighter function’ to being a strategic asset of the company, there are still some firefighting elements to compliance departments that become useful during times of crisis. Compliance teams are usually well equipped to deal with problems, and also know how to do it in a way in which we can move forward and help the company do better next time.
AK: What type of policy changes are you doing as the crisis evolves? And how is this changing your compliance program in the long term?
SH: In the long term, it is hard to say how it will affect our compliance program as our current policies have proven to be highly adaptable. In the short-term, however, we have had to change our priorities, which has affected how we roll out our ‘normal’ compliance program. We have had to put new policies in place for holidays, vacations, in-person meetings, and other things that can have an impact on our colleagues and they ways in which they perform their jobs.
I also think that this event really redefined the meaning of a crisis, which would have been defined differently two years ago, and this can help put things into perspective in the long run for people.
AK: How can compliance officers ensure they have a seat at the table when a crisis arises?
SH: Compliance officers should take a proactive approach and always come to the table with solutions to any identified issues. Issue spotting is easy, identify ways to solve those issues, and taking a proactive and practical approach to those solutions, is important.
AK: How have you navigated the different levels of risk throughout the countries you operate?
SH: This question goes back to why compliance is well-positioned to tackle crisis issues. In the day-to-day compliance world, when you as a compliance officer draft a policy, you have to take into account different cultures, as this affects the operationalization of policies on the ground. Similarly, in the current pandemic, every country and colleague has been impacted by this crisis in some way, albeit at different times and with different impact, and it is important to understand that “one size” doesn’t fit all when dealing with how to help your colleagues manage this crisis.
AK: Can a crisis affect the culture of an organization permanently?
SH: 100%. It goes back to the good and bad that comes out in folks and companies when the rubber hits the road. This crisis is an opportunity to determine what are our defining values as an organization and also, to be proactive in redefining the meaning of work post-pandemic. There hasn’t been a change as significant as this one in how we work in the U.S. since the industrial revolution, and we should take a proactive approach to determine how the future will and should look.
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We would like to thank Stacey Hanna for her timely insights into the powerful role compliance can play in crisis management. Lonza’s approach to the pandemic has ensured not only business continuity, but has emphasized their commitment to ethics by prioritizing the safety of its employees.
If you would like to listen to the full interview we encourage you to check out our Compliance Heroes event: Mastering Compliance’s Role in Crisis Management. To read more interviews with compliance professionals from our CCO Conversations series check out Wim Vandekerckhove’s interview on How to Manage Whistleblowing and Retaliation or our interview with Deborah Spanic, Chief Compliance Officer at Clarios, around how technology helped their compliance program excel in third-party due diligence.