Published 27 January 2020
André Hoffmann, great-grandson of company founder Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche and Vice-Chairman of the Board, on the responsibility each and every one of us bears and why Roche needs to set a good example.
You said in a recent talk that you understand why climate activists are spreading panic. Are you yourself worried about your children’s and grandchildren’s future?
When I look at what we would have to do to turn the tide, then I do feel apprehensive about the enormous challenge we are facing. Far too little is happening. I also feel a sense of hope, however, as the great urgency is finally forcing us to make decisions and take specific action.
Do you still come across climate change deniers?
No one who sees the facts can deny the existence of climate change. Those who do are just defending their own interests.
So each and every one of us is responsible?
Yes, we all have to do our bit and change our habits – for instance by flying less, by not buying plastic bottles, etc.
Where does Roche stand in terms of sustainability?
We have achieved a great deal in the last ten years. And people are doing their bit not only because they are told to by line management but out of their own conviction.
Which fundamental changes do we need to make to our economic model?
My goal is for our company to operate and grow in harmony with nature and society, not at their expense. Roche employees have to know that we aren’t here just to make money; we are here to help people in a sustainable, lasting way.
We aren’t here just to make money; we are here to help people in a sustainable, lasting way.”
You are enormously active in environmental protection work. Who influenced you in this regard?
My father Luc Hoffmann was a zoologist and ornithologist, and a committed conservationist. He was a founder member of the WWF and its vice-president from 1961 to 1988. He was a great role model for me. Apart from him, the two people who first spring to mind are businessmen: Paul Polman, the former CEO of Unilever, who established the SDGs* together with the UN, and Anton Rupert, a South African industrialist and philanthropist who fought against apartheid. As a young man I learned an important lesson from him: that it is possible to actively oppose the mainstream and be right.
Do you make more public appearances to raise public awareness of the issue?
Yes, because it isn’t just about me, it’s about how I as an individual can help solve the greatest crisis humankind has ever faced. I want Roche – as one of the most important pharmaceutical firms in the world – to set a good example in this regard. That is important to me. And we absolutely will do so.
*The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short, are political goals set by the UN for the purpose of ensuring sustainable development at an economic, social and environmental level. André Hoffmann wears a pin on his lapel as a mark of his commitment to the SDGs.
André Hoffmann short and sweet
I like her. It’s great that she is so fulfilled by this good cause.
2. The Paris climate summit
A success story. One hundred and ninety countries signed up. Madrid 2019 was a setback, though.
3. Extinction of species
A tragedy. Every extinction is final.