Material aspect 4: We care about the environment, health, and safety

Environment, health, and safety
CSR report
SDG 3 (icon)SDG 8 (icon)SDG 13 (icon)

Our mission is to bring innovative medicines with novel modes of action to patients suffering from severe diseases in the most sustainable way, caring about the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees and respecting our planet by keeping our environmental footprint to a minimum.

In addition, we operate in a highly regulated sector and are hence subject to a strict set of laws and regulations related to impact on the environment, and to the health, safety and well-being of employees.

To ensure adherence to our mission and compliance with legislation we established an EHS  group department responsible for the development of an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) management system based on the international ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 standards, and for proposing an annual action plan to promote environmentally sound practices and health, safety and well-being at work. Management guarantees the implementation of this action plan and our EHS efforts are anchored in the shared responsibility of our staff: every employee is responsible for protecting people and the environment in and around his or her workplace. We perform internal and external audits to monitor compliance.

We promote initiatives to eliminate accidents and illness, and to provide a safe work environment and business processes.

We maintain safety monitoring records, in compliance with applicable legislation, and ensure that training of employees takes place on all handling of hazardous materials, laboratory and other safety aspects, and on other relevant policies for conducting our business. In 2020, our three research centers jointly reported 2 lost time incidents (one resulting from slip, trip & fall and one from a cut) which resulted in 6 lost calendar days.

We currently have no production sites, we do not own buildings, and our facilities have only minor environmental liabilities such as waste handling and emissions from fume hoods. Nonetheless, we aim to reduce our environmental impact further, for example by recycling and replacing paper by digital means to the extent possible, and we are committed to selecting our production partners with care.

Other examples include the bikes at our facilities in Mechelen and Leiden used by employees who need to commute between the buildings on site as well as the gradual greening of our car fleet.

Actions in 2020

  • We coordinated “license to work” conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic by performing risk analysis and defining safe conditions to work on site as well as from home
  • We strengthened  our EHS Governance Structure and expert skills by:
    • inviting the country leads to the corporate Site Operation Meetings, led by our Head of Operations, to align  on EHS communications and accountabilities
    • recruiting a colleague with health expertise and optimizing the involvement of the occupational physician at our site in Mechelen
    • adding a position for an EHS manager dedicated to our offices in Leiden, appointing a corporate single point of contact to provide EHS support to our operations in the EU5 countries, the US and Switzerland, and contracting external EHS providers to help ensure local EHS compliance at current and new offices in the UK and Switzerland
  • We further developed our EHS management system by implementing four new corporate EHS Standard Operating Procedures related to the transportation of hazardous goods, emergency preparedness, competences measurement and management of collective and personal protective equipment
  • Operational, site-specific highlights include:
    • the re-authorization of biosafety and environmental permits for the buildings at our site in Mechelen
    • improved chemical safety by the implementation of software to support risk assessments for dangerous chemicals at our site in Leiden
    • improved recycling of electric and electronic laboratory waste material at our site in Romainville
  • In order to protect and increase the bee population, we installed beehives on the roof of our building in Mechelen

Future ambitions

  • In 2021, we aim to execute on a workplace strategy, building on the "To The Next Normal" program intended to accelerate the learnings of our COVID-driven new ways of working, in order to embed how we want to operate as a company going forward, investing in:
    • Enhanced approach to flexibility
    • Future-proof greener approach to mobility
    • Employee Wellbeing
    • Integrated digital and connected virtual collaboration
  • In light of COVID-19, we will continue to perform risk analysis and specifically provide guidance on how to safely ensure business continuity at our research labs
  • We will further strengthen our EHS management system by issuing EHS guidance related to maintenance management, contractor management, work permits, and work equipment