What does the Business Roundtable Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation mean to you?
BRT’s principles resonate strongly with me as a first-time CEO of a Fortune 500 Company — and I could not be more proud to join this movement. With Zoetis being the global leader in animal health, our business purpose is very much a social purpose. We help bring companionship, comfort and nutrition to the world through healthy pets and farm animals. It all starts with investing in colleagues who are valued for the role they play in supporting veterinarians, pet owners and food producers in keeping animals healthy. When we bring greater value to our customers and communities, our impacts are far reaching and long lasting in contributing to a healthier planet.
What is one of the most important decisions you have made for your company this year?
When the pandemic hit, our primary focus was putting colleague safety first. We quickly adapted our business to ensure that people who needed to work on site were safe and could continue to deliver our animal health vaccines and medicines to customers, while others adapted to working at home. We created some overall guiding principles based on our Core Beliefs and empowered our local leaders to make the decisions based on the circumstances in their market. For example, our manufacturing managers were looking at a very different situation from our office colleagues, in terms of providing protective equipment and keeping cohorts small; staggering hours was a must for them. But it’s a much different scenario for field-based colleagues who may be able to visit customers while safely social distancing if they support livestock producers in more remote areas or calling on veterinary clinics in the suburbs. So we felt it was important to empower local leaders to make decisions that made the most sense for their teams.
What is one action pertaining to racial equity and justice that you are most proud of championing in your role as CEO?
The social unrest related to racial injustice that began in the U.S. and has spread across the globe is a call to action for companies like Zoetis to do more to promote diversity, equity and inclusion across our organization and in the communities where we work and live.
As a new CEO, it was important to quickly understand where we are as a company and put aspirational plans into action to accelerate inclusion and more diverse representation across the company and within our industry. The plan we developed focused on culture, colleagues, career and communities. In just over 45 days, we formalized this plan and secured its approval with our Board of Directors. Our multi-pronged plan is based on our aspirations to maintain an inclusive environment where a diverse set of colleagues can thrive.It includes key actions such as increased investments in D&I education and training; stronger colleague resource groups for women, Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ colleagues; expanded leadership development and networking offerings for colleagues; requiring diverse slates of candidates and interviewers; and partnerships with external organizations and Historically Black Colleges and Universities so we can attract more diverse talent. We also added new benefits including expanded educational assistance to provide greater opportunity for our colleagues to further their education, and additional childcare benefits to help our colleagues balance their home and caregiving needs, particularly during this pandemic. These are just some of the ways we are working to attract and retain the best and brightest talent at Zoetis.
I believe it’s important to hold ourselves accountable to the plan, so our leadership team has agreed to publish our current diversity statistics and aspirations for change over the next five years. Our current statistics and aspirations to increase representation for women, people of color, Blacks and Latinx can be found on our website.
What have you learned in the past year that will inform the decisions you make for your company moving forward?
One is the importance of building more adaptability and agility into the way our company operates. With COVID-19, we had to shift priorities and quickly learned that by building adaptability into our processes, we could accelerate much easier in some areas than others. Two, I would say listening to colleague concerns has been essential along with sharing my own vulnerabilities — from the struggles of being a working parent and home-schooling my kids during the pandemic, to my frustrations about the recent events of racial injustice and social unrest. Through the pandemic, I’ve opened up a deeper and more meaningful dialogue with colleagues, customers and stakeholders around the world. That ties to my third lesson learned, which is overcommunication. Since the pandemic, I have used multiple ways of reaching a broad set of stakeholders through emails, video messages, social posts and virtual visits to different markets. Whether it was reinforcing global guidelines for our leadership team around returning to work, providing encouragement to colleagues in markets hit especially hard by COVID-19, or giving our customers assurances around product supply, overcommunicating was my way of bringing clarity during so much uncertainty.
Where have you drawn inspiration from during this challenging time?
I continue to be inspired by staying connected to our colleagues through calls, emails and virtual visits. Hearing about the creative ways they are supporting customers, managing priorities between home and work, and their overall resilience has been a real motivator for me.