By the Editorial staff

This year Philips, a leading company in the field of health and health technology, celebrates 130 years in business. A long time, during which the company has distinguished itself with its high capacity not only to innovate (products and processes), but also to intercept and manage socio-economic-cultural changes in the world. We asked Carlo Monge, CFO and Head of Strategy at Philips Italy, Israel and Greece, what skills the company used to manage change. 

“First of all, we rethought how we organise work. The renovation of the Italian headquarters, for example, is in itself a stimulus to conceive of work in a different way, more in step with the times. In fact, we had already tackled a number of issues between 2015 and 2018: from generational change to the spread of agile working, to the redefinition of benefits through new union agreements – in essence, a new approach to welfare. Then came Covid-19, and these processes accelerated, a lot.”

How did you experience smart working over the past year, and how well has it prepared you for what everyone is now calling “the new normal”? 

“At Philips, the pandemic was experienced with a sense of pride, in two respects. The first is that we were prepared for the emergency: smart working practices had already been in place in our company for about two years. When smart working became “compulsory” in February 2020, our IT structure was ready to face the emergency immediately. The second aspect concerned the speedy implementation of personal protective equipment for our technicians at all locations in Italy. Pride, moreover, because during the emergency we adopted a systemic approach, which had already been developed in normal times, but which the exceptional nature of the moment accelerated considerably. I would also like to add that the skills that were put on the ground for crisis and change management, which therefore allowed people at Philips to be prepared, were: readiness, availability, great willpower, adaptability and flexibility, and, last but not least, and most crucially, the ability to team up with other colleagues at the global level. “

Yours is a systemic approach, thanks to the development of these specific competences. 

“We already had a systemic approach. We didn’t know that we also had a systemic approach for the pandemic, which was a great discovery! With this approach, we also strengthened our remote technical assistance activities and enhanced and virtualised our BWell programme, dedicated to people’s physical and mental wellbeing. The virtualisation did not only concern the events, but also the rethinking of the objectives and aims of the programmes with a view to “humanising” screen-to-screen work. In this case, the enrichment of the Flexible Welfare Plan with the re-sponsorship of counselling and the extension of supplementary pensions, as a primary service in the long term, was fundamental.”

In addition, the E-Learning programme was strengthened.

“The E-Learning programme for skills enrichment was also enhanced: we rethought the way in which training courses are delivered, maintaining a high level of engagement, expanding the content, and using new, more interactive tools, such as Mentimeter. “

Environmental sustainability has been discussed at length in recent years. After Covid-19 it is clear that the definition of environmental sustainability should be extended to include social and, more generally, human sustainability. What are Philips’ key commitments on the Environmental and Social Plans?

“Philips has announced new environmental and social sustainability targets for 2020-2025, raising the bar on ESG commitments for 2025. On the environmental front, Philips is pushing 100% EcoDesign solutions: for example, “Eco-Hero” products are highly innovative and will represent 25% of sales. An emblematic example is the redefinition of the design of some important machines, such as those for magnetic resonance imaging, for example, which are now designed to have a lower environmental impact by reducing the consumption of valuable gases, such as helium. Philips has also made a significant commitment to improving energy efficiency and making greater use of renewable energy sources: by 2025, it will obtain 75% of its total energy consumption – including fuel – from renewable sources, compared to 36% in 2015. Finally, we are committed to circular economy solutions, in line with the 1.5°C global warming target (Paris Agreement). In addition, we have institutionalised our Sustainability Day and launched an eBay platform for the sale of refurbished products (original items at lower prices, directly from the manufacturer, which are thus reintroduced into the market, reducing waste).”

And in terms of social sustainability, what commitments has Philips made?

“Our perspective is that social sustainability is inextricably linked to environmental sustainability. We are committed to improving the lives of 2.5 billion people a year by 2030, including 300 million people in disadvantaged communities, through advances in technological and digital innovation, as well as partnerships with public and private organisations, including the Philips Foundation. The lack of access to quality care at an affordable price is one of the most topical and urgent issues. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation, overburdening healthcare systems around the world.” 

Philips has a long history of being transparent about its plans, actions and results. What are Philips’ key commitments on Corporate Governance?

“Philips is committed to full transparency on tax contributions: in addition to publishing tax contributions in the Annual Report, Philips will, from 2020, publish a supplementary report including tax contributions from all countries in which it operates. The company also engages transparently with shareholders, customers, business partners, governments and regulators by providing high-quality products and services that comply with all relevant laws and standards. This is in line with Philips’ commitment to transparency and the belief that these contributions represent social value for people and their local communities.”

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