CLINUVEL recognises prudent risk management is critical to the achievement of responsible and sustainable corporate performance. Risk management extends to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria. In the 2019 Annual Report, CLINUVEL outlined its ESG framework. In the 2020 Annual Report published in October 2020, we expanded on this framework to provide a comprehensive statement of our approach to the management of risk and ESG criteria. This was timely in the context of the coronavirus pandemic that has changed the world in which we live and operate. How we engage with one another, balance work and life, produce goods and services, and manage the impact of the increase in public spending incurred to support people and economic activity, has changed to varying degrees, and will continue to do so.
There are a multitude of known and unknown risks facing people, governments, businesses, and other operators in the economy. For businesses across the globe, as for other economic entities, the need for prudent risk management has been underscored by the coronavirus pandemic and its direct and indirect impact on their viability and future performance. This statement, drawn from the 2020 Annual Report, provides an overview of CLINUVEL’s approach to risk management, and its commitment to the prudent management of ESG criteria which are now integrated within risk management and investment decisions and are closely linked to sustainable corporate performance.
CLINUVEL’S PRUDENT APPROACH TO RISK MANAGEMENT:
CLINUVEL’S ESG FRAMEWORK:
The United Nations (UN) Global Compact (Global Compact) was established in 2000 by then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan to implement universal principles in business that advance responsible corporate citizenship, better aligned to the UN’s global development objectives. In January 2004, Annan wrote to 55 of the world’s leading financial institutions to invite them to develop guidelines and recommendations to better integrate ESG criteria in the operation of financial markets. Twenty financial institutions participated and endorsed the resulting report, “Who Cares Wins”, in December 2004. The report was completed under the auspices of the Global Compact and contained a “call to action” to stakeholders in the financial and business world: companies were asked to lead the implementation of ESG principles and policies by providing information and reporting on related performance and to identify and communicate the key challenges and value drivers associated with ESG issues.
Since then, ESG has gained prominence throughout the global investment community, playing a key role in the analytical assessment of companies and investment decisions. (ESG based investing is often referred to as sustainable investing, responsible investing, impact investing or socially responsible investing). Large and influential institutional investors have aligned prudent management of ESG criteria with sustainable long-term growth and have integrated ESG criteria into their due diligence of investments. An online search for the term “ESG and company performance” reveals a multitude of studies that support a positive correlation between responsible ESG management and enhanced financial performance, efficiency, and firm value. A review by Friede, Busch and Bassen (2015) of around 2,200 individual studies since the 1970s concluded that roughly 90% of studies found a non-negative correlation between ESG criteria and corporate financial performance, with a stable link evident over time. The Global Compact is a call to action to companies around the world to align their strategies and operations with five defining characteristics of corporate sustainability and ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption. The UN vision is that appropriate action in these areas will support their broader sustainable development goals. The Global Compact is the world’s largest global voluntary corporate sustainability initiative with over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business participants in over 160 countries. The five defining features of corporate sustainability and ten universal principles promoted by the Global Compact are outlined below:
As a responsible corporate citizen and active manager of risk, CLINUVEL embraces the ESG Framework outlined below:
CLINUVEL’s values are placed at the base of the framework to reflect their fundamental foundation in governing our behaviours and how we conduct our business.
The key tenets of this framework are explained further in relation to:
CLINUVEL is a responsible corporate citizen and reflects international community standards in our policies. The UN tenets on human rights and labour standards embedded in the UN International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) are reflected in our Employee Handbook. These covenants recognise the right to work, including the opportunity to earn a living by work that is freely chosen and accepted (Article 6); the right to enjoy just and favourable conditions of work, including minimum remuneration, safe and healthy conditions of work, equal opportunities for all, rest, leisure, initiation of working hours and holidays with pay (Article 7); and the freedom of association and collective bargaining and the right to strike (Article 8). Specifically, CLINUVEL is committed:
- on Human Rights, to
- freedom of association; and
- supporting a diverse and inclusive workplace, with equality of opportunity of all employees regardless of race, colour, gender, religion, ethnicity, culture, political opinion, age, and disability.
- on Labour Standards, to
- the right to organise and collective bargaining;
- zero tolerance of child labour, forced labour and discrimination, harassment, and abuse of any kind;
- providing a decent workplace focused on the health and safety of employees; and
- supporting the training and education of all employees.
Opportunity is equal to all people in CLINUVEL and procedures are in place to escalate, review and address any human rights and labour standard concerns. The Group’s employees span 16 nationalities and gender representation is balanced, as reflected in the following table on the composition of genders on the Board, in senior management and across all employees.
Work-life balance is supported by our Employee Handbook and a new Remote Working Policy. Necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, CLINUVEL initiated the Remote Working Policy to ensure the ongoing health and safety of all CLINUVEL employees and provides guidelines to enable an appropriate work-life balance with overall flexibility in the conduct of employees’ work, during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic. Employment security is conducted in accordance with labour laws and regulations in each of the countries in which we operate. All staff are encouraged to own an active training and development plan to support their professional fulfilment and job satisfaction.
We take a responsible approach to product development and distribution. CLINUVEL has no adverse impact on UN social objectives and makes a positive contribution through its pharmaceutical product development and distribution for unmet medical needs.
CLINUVEL’s research and development program is highly ethical. We undertake the minimum studies necessary to obtain the regulatory approvals required to distribute our treatments in man. We use Ethics Committees for study approval, adhere to OECD Testing Guidelines and the principles of GLP. We are committed to the OECD Replacement Reduction and Refinement Principles for non-human studies and ensure all studies undertaken are responsibly designed and conducted by laboratories certified by internationally recognised and respected bodies. CLINUVEL disseminates its research and encourages the independent publication of the results of its clinical studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
A rigorous pharmacovigilance program is maintained and reported to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in the European Union and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the real-world experience of SCENESSE® for adult patients with EPP. SCENESSE® is carefully managed to ensure no off-label usage. Marketing and communications are aligned to the approval terms and conditions of distribution of the EMA and FDA.
CLINUVEL is responsible for ensuring that its suppliers are fit for purpose throughout the product lifecycle (from product development to commercial distribution), through risk-based quality control procedures and open communication. CLINUVEL qualifies suppliers and reviews existing relationships according to a range of expectations and standards before commencing or continuing supply arrangements. CLINUVEL has over 15 key suppliers, most of which are domiciled in well-regulated countries that are signatories to the UN standards and objectives on sustainability and ESG criteria. CLINUVEL has a high proportion of medium- to long-term supplier relationships, enabling us to develop a good understanding of their values and commitment to ESG criteria. This diligent approach also applies to the assessment of our relationship with collaborative partners.
Should an area of concern be identified during a review of a supplier, a risk assessment is conducted to ensure the supplier is functioning within contracted capacity and standards. CLINUVEL then applies a collaborative approach with the supplier to engage in discussions with the aim of improving their qualification status and strengthening the relationship. These procedures enable CLINUVEL to maintain the qualified status of its medium- to long-term tenured suppliers. Furthermore, it ensures CLINUVEL’s ESG principles and those of its suppliers are consistently aligned.
Corporate governance is a key to effective risk management as it provides the policy, procedures, and compliance framework for a company’s operations. Our corporate conduct and ethics are guided by our key corporate values and governed by our Corporate Governance Protocol and annual Corporate Governance Statement.
CLINUVEL’s Board of Directors comprises the Managing Director, Dr Philippe Wolgen, and five independent Directors. They are, individually and collectively, well credentialed, with a breadth of qualifications and depth of experience in a range of fields to provide appropriate guidance to the Company. In the last year, the number of Directors has increased by one to six. The Board operates in accordance with a Board Charter that is set out in the Corporate Governance Protocol. The election and tenure of Directors is managed in accordance with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) Listing Guidelines. The gender representation at Board level is uniquely balanced, reflecting the broader Company. The compensation of Directors and key executives, covering key performance indicators for the assessment of short-term and long-term performance awards, are detailed annually in the Remuneration Report in the Annual Report.
CLINUVEL is focused on the maintenance of a long-term shareholder base which includes employees and a balanced composition of private, corporate, and institutional investors. CLINUVEL seeks an active and constructive dialogue with its shareholders, in accordance with ASX Listing Guidelines. We communicate frequently with shareholders, as outlined below, by operating an active program of regulatory and discretionary disclosures of information on the Company through announcements to the ASX. This includes regular corporate updates to keep shareholders informed on the Company’s performance and progress on key strategic initiatives.
CLINUVEL’s Corporate Governance Protocol meets the requirements of ASX principles and recommendations and includes a Code of Conduct and Ethics and policies on Conflicts of Interest, Share Trading and Shareholder Communications. CLINUVEL has zero tolerance of corruption of any kind. We operate a training schedule to ensure compliance with laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate. CLINUVEL staff are also encouraged to report any breaches of Company values, regulations and laws and are protected from harassment and abuse on any reports of non-compliance or breaches. CLINUVEL engages with the leading law firms across the continents to ensure adherence to the highest level of governance.
CLINUVEL’s Corporate Governance Protocol sets out the code of conduct and ethics and other policies to ensure conflicts of interest are avoided and honesty and integrity prevail. We are law abiding and comply with anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws in the countries in which we operate.
The twenty-first century has heralded new and improved innovation in communication channels that enable the instantaneous worldwide dissemination of information. These advances are advantageous for the operation of capital markets and investment activities. A key part of CLINUVEL’s approach to communicating to stakeholders is the use of multiple online channels to provide up to date information on the Company’s strategy and performance. The process of dissemination starts with an announcement to the ASX, after which CLINUVEL distributes to multiple news media outlets, our ‘email updates’ list, and posts on various social media platforms. We also maintain a library of announcements and information on the Company on our website, www.clinuvel.com. However, the technological advances in communications and information exchange are not without significant potential risk to companies and orderly investment activities in general.
Information dissemination online has become the social norm and has outpaced the protection of privacy and copyright regulation and enforcement. Laws and regulatory instruments have been unable to keep up with these real-world practices and trading activities on equity markets. Identified and anonymous parties can copy and post information in breach of copyright and can make false and misleading statements, either intentionally or unintentionally, in online channels near-simultaneously. Parties involved in stock shorting activity actively seek to drive a company’s share price down to make a profit from share trading – they buy shares at a lower price than the shares they have borrowed to sell. Katz and Hancock (2017) of Ropes and Gray LLP note that ‘shorters’ actively use online communications either directly or indirectly through antagonists, to post reports on business platforms and discussion forums to undermine the confidence of shareholders and induce them to sell their shares at lower prices.
We feel a responsibility to protect key stakeholders, patients, and doctors as well as shareholders from these activities and misinformation. We play a role to point regulators in the countries in which our shares are actively traded – CUV on the ASX in Australia, UR9 on the Xetra-DAX in Germany and CLVLY in the US through over-the-counter traded American Depositary Receipts administered by the Bank of New York Mellon – to inappropriate activities. In general, we seek to reduce the risk that misinformation distorts the investment decisions of investors in CLINUVEL.
CLINUVEL’s main approach in the face of this activity is to focus on the progression of publicly stated strategic initiatives and provide regular and objective information to markets on the Company’s progress. This enables market participants to assess an objective flow of information to appropriately inform their investment decision in CLINUVEL. In the medium- to long-term, the performance of the Company should improve the demand for CUV and curtail the activity of ‘shorters and distorters’. This approach in action is reflected in the pace of the progress of the Company which has enabled more frequent material announcements to the ASX. The number of CLINUVEL announcements to the ASX increased from 44 in the year ending June 2018 to 62 and 67 in the 2019 and 2020 financial years, respectively. The Company’s discretionary announcements providing updates of the business in Chair Letters and News Communiqués are more frequent than other companies or peers in the ASX / S&P 200 Index, and are authored by the Chairman and Managing Director to communicate directly to shareholders, and reflect a peer group leading practice.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS:
CLINUVEL has a conservative and prudent risk management culture with a firm commitment to environmental and social responsibility with appropriate corporate governance as a key accountability to underpin long-term sustainability and performance. The commitment to prudently manage risk and adhere to ESG criteria as a responsible corporate citizen is strongly held at Board level, by executive management and extends to all CLINUVEL staff. The Company’s vision and values (which can be reviewed here), support effective operations aligned to the achievement of ESG and sustainability criteria. We regard our journey to sustainability as an ongoing process of continuous review and improvement to enhance our ESG performance and to share our progress with stakeholders in periodic announcements and reports, such as the Annual Report and the CLINUVEL website. All stakeholders should be comforted by this responsible and prudent approach.
The Global Compact (2004), Who Cares Wins, Connecting Financial Markets to a Changing World
UNEP Finance Initiative, A legal framework for the integration of environmental, social and governance issues into institutional investment, October 2005
New York Stock Exchange (2006), Principles for Responsible Investment
Gunnar Friede, Timo Busch and Alexander Bassen (2015) ESG and financial performance: aggregated evidence from more than 2000 empirical studies, Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment, 5:4, 210-233, DOI: 10.1080/20430795.2015.1118917
United Nations Global Compact (2014), Guide to Corporate Sustainability, Shaping A Sustainable Future
United Nations Global Compact (2017), United Nations Global Compact Progress Report, Business Solutions to Sustainable Development
International Labour Organization (2015), Compendium of International Labour Conventions and Recommendations, http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—normes/documents/publication/wcms_413175.pdf
Jeff Katz and Annie Hancock, Ropes and Gray LLP (2017), Short Activism: The Risk in Anonymous Online Short Attacks, Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, November 27