The global legal beauty contest at IBSA: Conversation with Elisabetta Racca, Head of Legal Affairs18 June 2020
A company’s sustainability can be measured based on three parameters: environmental, social and governance, commonly referred to together as ESG. These indices establish if a company’s annual CSR policy is simply a to do list (possibly with minimum investment) or if sustainability, understood as a set of values, choices and specific actions, really is a cornerstone of what the company does. IBSA has always taken sustainability very seriously, across all of its departments. As well as projects for the community and large investments to guarantee that its operations have the smallest possible environmental impact, over the years IBSA has taken particular care over elements linked to its own governance, with a view to optimising this area.
Since 2018, the Legal Affairs Department of the Lugano-based pharmaceutical company has been included in the company’s Social Responsibility report as a tangible and intangible value-generating element. It was also in that year that IBSA became the first in the pharmaceutical sector to launch a digital beauty contest for making legal appointments, significantly raising the sustainability index of its governance through this decision. In a nutshell, the beauty contest is a competition that allows the company to select a professional after comparing their expertise and financial offer with those of others. It helps, in short, to apply more objectivity and awareness in choosing the professional who can ensure the best relationship between the quality of the performance sought and the spending capacity of those buying the service. The fact that it is digital increases its traceability and transparency. All this put together allows full compliance with the company’s values. 4cLegal was the first Italian company to apply the beauty contest logic to legal procurement.
The lawyer Elisabetta Racca, Head of Legal Affairs at IBSA, talks about the reasons behind this measure and the stages that led to adopting it. “The digital beauty contest for legal appointments has been included as a sustainability measure in the legal field. There are three key advantages to the best practice of the digital comparative procedure, which is traceable and transparent: prevention of corruption in a sensitive field; optimisation of legal expenses in line with the best principles of governance, and, resulting from these, an important reputational return within the broader framework of business conduct towards third-party service providers".
Will IBSA export this experiment or was it just a headquarters-based initiative?
We are improving and ‘exporting’ this experience. In fact, we are pleased to announce that we have opened the accreditation process for an International Panel of Lawyers. Legal professionals may now be chosen through a comparative selection procedure to work with IBSA in 19 countries around the world. In addition to Italy, there is also Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Turkey, the United States and Hong Kong. In short, the legal department has taken its role in promoting Group sustainability at a global level very seriously.
How have you handled this process in light of global lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The internationalisation of the digital beauty contest started before the COVID-19 emergency and it has become even more crucial at this time. The pandemic shows that in the 21st century any principle of good governance must be applied widely, not just locally, especially in multinational companies like IBSA. The fact that we are a pharmaceutical Group further increases our sense of corporate responsibility. Social Responsibility is not just a label, but a real guiding principle. In this context, the actions taken by the legal department have to be appropriate and consistent with governance trends adapted to present and future challenges.
In short, is sustainability really a value that you consider indispensable?
Yes, absolutely. We are convinced that this task is a natural course of action for in-house lawyers of all companies that want to do great things. It is with this in mind that we are also promoters of the Sustainable Legal Management initiative, developed and promoted by our partner 4cLegal. This initiative highlights the need to lead the way in this field, both by assisting other business functions and by setting an example in processes more directly controlled. These themes will be central to the Convention scheduled in Milan next October.