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Creating an environment of togetherness: How AbbVie Asia’s VP is making ESG possible in the workplace

Creating an environment of togetherness: How AbbVie Asia’s VP is making ESG possible in the workplace

Peggy Wu, Vice President, Asia, AbbVie also shares three takeaway lessons that she has learnt in her role and how it has shaped her leadership style – be bold, be brave, be fearless; be a role model, and learn to accept help when provided.

Climbing the corporate ladder can be tough. The need to stay relevant, upskill employees, and ensure business models are kept up to date to maximise attracting and retaining top talent – these are some of the many tasks that leaders must fulfil daily to ensure a smooth, effective and successful organisation.  

One concern that is gaining traction in the HR function is how environmental, social & governance (ESG) frameworks in organisations can connect ESG to both the purpose of the company, and to its’ employees for a more meaningful impact and fruitful engagement.  

In this feature, Sarah Gideon sits down with Peggy Wu, Vice President, Asia, AbbVie (pictured above), who shares her insights on how she made her way to the top, and how she uses her leadership skills to make ESG possible in her organisation.  

Wu began her career with Eli Lilly Taiwan, and advanced to several management positions across different functions and countries covering sales, marketing, regulatory, and HR. 

From there, Wu took on an international marketing role based in Indianapolis, going on to lead the company's operations in Thailand & Vietnam as General Manager before moving to Abbott Taiwan in 2011. 

in AbbVie Taiwan, Wu assumed the role of General Manager. Currently based in Singapore, Wu manages 15 markets in the Asia region, including: South Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, India region, and Asia emerging markets. 

In her current role, Wu also leads commercial and product strategy, marketing, and P&L. 

AbbVie Asia's ESG commitments 

When asked about her vision for ESG within her organisation, Wu shares that AbbVie strives to prioritise the needs and concerns to its patients and communities. 

“From investing in the discovery of new medicines to partnering with hundreds of nonprofits around the world, we have led with purpose over the last decade to make a remarkable and lasting impact.” 

Wu highlights two key practices that AbbVie Asia has implemented to build a diverse and inclusive culture and environment so as to unlock the full potential of its teams and employees.  

Diversity and inclusivity workshops for managers 

This initiative, as Wu comments, ensures that the company can combat both gender and social biasness together, thus raising awareness of bias in the recruitment and mentoring processes.  

“We also encourage our leaders to attend inclusive leadership programmes where we learn how to manage diversity in teams. 

“I am proud of the progress we have made so far in fostering a diverse and inclusive culture and empowering women to pursue opportunities at every level of the corporate ladder. 

“Globally, women are 56% of our workforce, holding 57% of our STEM-related roles.  

“Today, AbbVie in Asia consists of more than 60% of women in management roles, while 40% of our workforce are women as of 2021.” 

Organising the Ladies United in Asia (LUNA) programme 

Next, Wu highlights how AbbVie Asia has sponsored employee resource groups (ERGs), where employees have the chance to create connections, build community, and foster a diverse & inclusive environment where every voice is heard and valued. 

Further, AbbVie Asia organises an Asian chapter of AbbVie’s global Women Leaders in Action ERG, called Ladies United in Asia (LUNA).  

Launched in 2023, LUNAs activities empower female employees in the region to realise their potential. 

“In the LUNA newsletter, we recognise inspirational women from across the region by highlighting and amplifying their voices through their stories and career highlights.  

“The newsletter is not only limited to highlighting female employee achievements but also engaging male employees to share their perspectives on women leadership.” 

Fuelling ESG innovation in AbbVie Asia 

Wu also shares various measures that her and her leadership team are finding unique ways to connect employees to purposeful work for bottom-up engagement. 

She elaborates on the following examples:  

Fostering an A+ Team 

“In Asia, our vision is to foster an A+ Team that creates and surpasses our legacy by advancing pipeline and talents.” Wu says.  

“We achieve this through attracting, developing, and supporting our key talents.  

“Our leaders in Asia play an essential role in bringing out the best in their teams by providing growth opportunities based on personalised development plans, including successor planning for sustainability.” she adds. 

Wu also shares how AbbVie Asia provides various development and cultural programmes at global and regional levels or developed according to country-specific needs.  

“These include LDP (Learn. Develop. Perform.), talent development programmes, short-term assignments, mentoring including reverse mentoring, coaching, Power Up @ AbbVie for women leadership, employee wellbeing management, and many other programmes.”  

Understanding and including patients and caregivers in decision-making process 

Wu believes that including patients and caregivers in the decision-making processes, from clinical development to packaging design and delivery, is fundamental to keeping the business resilient.  

Moreover, it provides an insight on how products may or may not be potentially working under real-world conditions, on the ground-level.  

She adds that AbbVie Asia also develops a robust patient journey map to better understand the transactional and emotional journey people experience, from diagnosis to treatment, and beyond. 

Wu shares: “By integrating the patient experience with real-world evidence, we aim to better understand disease burden, patient behaviours, and how treatments work for different people to uncover unmet needs – particularly for populations that face disparities in care and health outcomes.  

“This approach is one important way we show the value of our treatments and products and helps us develop strategies to ensure treatments are meaningful to patients.” she adds. 

Organising patient immersion programmes 

“In Asia, during our Celebration of Culture, we (organise) patient immersion programs where our employees can experience a glimpse of the pain and burden of certain illnesses that patients live with. 

“Through the immersion experiences, our employees can learn more about the diseases and what it’s like to live with the conditions from the patient’s perspective by immersing themselves in one day of a patient’s life.” Wu comments.  

One example that Wu shares is that since 2021, AbbVie Asia has put themselves in a day of patients living with AD, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Glaucoma, and IBD by wearing AD or Psoriasis patches on both their face and body or RA glove or glaucoma glasses or an ostomy bag, to simulate them to frequently go to the toilets to understand and empathise with the patients. 

To ensure that ESG frameworks trickle down to not just the employee, but all the way to the end of the funnel, Wu shares how AbbVie Asia advances their ESG initiatives to better contribute to the overall sustainable growth of the company and creating a positive impact for employees.  

To add, leaders within the organisation are stewards of its ESG mission and enables employees to bring those commitments to fruition.  
“Together, we ensure our research, innovations and collaborations put impact for people, communities and our world first.” Wu comments.  

 Another initiative that Wu shared was how the company fosters long-term relationships with each of its’ partners and encouraging regular communication with its’ key stakeholders.  

This includes patients, patient organisations, employees, investors, regulators and government, payers and providers, suppliers and community partners. 

“From these interactions, we develop our understanding of meaningful issues and identify additional areas where we can improve and make an impact.” Wu adds.  

Creating an environment of togetherness 

To make a positive and long-term impact for patients, AbbVie Asia aspires to earn and maintain their trust by acting with integrity in everything they do. 

“As a leader, I also strive to create an environment of togetherness among the employees.  

“We act as one AbbVie team to make good decisions, speak up and encourage open communication, remain respectful of other perspectives, protect our employees and our environment, and support employee privacy.  

“All employees are expected to lead and foster a culture of ethical and compliant behaviour.” Wu says.  

On the patient forefront, Wu notes that patient centricity has always been a priority at AbbVie.  

To make a positive, long-term impact on patients, we earn and maintain their trust by acting with integrity in everything we do.” 

To end off our conversation, Wu shares three takeaway lessons that she has learnt in her role and how it shapes her leadership style: 

Be brave, be bold, and be fearless 

Wu highlights the importance of taking advantage of what an organisation has to offer, so as to allow themselves to find their voice, and to bring their best to the team.  

Be a role model  

“We all have challenges to deal within the workplace.  

“We can be empathetic and supportive to another colleague who may be discouraged or disheartened perhaps due to a gender or family-related issue or whatever it may be.” 

It's okay to ask for help  

Lastly, Wu emphasises the need to learn how to accept help when provided.  

She shares from her experience how she leaned on the support of her family when she had to take on extra workload.  

She says: “These social support systems are just as important to our success as leaders.” 

READ MORE: 'Tasty Thursday', a 24/7 EAP, and more: foodpanda's approach to delivering the employee experience

Lead image / Provided by AbbVie Asia

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