Creating a Culture of Citizenship Risk and Crisis Management
Abbott's Executive Crisis Management Team monitors events around the world to ensure the safety of Abbott people and products. Periodic simulations help team members find the most effective solutions to challenges such as earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires or civil unrest.
In addition to serving as head of the Quality, Regulatory and Global Engineering Services organizations, Abbott Senior Vice President Corlis Murray leads the Executive Crisis Management Team. "The passion I have for people and for my job gives me a thrill at being able to bring all my skills together and make a difference in people's lives," says Murray.
In the wake of the devastating Great East earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Abbott has provided $3 million (245 million yen) in disaster relief funds through its philanthropic foundation, the Abbott Fund.
Every year, the world endures both man-made and natural disasters that disrupt supply chains and make it challenging for people to obtain critical medicines or fulfill other vital health care needs. To protect access to important health care products and mitigate supply risks, Abbott has created an Executive Crisis Management Team (ECMT) to anticipate and prevent supply chain problems through advance planning, preparations and practice.
While local Abbott emergency response teams around the world are able to handle many crises on their own, the global ECMT provides assistance and leads Abbott’s response to major cross-border events such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, wildfires or civil unrest.
The ECMT is structured with two subgroups, each of which includes senior leaders from functional areas such as manufacturing, supply chain, human resources, public affairs, security and commercial. If a team member from a certain functional area is unavailable when a crisis hits, this redundant structure allows his or her counterpart from the alternate team to step into position and begin seamlessly performing the necessary functional responsibilities. The “two teams within a team” structure also provides Abbott the ability to operate around the clock if necessary.
When a major crisis erupts, the ECMT assembles as quickly as possible in a dedicated facility at Abbott’s headquarters north of Chicago. This state-of-the-art facility includes all the technological tools required to help the ECMT stay functional throughout the crisis. For example, the ECMT control room is fully equipped with redundant systems, satellite feeds and telephone connections, as well as backup heating, air conditioning, ventilation and power sources. All this technology is essential, but the commitment and teamwork of the senior leaders who participate in the ECMT are the key ingredients that make the team so effective.
Coordinated Emergency Response
During major crises, ECMT activities can continue for weeks, even after the initial impact subsides. For instance, more than a month after the March 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, the ECMT continued to actively monitor the impact of the disaster. Although Abbott Japan quickly confirmed the safety of its approximately 2,400 employees and the security of its facilities, the ECMT has continued to monitor and support work with Abbott’s suppliers, third-party manufacturers, distributors and other partners to assess impact and provide assistance as needed.
Among other initiatives, the ECMT provided assistance to employees in impacted regions by quickly coordinating shipments of basic care supplies that had been warehoused in California in preparation for the possibility of earthquakes in that state. In addition, the Abbott Fund provided more than $3 million in financial support and product donations to support humanitarian relief efforts on the ground.
The ECMT also worked hard to ensure that the crisis in Japan would not impair operations elsewhere in Asia. The earthquake and tsunami had crippled power plants in Japan, leading to rolling blackouts that threatened Abbott’s regional data center. To avert possible data loss or interruptions, the ECMT moved fast to coordinate the transfer of critical applications to servers located outside of Japan, while installing on-site backup generators to provide an alternative power source to sustain the applications that continued to be hosted in Japan.
The ECMT makes Abbott a more resilient organization by emphasizing prevention and preparedness, response and recovery to a crisis. For example, in an effort to continuously improve its crisis response actions, the ECMT conducts debriefing sessions after each event and a year-end review of all actual crisis response activities over the past year.
Meanwhile, Abbott Crisis Management and Business Continuity Planning specialists spend a great deal of time practicing various crisis scenarios with both the ECMT and country-specific crisis response teams. These specialists travel the world helping Abbott manufacturing plants, distribution centers and commercial offices build, revise or test their crisis management and business continuity plans. The goal is to help our affiliates identify the most likely risks and develop proactive contingency plans.
According to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), one of the world’s most prestigious citizenship benchmarks, Abbott scored a perfect 100 on our risk and crisis management processes and systems. While we take satisfaction in external recognition of our strong risk management capabilities, the most important measure of our success is our ability to keep supply lines intact and to give our patients, customers and employees the support they need to overcome unexpected challenges.
More than 500 executive-level leaders play a part on Abbott’s Global Crisis Management Team. A “two teams within a team” structure means that members can step in to support one another for round-the-clock crisis management.
Note: All data in the Global Citizenship section reflects activities prior to the separation of Abbott and AbbVie on January 1, 2013.