Crisis as an Opportunity

What We Can Learn from 2020

2020 is synonymous with the global pandemic: the coronavirus has left its mark and the battle has still not been won, but in every crisis there is also hope and the opportunity to grow from it. We asked four colleagues what they have learned from the challenges faced this year.

Monika Lessl, Head of Corporate Innovation, R&D and Societal Engagement

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What 2020 has taught me is that we can take a leap by collaborating and working toward a common goal. As a company, we joined forces across divisions and organizations to provide support for those in need who have been affected by the pandemic. We worked across 60 countries with more than 80 partners in order to make this happen. I can look back fondly on the heartwarming comments on a post regarding our support for the Beirut disaster, where we at Bayer, along with the Red Cross, provided vital masks to the healthcare workers on the ground, enabling them to help people affected by the blast. This is just one example of many. Our joint engagement has been recognized by several awards, with the CEFIC Responsible Care Award being a great example of these. This has only been possible thanks to the collaborative engagement of our fellow Bayer colleagues and our partnerships with numerous internal and external stakeholders.


The recent development of new vaccines within a timeframe of only nine months instead of nine years is an example of our ability to achieve leaps thanks to collaboration and a clear vision. This makes me hopeful that we can springboard as a society in order to promote innovation, allowing us to thrive within our global boundaries.



Ali Cengiz, Procurement Manager R&D Affairs and PROSI Member


The year 2020 was a challenging time to get involved with our PROSI Family, working together to do good. The main thing that we’ve learned is that helping others has no limits – even in a pandemic.


Along with our community, we joined forces with our site connector across 9 countries, with our social initiatives contributing to helping over 700 families across the globe as part of our “For A Better Life” campaign. Some of our most successful initiatives were, for instance, “Adopt a family” in Brazil, which provided a starter kit to help families living in slums back into employment. Our “Volcanic Eruption Relief Operation” in the Philippines also provided basic needs for society, while the “Feeding future” crowdfunding initiative in Spain helped to provide children with an education and food. What a year it’s been! The pandemic has given us the opportunity to bond with each other, while virtually strengthening our collaboration at work, helping our society to have a better life and contributing to our vision for “Health for All, Hunger for None”. More information can be found on Instagram under bayer_prosi.



Kai van Laak, Head of Corporate Health, Safety & Environment


We have learned from the coronavirus crisis and have adapted our emergency plans, procedures and recommendations. We were well prepared for smaller events, but a pandemic of this scale took us by surprise. I’m all the more pleased with the way we have protected the health of our employees in workplaces around the world. We have also sent out more than half a million masks to 100,000 private addresses – a major logistical achievement. Cooperation with the divisions and all departments has been outstanding. I am proud of this and grateful to everyone who has shown great flexibility and worked under difficult conditions.


We will still have to persevere and accept restrictions, but I am confident that we will succeed. We also need to be prepared for further pandemics in the future. At the same time, I hope that vaccines will soon be available to everyone. For me, the pandemic means full steam ahead right to the end, as I’m retiring in a few days after more than 30 years at Bayer. Wishing you a relaxing Christmas holiday. Stay healthy!



Vera Hahn, Head of Sustainability


When I look back on challenges in 2020, I have to talk about the Sustainability Council that we launched this year. The idea was simple: we wanted a body that would draw upon its external experience to provide us with critical, constructive support in implementing our sustainability commitment. But this simple idea has tremendous explosive force: to what extent are we willing to really let ourselves be “told what to do”? How constructive should the committee be, and how critical?


The first few months of working together show that we have taken on a challenge here. The council members are constantly enticing us out of our comfort zone, challenging us – and giving us new ideas. I was very pleased to see that board members – above all Werner Baumann – regularly took part in the discussions. It goes without saying the discussions aren’t always easy. We won't be able to implement everything the council members recommend. But making use of the external perspective of these members to help Bayer make an even greater contribution to a sustainable world – for me, that is the great value of this body. I am delighted and very grateful that we started this experiment.