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Roche billionaire board member says short-term profit hunger 'destroyed the planet'

By John Miller
FILE PHOTO: Roche tablets are seen positioned in front of a displayed Roche logo in this photo illustration

By John Miller

GENEVA (Reuters) - A member of Swiss drugmaker Roche's controlling family said on Wednesday that short-term profit maximization has "destroyed the planet" and the world needs a new breed of capitalism putting long-term interests first.

Roche Vice Chairman Andre Hoffman, 61, the scion of the 123-year-old drugmaker's founder whose family's stake is worth some $23 billion, said business must set more ambitious goals for reining in human impact.

Hoffmann's comments won a sudden round of applause from the 900-strong audience of business people at the Building Bridges sustainability summit in Geneva, Switzerland's French-speaking banking hub.

Hoffmann, an environmentalist, said he understood why activists are impatient for faster climate-change action but he rejected violent protest.

The Extinction Rebellion group has risen to prominence after protests around the world, including in Switzerland. It wants to see politicians and businesses take tougher and swifter steps against climate change.

"I can understand people in the streets gluing themselves to doors," Hoffmann told Reuters. "Violence should never be allowed, it should not happen. But the fact that people are panicked about the future, I understand that."

"Today, the company which says, 'I'm not doing any harm, I'm using resources and activities in a way that doesn't harm,' that company is behind the curve," he said. "We need to be net contributors. We need to repair the damage done. Short-term profit maximization has destroyed the planet, environmentally and socially."

Hoffmann cited a new Roche remuneration model for the company's U.S. salesforce, which sees pay more closely tied to patient outcomes rather than numbers of pills sold, as an example of his company's pursuit of longer-term goals and sustainable practices.

"Society is destroying the planet. And that's happening in front of our eyes. We can all say, 'OK, it's finished, let's quickly make hay while the sun still shines.' Or we can try to do something active about it. And I believe business is the way to do it," he said.


(Reporting by John Miller and Paul Arnold in Geneva; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)