One year ago, Foundation S -  the Sanofi Collective was launched, with a renewed purpose driven by a desire to agitate, innovate and orchestrate a new approach to corporate philanthropy. A look back at a first year rich in projects.

A world in crisis, multi-actor solutions to be developed

In December 2022, the United Nations announced that in 2023, 339 million people in 69 countries would need humanitarian aid, 65 million more than in 2022. Wars, health crises, climate, famines: the challenges are multiple and the need for solidarity is growing.

"Recent figures show that France gives 0.56% of its gross domestic product to official development assistance, or about 15 billion euros," explains Vanina Laurent-Ledru, Head of Foundation S - The Sanofi Collective. However, while France has just increased its development aid, we can see that aid from a large number of countries is clearly decreasing. "We have a growing gap between funding and needs at the community level. That requires us to radically rethink how we approach official development assistance and philanthropy today."

Since its launch in May 2022, Foundation S has therefore been carrying a systems approach to philanthropy, through the creation of sustainable solutions based on public-private partnerships with local actors, so that actions stem from the specific needs of communities.

"For example, there is a need to balance official development assistance and particularly the approach to climate change. Most of the philanthropy for climate change goes to mitigation strategies. They are very important but do not take into account the needs of the Southern countries. There is a real need to break these approaches that have been designed by committees of extremely well-informed and relevant experts, but where often the community voice is missing," adds Vanina Laurent-Ledru.

"We share the same values and the same desire to improve the lives of those on the front lines of the climate crisis. Together, we want to develop an inclusive model that strengthens communities and creates long-term impact."

Runa Khan, Friendship Executive Director

A new impetus for corporate philanthropy

Foundation S has chosen to apply this approach to four key pillars: fighting childhood cancers with our "My Child Matters" program, humanitarian aid, fighting neglected tropical diseases and particularly eliminating sleeping sickness, and improving health resilience to climate change. "We chose to go to singular topics that require a new way of working rather than taking what I call verticals where we could have had simpler markers of success. But we chose to take on these important topics because we have a rethought vision of philanthropy," says Ms. Laurent-Ledru.

"The WHO Foundation has had the pleasure of working with Foundation S over the past year. Together, we are exploring the links between climate change and its impact on health, responding to health emergencies around the world, and promoting the Health Emergencies Alliance as a space for private sector leaders to come together, develop ideas, and pilot new solutions that can foster equitable access in the health ecosystem and have a greater impact on the health of all."

Anil Soni, Executive Director WHO Foundation

"We were also brought in very quickly to be part of discussions that are trying to rethink philanthropy for the future - corporate philanthropy needs to come out of its shell and do its part in the face of the societal challenges we face."

All of this thinking is leading to new conversations about the role of philanthropy and the impact it can have. "We must use its levers for what they are: philanthropy offers agility, a very important flexibility and at the same time, it can only be a lever, which we must therefore maximize," says Vanina Laurent-Ledru. "For example, we have chosen to finance a program in partnership with an NGO and several private partners - by pooling our contributions, we can release five times the amount of public funds  It is this leverage effect that we seek to have as much as possible in our programs."

Foundation S acts on the belief that the means of philanthropy are not fixed. "We have a duty to remain a pioneer in new international financing mechanisms, to work with a hybrid financing approach. The summit for a new global financial pact will be held in Paris in June: philanthropy has a duty to be present with other private partners because we see today that the needs are too great and that public development aid will not be able to meet them alone."

Key actions and outcomes to initiate change at scale

How does this approach translate into practice? In one year, Foundation S is showing very positive results.

On the humanitarian aid pillar, which consists of donations of medicines in vulnerable areas, a key figure: 47 million treatments have been donated to more than 23 million people around the world, notably through Sanofi's historic partnership with the Tulipe association. "For example, in Ukraine, 21 million lives have been directly impacted thanks to our 37 million donated medicines."

"Tulipe now works hand in hand with Foundation S, with whom we share the same re-envisioned approach to humanitarian aid. We will continue to respond to the needs of populations in crisis situations through our partnership with targeted donations, as well as skills-based sponsorship missions with the Sanofi Collective."

Alexandre Laridan, Tulipe Operations Director

The Foundation S team has also seen a surge of solidarity from Sanofi employees following the war in Ukraine, particularly in countries bordering the conflict such as Poland or Romania, which has helped to provide many treatments at the front.

But Foundation S's action is not limited to crisis management. "We have intervened alongside Tulipe in areas that are rarely heard of but where we felt it was essential to contribute to the stabilization of the health system. We have engaged in Sri Lanka and Lebanon, where we have carried out many operations to help prevent the health system from completely collapsing," says Ms. Laurent-Ledru.

As for the Climate Action and Health Resilience pillar, a new area of focus in its structure, the Foundation S team was keen to bring collective intelligence into play and draw on the expertise of local community players to define a relevant theme for the cluster's first call for projects. "We really wanted to get their feedback to determine what would be most relevant for them in their adaptation to the climate change they see every day. The feedback was extremely clear: Don’t put a theme for the first year  so as not to fragment the approaches." A winning approach: the number of proposals received far exceeded expectations, and an external panel of experts is at work to select the projects with the most promising systemic impact.

In the area of childhood cancers, My Child Matters has created an Open Data platform this year, listing the solutions put in place around the world to fight these deadly pathologies.

"This platform, which has been taken over by the International Scientific Society, allows us to multiply the sharing of key learnings between actors. For example, in 2018, we had a project to develop integrated treatment centers for childhood brain tumors in Pakistan. Today, Eric Bouffet, who is the chairman of the My Child Matters expert committee and a leader in pediatric oncology, tells us that today, there are 13 such centers in Pakistan," Laurent-Ledru explains. "This project, it has served not only in Pakistan but with other countries. It has further accelerated the virtuous multiplication of access to treatment and today, we are trying to do the same thing with Indonesia which has about the same population and the same needs."

"If this My Child Matters didn't exist, there would be a big void. The place that this program took was empty in 2005. Now it's a place that can't be ignored."

Dr. Eric Bouffet, chair of Foundation S's My Child Matters expert committee, past president of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology and member of the Board of Directors of the International Union Against Cancer.

As for eliminating sleeping sickness, it has never been closer. "We published with great pride in one of the best scientific journals very positive results on the acoziborole molecule with our partner DNDi." Together, these results are opening the door to a ‘screen-and-treat' approach at the village level to allow populations to be medicated immediately with this new pill treatment. "We are very much on track to eliminate sleeping sickness by 2030 according to the roadmap set by the WHO. What could be better than eliminating a disease in humanity? There is no fatal human disease eliminated without a vaccine, and in diseases with vaccines, there are very few," said Vanina Laurent-Ledru.” 

"Together, we have developed and delivered a safe and effective treatment for sleeping sickness that is now available in all countries where the disease is endemic. In 2022, we took another step forward by publishing results of a promising innovative treatment that holds the prospect of sustainable elimination of the disease. These achievements reinforce our shared commitment to bringing hope and better health to the world's most vulnerable communities."

Luis Pizarro, Executive Director DNDi

A growing global alliance organization

All of this work is done through the Foundation S mode of operation, which combines theory and action, the think and do tank, and mobilizes both external experts and Sanofi employees around the world. "It's essential to think and work with all the talent we have within the group. Today, more than 75 "Sanofians" have donated their time through skills sponsorship. It's a great source of pride to see all these people who give their time and then stay involved and become ambassadors. It's this snowball effect that we're seeing," says Laurent-Ledru.

Sanofi and Foundation S are at the forefront of a new approach to corporate philanthropy. "The teams have really carried this vision of agitating, innovating and orchestrating to advance systemic change. And for us, it's very important to continue on this orchestration part because we see that by agitating many actors can agglomerate. It is essential to continue to insert the voice of community actors in public policies, in the large international forums where they are often not heard. It is by investing in their adaptation and resilience programs that we will be able to help lift many communities out of poverty."