When Perrigo signed on last year as title sponsor of all U.S. CPEDI para dressage competitions, the company was inspired in part by CEO Murray Kessler’s longstanding interest in promoting the sport of para dressage. But the sponsorship also was in service to Perrigo’s larger commitment through the Valuable 500 initiative to make meaningful progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
For para dressage athletes, the sponsorship certainly is meaningful. In 2021 and 2022, Perrigo has
supported U.S. Para Dressage CPEDI events including the Perrigo CPEDI 3* in Wellington, Fla., and the Perrigo Tryon Summer Dressage CPEDI in Mill Spring, N.C. And Perrigo’s support for a robust competition environment in the U.S. has been especially important as elite para dressage athletes prepared for the 2022 Para Dressage World Championships in Denmark Aug. 6-14.
“Sponsoring the para dressage competitions seemed like a natural extension of our inclusion efforts,” said Dr. Grainne Quinn, Perrigo’s Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, who also serves on Perrigo’s Diversity and Inclusion Steering Team.
We talked with Dr. Quinn about Perrigo’s DEI efforts and the company’s philosophy around creating opportunity for its employees, for consumers, and for equestrians, too.
In the company's view, what is Perrigo’s role in para dressage?
Dr. Grainne Quinn: Our role in para dressage is to support athletes of diverse abilities. I was well familiar with the sport of dressage: I grew up in a horsey family and I was a Pony Clubber, so I have a long history of a love for horses. I could only respect from afar that beautiful sport that is dressage and wish that I would have that capability. And so, when we had the great fortune of Murray Kessler becoming CEO of Perrigo in 2018, having been president of USEF, the combination of Murray’s professional business career and his passion for equestrian came together in Perrigo.
Murray is a big champion of DEI, and one of the ways we support organizations from a DEI perspective is through our Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation and through donations. We welcome any chance to support and create opportunity for those of us that need a little extra. We viewed this sponsorship as an opportunity to champion, from a DEI perspective, a wonderful and beautiful sport, but also a very successful team. We were so delighted to see the U.S. Para Dressage Paralympic Team perform so beautifully at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
What we heard from Murray was that when he was with USEF, he recognized a winning team when he saw it, and so he wanted to make sure that he promoted the sport of para dressage. Upon joining Perrigo, he was so inspired by the athletes on the team that that also drove him to become part of the Valuable 500 movement as the CEO of our company. Sponsoring the para dressage competitions seemed like a natural extension of our inclusion efforts.
You mentioned that you grew up riding. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you did in terms of your riding and what appeals to you personally about para dressage, as an equestrian yourself?
I grew up in the middle of Ireland, in the horsey country of Laois, Kildare, and that area in Ireland. It was a great privilege in our family that there were always horses at home, my sisters and I all rode. My sisters fox hunted and point-to-pointed. I was in the Pony Club. I didn't have the same level of talent as my sisters, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless. I still have a sister who is a bloodstock transporter, and my mother was the secretary of the Irish Draught Horse Society. None of us have been dressage riders, but I have fond memories of every year in August, going to the Royal Dublin Society Horse Show and watching the dressage competition in absolute awe of the dignity, discipline, and control exhibited by both horse and rider.
Perrigo has been so supportive of the CPEDIs. What was it about those competitions that attracted Perrigo’s attention and made the company decide to support them?
Murray helped broker that relationship. As part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in Perrigo, it is crucial to us to ensure that we put the spotlight on valuing differences in ideas, experience, cultures, abilities—including physical abilities—and on fostering individual and team success, both within Perrigo and outside of Perrigo, such as across the equestrian field. Given Perrigo’s work to provide self-care solutions to consumers, we see the para dressage athletes as such an inspiration to us and to our employees around pursuing dreams, not to be defined by one thing, but by the whole person for what you can achieve; and by exemplifying perseverance and demonstrating the great things that can be accomplished if you have a goal and the patience to work toward it. We feel that, through our USEF sponsorship, we're fostering a competitive spirit and shining light on the fact that we aren't defined by one thing in our makeup, whether that's a difference in physical ability or other less visible diversity characteristics.
You mentioned the Valuable 500 initiative. Can you tell us more about what it represents and how it dovetails with what Perrigo is doing with para dressage?
The Valuable 500 is a global movement. It was set up by the founder of Virgin Group (Richard Branson) and the former CEO of Unilever (Paul Polman) with the intent of putting disability inclusion on the business leadership agenda of 500 organizations. The idea is to engage one of the most powerful forces on the planet—business—to prioritize disability inclusion in support of millions of people around the world living with a disability. They do have a website—TheValuable500.com—and there’s lots of information there.
Through his experience of working with USEF and then coming into Perrigo, Murray was very enticed to join this organization. In fact, we were one of the first 100 companies that joined this movement. It's all about shining light and creating opportunities so that we are truly inclusive—in this case, truly inclusive of people with differing abilities or disabilities—rather than just speaking to DEI. The intent of the Valuable 500 is to be an active movement, an active engagement by companies at the most senior level, to ensure that there aren't any hidden or overt disincentives for people with disabilities to join companies.
To that point, how is Perrigo showing that commitment within its own workforce?
Our DEI strategy includes a roadmap with visible metrics, and we report to Murray and to our board of directors on a regular basis about our progress. We've defined for the organization, in a very broad way, what diversity is and that it includes, of course, disability, both invisible and visible.
Some of the things that we've done in the company around that include global DEI campaigns across the entire company and across multiple countries. For example, we did one on World Mental Health Day. Green is the color of that global campaign, and one of the most beautiful images from World Mental Health Day was to see our colleagues in our manufacturing facilities wearing green personal protective equipment on their heads for the day to draw awareness to mental health, in conjunction with worldwide disability inclusion. Also, last December, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we invited medal-winning U.S. Paralympian dressage athlete Rebecca Hart to speak to our entire organization about her journey, her achievements, and her Paralympic experience. She gave a wonderful global webinar to the 9,000 people who are in the Perrigo organization. She was a big hit.
We have a clearly defined, codified strategy with our measures of success. And we hold ourselves accountable for delivery of that strategy. For example, we developed a racial equity roadmap in 2020 to help guide our efforts on promoting race-based equity and to ensure that we shared information and educational pieces with the global organization around social justice topics. Through Perrigo’s charitable arm, the Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation, our commitment to our communities from the global perspective is around furthering equity in health care, in community and educational opportunities, and in helping serve underserved and vulnerable populations.
Additionally, part of our strategy for DEI was to establish an outward, visible diversity, equity, and inclusion report demonstrating how Perrigo delivers on its commitments. With the leadership of our Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Kolene Miller, we published our first DEI report in 2021. Our corporate social responsibility report also is laden with examples of the great things we're doing at Perrigo with respect to DEI. These reports are available on perrigo.com, our corporate website.
How does the sport of para dressage, and particularly the excellence that these athletes show at the CPEDIs, exemplify your company's philosophies around self-care, DEI, and the collective strength that they can generate when they're all put together?
When we look at our vision statement of Perrigo, it is “to make lives better by bringing quality, affordable self-care products that consumers trust everywhere they are sold.” It’s about making lives better. From what we've seen in para dressage from these athletes and in getting to know Becca Hart, as well, we’ve been inspired by what people with different levels of ability can achieve when they work hard and they have the environment that supports pursuit of their dreams. We see our role very much as fostering this environment—instead of talking about it—by doing things that create opportunities and allow these achievements to happen. We can only be successful in our company mission if our global team, all our colleagues in Perrigo, feel that they have an environment where their differences are valued, where they can contribute to the best of their abilities and bring their best selves to work, where work is a safe place to be and a place they want to be, and where they can truly contribute at their utmost levels. So, the partnership with USEF reflects our commitment to making lives better, for our employees and our consumers worldwide.