Irene De La Cruz Galan, Philip Morris Bulgaria: We Are Focused on the Strategic Development of Our Portfolio

Irene De La Cruz Galan, Head of Strategy and Project Management at Philip Morris Bulgaria, in a conversation about the company’s strategic goals.

Locally, adult users of the leading smokeless alternative in the company’s portfolio number more than 320,000, and globally exceed 28 million people. “A key element in our success equation is consumer feedback,” she says.

Following the organizational changes announced at the beginning of the year at Philip Morris Bulgaria, you have taken on the role of Head of Strategy and Project Management. How do you think your experience from your previous position, Business Planning Manager, will help you in your new professional role?

Since the beginning of the year, I have taken on the role of Head of Strategy and Project Management, which is tasked with shaping the business strategy to realise the vision of a smoke-free future and navigating the organization through implementation. In my previous role as Business Planning Manager, I led the effort to plan and forecast our KPIs in line with our strategies, and based on knowledge of the key internal and external factors impacting our business performance. This role enabled me to develop a deep understanding of the dynamics of the business and the key factors that impact our performance as an organization. I would describe my professional experience from my previous role as invaluable as I move into my new role.

What are Philip Morris Bulgaria’s strategic priorities for 2024?

For Philip Morris Bulgaria, the vision for the future is crystal clear – we are committed to delivering on our mission to build a sustainable smoke-free future and are working hard every day to offer adult smokers who are not quitting completely and would otherwise continue to smoke a better alternative to cigarettes. To achieve this we are focusing on the strategic development of our portfolio of smoke-free alternatives. Along our historic transformation journey, we are guided by consumer feedback. They are the compass that shows us where we have been, where we are now and where we can be tomorrow, putting their needs and demands at the center of everything we do. In the 6 years that our portfolio-leading smokeless alternative IQOS has been on the market in Bulgaria, we have never taken our focus off shared feedback. It is key for every team in the organization, whether we are talking about the commercial function, business planning or the team responsible for human capital and our internal culture. Among our strategic priorities, both every year and this year, is to continue to build an inclusive working environment for our team, to work towards improving the well-being of our employees, their professional and personal development. We are proud to have started the year with great recognition from the Top Employers Institute. For the 8th consecutive year, Philip Morris Bulgaria has received the prestigious Top Employer certificate, proving our dedicated work in this direction.

And this year, we continue to work to counter misinformation and provide the right information about smoke-free alternatives to adult smokers so they can make informed choices based on scientific evidence that shows their potential to reduce the harm of smoking.

How does the evolution of the market in terms of smoke-free alternatives affect the company’s long- and short-term strategy and business objectives?

The dynamics of the market quite naturally reflect the dynamics of the world we live in, and it has shown us in recent years that we need to be flexible and adapt. This is absolutely true for the short and long-term goals of any company. Yes, we are the first company in the tobacco industry to state our clear goal of making cigarettes a thing of the past. Since 2008, we have already invested over USD 10.5 billion in science, technology and the development of our portfolio-leading smokeless alternative. This year marks the 10th anniversary of IQOS’ first global launch, in Japan and Italy. This long and challenging journey has shown us that in order to build a smoke-free world, all stakeholders must play their part. This is why we find the development and expansion of the smoke-free alternatives market in Bulgaria extremely important. It is an opportunity for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to choose a smoke-free alternative to cigarettes that suits their preferences and needs. In keeping pace with market dynamics, we are not taking our eyes off our clear goal of building a smoke-free world. Philip Morris International’s 2023 financial results demonstrate our progress in this direction. Users of our leading smoke-free alternative worldwide now number 28.6 million, with nearly 40% of the company’s net revenue last year coming from smoke-free alternatives.

How does Philip Morris International’s sustainable development contribute to sustainable business performance?

We have said it many times – for us sustainability is not just part of our strategy, it is our business strategy. We see sustainability as the foundation for innovation, growth and purposeful, impact-driven value creation, both for our customers, partners and employees, and for society as a whole. We integrate sustainability into every aspect of our business and operations and report our progress annually in our Integrated Report. Locally, our goals are aligned with both global ones and the local context.

We are proud that Philip Morris Bulgaria’s social campaigns #ChangeThePicture and Fun Summer, Caring Autumn are developing so purposefully and positively impacting the environment. #ChangeTheCard (learn about the campaign at www.promenikartinkata.bg) is an awareness campaign that aims to share the facts about the global problem of improperly discarded cigarette butts and thus trigger responsible consumer behavior. We created the campaign in 2021 and are proud that it has so far engaged hundreds of volunteers in dozens of clean-up campaigns in cities across the country. We continue to share the facts and the message of a cleaner environment in full force this year with a range of activities. “Fun Summer, Caring Autumn” is happening for the 9th consecutive year. The program, created by BCause Foundation with the financial support of Philip Morris Bulgaria, works for the development of communities in tobacco-growing regions in 4 areas – screenings for adults, trainings for teachers and students and an academy for local entrepreneurs. The funds invested by the company in this program are now over BGN 2 million.