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A culture of encounter

Christiaan Mol studied pharmacy in Milan and Parma (Italy). He completed a Master’s in ‘Non-Profit Management and Governance’ at the Centre for Social Investment and Innovation (CSI) in Heidelberg. He joined WALA in 1996, where he most recently headed the advocacy group/law group. He was Secretary General of the sector association ECHAMP (European Coalition on Homeopathic & Anthroposophic Medicinal Products) from 2013 to May 2019. Christiaan Mol was appointed to the WALA Foundation Management Board in 2018.
Photo: Anna Hirte

Mr Mol, what is your mission? How would you describe your everyday work?

Christiaan Mol:

In very basic terms, I deal with pharmaceutical standards. This means production-related properties of medicines, which result in legally binding documents. In bodies such as ECHAMP1 , we come together on a European level to jointly ask questions such as ‘How do I perform a stability test?’ or ‘How do I document effectiveness?’. In essence, we create framework conditions for the future.

How exactly do you do that? Who do you work with to find answers to such questions?

Christiaan Mol:

I mainly work with sparring partners, who also deal with matters relating to pharmaceutical standards. These can be other companies, entire industries but also associations, for example. Even official authorities sometimes provide input. The aforementioned European association of manufacturers ECHAMP plays an important role in my work. As do the German associations BAH2 and BPI3 , of course.

That all sounds very bureaucratic. Why is international cooperation even needed?

Christiaan Mol:

Because as medicine manufacturers in times of globalisation, we need harmonised technical production standards.

So that we can offer WALA medicines in other countries in the future too?

Christiaan Mol:

Definitely. But we are still miles away from that in our sector.


Christiaan Mol:

Because the conditions on the ground have to be right for it. And because a uniform understanding of the products and services is needed. A great deal is related to long-standing traditions. Switzerland has a very different knowledge of anthroposophic medicine than Spain, for example.

So we’re facing major challenges…

Christiaan Mol:

I regard these barriers as our greatest opportunities! Every voice of criticism drives us and gives us the chance to improve. The level of professionalism in our sector is soaring right now. In ten years’ time, we will look back on circumstances that have significantly contributed to the development and spread of integrative medicine. We are here to stay!

Could you briefly explain the term ‘integrative medicine’?

Christiaan Mol:

Integrative medicine wants to offer patients the best bits of various therapeutic approaches – both from what’s referred to as conventional medicine and from the field of complementary medicine. The latter views patients more holistically, as a unit comprising body, mind and soul. We are currently seeing large parts of society experiencing a spiritual enlightenment and recognising that sickness and health can affect us on multiple levels. You could also say that the integrative approach is the logical consequence of social evolution. And that those who want to prevent this movement are our best coaches.

Your work takes you all over the world. Is the thinking in other countries more advanced?

Christiaan Mol:

I believe that there are cultures that have much less trouble dealing with the questions raised – for example those in South America and Asia. I find it fascinating how they sometimes deal with topics like karma or the spiritual and earthly world in a highly pictorial and imaginative way. In such cultures it becomes clear that humans are on the way to developing a multidimensional understanding of themselves. And that’s good. But doing so takes courage. Here at WALA, we have this courage. And so we will ‘position ourselves’, if I may, with our products in this modern world.

We briefly touched on your personal mission earlier. What do you regard as WALA’s overriding mission in this modern world?

Christiaan Mol:

We want to use our products – both our medicines and our cosmetics – to make a modest contribution to meeting people’s needs and alleviating their hardships. We also want to honour the natural world from which we source our raw and starter materials by appreciating it, understanding it and regarding it within a human context. By showing appreciation to a medicinal plant contained within a product that I am currently using, I develop a healthy attitude of gratitude. Appreciation and gratitude have always been part of the WALA’s corporate culture.

Does this stimulus also help the healing process?

Christiaan Mol:

Yes, definitely. It’s all well and good to use nature as a source of resources for producing natural tinctures and products, but this circumstance alone does not lead us into the future. Only a differentiated multidimensional view paves the way: what reciprocal effects do my actions have on the world? Do I have the right attitude? Do I take care and can I reflect this care in my products?
Anthroposophic medicine is a form of integrative medicine. It is not about either or. It is about acknowledging all medical efforts, products and services. Because we need multidimensionality! Everyone wants to find their mission and fulfil it with their heart and soul. This is how we create supportive cooperation and healthy interactions between people and services as well as between needs and requirements. These developments are then ‘organic’ in the truest sense of the word.

What role does this kind of mental attitude play with regard to the relationship between doctor and patient?

Christiaan Mol:

A medical ethicist and doctor recently said something that really touched me: where there is no real encounter, no medicine can take place. We therefore need a culture of encounter. And we want to encounter one another outside this context. As representatives of a company, we at WALA want to be sober and patient, but also to happily work alongside our market companions and ‘peer companies’.
As you can see, developing shared industry standards is a pretty down-to-earth matter. It is a task for which we need a very down-to-earth mind, patience and perseverance. It is about clarity, relevance and manageability. A good standard enables patients to rest assured of being able to buy a good medicine. A good standard stands for good quality. And it offers transparency and traceability to authorities.

We previously raised the question of WALA’s possible future growth. We are a company that works with natural resources, which are known to be finite. There are certain plants of which we are only able to collect or grow a certain amount each year. How does the concept of growth fit with this finite nature of the raw and starter materials?

Christiaan Mol:

That is a more than justified question. There are two levels that we should look at here: firstly, we need a firm understanding of our limits as a company. We must not and do not want to exploit and therefore damage our renewable resources. We must not completely use up our stocks. And we naturally have to avoid all losses of quality. That is the first level, where we quickly reach an impasse.
However, on the other hand, we can ask ourselves what cooperative business opportunities could resolve this conflict. This naturally only works if we abandon our competitive mindset as a society and an economy. Let’s run through a potential scenario: another company that may operate in another country is usually embedded in a completely different context and can also make a different contribution from this context.

What exactly does that mean?

Christiaan Mol:

I would personally like to present myself in the future as a network of interconnected companies in which we do not undercut each other or steal each other’s customers. In economic systems too, we require organic life forms, characterised by their regionalities and their connection to local end users. Or to put it more precisely: let’s move away from the days of unilateral dynamics and towards the modern dimensions of cultural spaces, interactions and conversations. These things will allow us and other industries to grow. Healthy life is always diverse. It involves a wide variety of interactions. It achieves balance. Only then can life be flexible and yet still stable. Where meaningful symbioses grow, diverse expression also ensues.

Thank you for speaking to us.

1ECHAMP stands for the European Coalition on Homeopathic & Anthroposophic Medicinal Products.
2BAH stands for Bundesverband der Arzneimittel-Hersteller e. V. (German Medicines Manufacturers’ Association)
3BPI stands for Bundesverband der Pharmazeutischen Industrie e. V. (German Pharmaceutical Industry Association)