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Meet the French CEO on a personal crusade to crush cancer stigma in the workplace

Publicis CEO and chairman Arthur Sadoun speaks to Euronews Next at Cannes Lions.
Publicis CEO and chairman Arthur Sadoun speaks to Euronews Next at Cannes Lions. Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Damon Embling
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A campaign launched by Publicis Groupe’s chief executive to empower workers receiving cancer treatment has got the backing of more than 600 companies.

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When Arthur Sadoun was diagnosed and treated for cancer last year, he made no secret of it. Instead, he published a video about his story that went viral.

"This was not an easy decision because it's clearly a sign of vulnerability, but I thought I had to be transparent with my people, with my clients, even with my shareholders," Sadoun, global CEO and chairman of the Publicis Groupe, told Euronews Next at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

"I received thousands of emails, not only from people in Publicis, but outside of Publicis that went through hearing those three tough words: 'you have cancer'. Scared for their life, but immediately after, were scared for their job. They were scared to lose it, there were scared not to progress, they were scared only to be a burden for the company and too many of them decided to hide it".

Sadoun heard some were doing breast surgery during holidays, some were undergoing radiotherapy before work and others were hiding cancer from their children.

"I said to them, when I get better, we're going to act in order to fight the stigma of cancer in the workplace and this is what we're doing with Working With Cancer".

Pledge gains global support

Launched by the Publicis Foundation, Working With Cancer has pledged to abolish the stigma and insecurity that exist for people with cancer in the workplace. There has been a rush of global companies supporting it.

I received thousands of emails, not only from people in Publicis, but outside of Publicis that went through hearing those three tough words: 'you have cancer'.
Arthur Sadoun
CEO, Publicis Groupe

"We have more than 600 companies that have signed the pledge already, all of them have policies in place. There are fantastic rules for people with chronic disease almost everywhere, but what we are fighting here is a perception issue. When you get sick, you get the feeling to get weak and this is what we have to fight for," explained Sadoun.

"What we're trying to cut down is those stigmas that more patients believe they are weaker, they are a burden, when they are not".

One in two people will get cancer

There were an estimated 18 million cancer cases globally in 2020. It’s estimated that one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Around 50 per cent will be afraid to share this fact at work, according to data cited by Working With Cancer.

But 92 percent of patients believe the support they get at work positively impacts their health.

"The first thing we are doing which is very important for us, mainly in the US where we have 65 per cent of our people, is we guarantee a year of salary of anyone who gets sick. Whatever happens, you can't get fired," said Sadoun, as he explained how Publicis is supporting staff with cancer.

"When you are in the US, where you can be fired in a couple of days, lose your salary, and on top of that lose your medical assistance, this means a lot. At Publicis, if we get sick, we secure your job for a year, so that you can focus on what matters, which is your health".

Sadoun added that the company organises individual coaching, to provide support and reassurance, along with assistance for caregivers.

"It is one of the very few topics our industry, the creative industry, and the media industry can do a lot," he highlighted.

The Working With Cancer campaign was awarded the Health Grand Prix for Good accolade at Cannes Lions 2023.

Watch the video in the media player above for more from this interview at the 2023 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

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