“I am humbled and excited”—Jacek Olczak commits to accelerating progress on his first day as CEO of PMI

05 May 2021 · 4 min read
The Phillip Morris International CEO, and former COO, reaffirmed our company’s commitment to a future in which cigarettes are replaced by science-backed better alternatives.
headshot of PMI’s new CEO Jacek Olczak

Jacek Olczak has committed to accelerating PMI’s progress toward a smoke-free future in his new role as CEO.

He succeeded former CEO André Calantzopoulos—who continues his journey with PMI as the Executive Chairman of the Board—following the company’s 2021 Annual Shareholders Meeting.

Philip Morris International’s CEO Jacek Olczak Shares His Vision Of A Smoke-Free Future (Without Cigarettes)


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Philip Morris International’s CEO Jacek Olczak Shares His Vision Of A Smoke-Free Future (Without Cigarettes)

Jacek Olczak, CEO of Philip Morris International, speaks to camera.

You're going into the territory which was completely unchartered nobody ever tried to unsmoke the world.

The science exists today and there is no time to spur it to solve the problem of smoking

I was born an optimist and as I used to say I was educated a pragmatist from my life and all experiences.

Obviously it comes to the times your optimist might be tested, challenged on occasions, but they do believe if you have a big purpose, big objective in front of you, you stay on the course of your action and I think you can deliver on this on this vision.

Every day I have a reasons to be even more optimistic than than I used to be.

When I see a lot of people who are against us or who are very reserved whether they should collaborate with us and they change their minds.

They look into the facts, into our science, they realize how great opportunities and the smoke the world strategy can bring to all of us and they are supporting us now.

Gentle guitar music plays

Collaboration can deliver a smoke-free future

Last year, actually we have, you know, make public our statement of purpose when we very clearly said that the biggest impact PMI has on the society is to solve the problem of smoking over combustible cigarettes.

Text reads: Our objective is to fully leave cigarettes behind to one day become a smoke-free company

Jacek continues speaking:

We said that our objective is to fully leave smoking combustible cigarettes behind, become one day a smoke-free company, but we also take it very seriously as the leader in the industry

This is not only about Philip Morris becoming smoke-free, but how we can transform the entire industry.

Now to achieve that we need the collaborations with the governments, with regulators, with NGOs, with the public at large actually in order to make these things, uh, first, you know, being achievable.

On second being achievable in a very reasonable time.

Gentle guitar music plays

Text reads: How has PMI changed in the last five years?

Jacek continues speaking:

The last five years of my career in Philip Morris, I am almost 30 year with Philip Morris

or presumably the most meaningful, but the most also rewarding and exciting,

Where you working on something which is really new to the world, when you know that that you're doing this for the first time.

Nobody ever come with, the, such a bold objective of put the smoking, put the combustible cigarettes behind and do this as the, still today, combustible company.

That's very rewarding that, you know, you come up with the division, you come up with the strategies and you see this executions bearing already the fruits,

and you know you gain that motivation every day to do more, be faster, be bolder in your actions.

Gentle guitar music plays

Text reads: And now you want to pick up he pace?

Our objective for 2025 is to reach the 50 percent of the net revenues coming from the not combustible products.

Five years ago, we had zero revenues coming from a non-combustible product.

This is a time when Philip Morris announced to the world that we want to go smoke-free.

Nobody believed us, very few people actually believe us, that what we're saying is real,

that we mean it, that we will deliver on that thing.

Last year, we almost reached 25 percent of revenues coming from a non-combustible product.

The 2025 objective of 50 percent is absolutely achievable and when we all align behind the vision of our company, which is very well articulated in our statement of purpose and we will get there.

In addition to this, our objective is to become a carbon neutral at the direct operation level by 2030 and fully carbon neutral by 2050.

It's a very bold objective but the progress of what we have achieved so far makes me believe that they're absolutely achievable.

Gentle guitar music plays

Text reads: What drives you?

If you realize that you're doing something nobody ever did before, I mean that creates at least for, you know, myself this enormous level of excitement.

I mean, you know, that you're going into the territory which was completely unchartered,

nobody ever tried to unsmoke the world.

Nobody ever tried to solve the problem of a combustible cigarette.

The prime cause of harm generated by the smoking is an outcome of the combustion.

Okay when you burn the cigarette, when you burn the tobacco, you release the thousands of the chemicals.

Many of those chemicals that are very bad for the human body.

If you eliminate the combustion, you actually can achieve a very, very significant reductions in exposures to the toxicants.

And obviously we remained very clear in our communications to the public to the consumers that the best way for anybody is never to start smoking.

Obviously if you smoke, I mean the best choice you have is to quit smoking,

but we do also have to recognize that you know many, many men and women just don't quit and for them to change from the one product to the non-combustible product requires changing behavior.

Gentle guitar music plays

Text reads: What would you say to people who don't believe PMI?

Jacek continues speaking:

I do recognize that there is still a group of people who don't believe us.

That's fine, but I think the time comes when we should have a conversations, which we should listen to our facts we should acknowledge the fact that the science and the technology exists today,

which did not exist five or 10 years ago when you formed your opinions and you're still defending today and, you know, actually depriving smokers in the society at large from access to the products which would improve the quality of life of all of those men and women who otherwise would continue smoking.

So it's perfectly okay to disagree with us, but it's not perfectly okay to deprive yourself from ability to have a dialogue with us, to listen, to have a conversations, to read our science.

We know that our vision is right.

The biggest impact PMI has on the societies to solve the problem of smoking and the faster we'll recognize this whole thing and start working on strategies, the better we all together will be.

Text reads: Philip Morris International

PMI’s objectives will continue to be led by science, facts, innovation, and new thinking under his leadership.

But Mr. Olczak—who was also elected to the Board of Directors—says his focus is on increasing the pace of change for adult smokers, and society in general. His aim is to deliver less harmful alternatives to cigarettes to the millions of men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke.

“I am humbled and excited to lead PMI as we accelerate our transformation into a smoke-free company.

“Our evolving portfolio will drive our long-term future. We will lean into our scientific research and expertise, using our collective skills and imagination to innovate beyond our existing portfolio and explore new areas of business development.”

Increasing the pace toward a smoke-free future

Fueled by our ambition to create positive change, we are already delivering on our 2016 commitment to replace cigarettes with less-harmful alternatives as soon as possible for those men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke.

Under Mr. Olczak’s oversight as Chief Operating Officer (COO), PMI increased the proportion of its total net revenue derived from smoke-free products to almost 25 percent in 2020, up from essentially zero five years ago. Our smoke-free products are now available for sale in 66 markets, and an estimated 14 million adults have already switched to our flagship better alternative and stopped smoking. *

“PMI today is an entirely different place to what it was when I joined,” said Mr. Olczak, who began at the company almost 30 years ago as a finance manager. “Our products, our people, and our purpose have evolved.

“Over this period, my life has changed, and PMI has changed—evolving from a cigarette manufacturer to a science- and technology-led company. We’ve fundamentally transformed our business to deliver on our vision of a smoke-free future—a future I remain focused on delivering.”

Jacek Olczak, Chief Executive Officer of PMI.
We've fundamentally transformed our business to deliver on our vision of a smoke-free future—a future I remain focused on delivering.
Jacek Olczak, CEO, Philip Morris International

Accelerating the work of PMI's visionaries

On Mr. Olczak’s succession to the position of CEO, which was announced in December 2020, his predecessor, Mr. Calantzopoulos, said, “Jacek is ideally placed to deliver PMI’s smoke-free vision in his new role as CEO. His passion for the company and our employees underpins his drive for results, as does his deep knowledge of our products, systems, values, and investors. I believe he is the ideal leader to ensure our business’s continued growth and deliver shareholder value. I look forward to continuing to work with him in my new capacity as Executive Chairman of the Board.”

In reply, Mr. Olczak added, “The possibility that we could see an end to cigarettes in our lifetimes did not spring to life on its own. For this, we owe thanks to André for his clear vision, and to our former CEO and Chairman, Louis Camilleri.

“Under my leadership, and with the contributions of more than 70,000 employees who share our vision, PMI will continue this journey. Guided by science, facts, innovation, imagination, and new thinking, our roadmap to a better future remains unchanged.

“Only now, we will accelerate our pace.”

Rigid ideology stifles change—but science and facts can drive progress

Mr. Olczak is driven by an ambition to deliver better. That means better products for our consumers, a better workplace for PMI’s employees, and a better world in which we can live.

It is time we worked together toward our common cause. The indisputable facts of science must challenge outdated ideologies based only on ill-informed opinions. Only then can we unlock the door to a smoke-free future.

“Rigid ideology hinders change. Hinders opportunity. Hinders progress,” said Mr. Olczak.

“I will allow neither our progress, nor the speed at which we achieve it, to be compromised.

“Science, innovation, and pushing for what is right will succeed. Indeed, it is already succeeding.”