On a planet with finite resources, population growth and the escalating impact of climate change, avoiding corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer a viable option for business. In order to achieve continued growth and revenue, companies must incorporate responsible social and environmental behavior into their DNA or risk failing all together.
Reputational damage, loss in consumer trust and money spent on conflicts after CSR violations can be severe. A closer look at how Walmart operated prior to their current CSR programs reveals such findings. According to legal analyst T.A. Hemphill in ‘Rejuvenating Wal-Mart’s reputation’, “Walmart [used to be] the most often sued company in the U.S. with an estimated number of 8,000 lawsuits being filed against it so far.” What’s more, in a 2004 McKinsey & Company private report for Walmart they found that nearly “2 percent to 8 percent of Wal-Mart consumers surveyed have ceased shopping at the chain because of “negative press they have heard.”
Ultimately, CSR is good for businesses. In the 17th Annual Global CEO Survey conducted by PWC, the majority of top business leaders responded that they were twice as likely to achieve business goals when they integrated corporate citizenship. The 2015 Nielson Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that “66% of global consumers say they’re willing to pay more for sustainable brands—up 55% from 2014.”
CVS Health Corporation – a multi-billion-dollar American retail pharmacy and the largest health care provider in the US – is among a host of companies within the past decade that has amplified corporate responsibility efforts and adherence to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. From becoming the first national retail pharmacy chain to ban tobacco products in all their stores to most recently announcing its decision to end digitally altering its beauty images, CVS remains a model on how to effectively implement CSR.
In an exclusive with Executive Vice President of CVS Health and President of CVS Pharmacy, Helena Foulkes, Global Daily examines how leaders like Foulkes make critical top-level decisions to include CSR throughout their business strategy.
Foulkes, named Fortune’s list of the Most Powerful Women in Business, is a sought-after executive who has long championed the business model, “Do Well by Doing Good.”
Global Daily: In 2015, the United Nations put forth a set of goals they’d like to accomplish by 2030. Goal #3 ensures healthy lives and promotes well-being for all at all ages. What role does CVS see in helping the world accelerate this vision?
Helena Foulkes: CVS Health has identified five Sustainable Development Goals where we believe our CSR strategy and initiatives can make the greatest impact. The bullets below describe our recent actions in each area, as well as our commitments for the future.
- Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being: Our company’s purpose is helping people on their path to better health. We reach more than 100 million people each year, and continue to innovate to make health care products and services increasingly accessible and affordable for more people. We also support the health and well-being of the communities we serve and invested more than $100 million in philanthropic support in 2017.
- Goal 4: Quality Education: We introduce under-served youth to the pharmacy profession through training, job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships. In addition to building on youth education programs and expanding educational opportunities to our colleagues, we intend to expand our registered apprenticeships program to 3,000 participants by 2020. We work to advance the industries of pharmacy and nursing by providing scholarships to the leaders of tomorrow in both fields, and by supporting the academic aspirations of children of our colleagues.8:
- Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: We Continue to implement and enforce policies that respect human rights and create economic opportunity throughout our supply chain. We employ 250,000 colleagues and in 2016 paid $10 billion in wages. Our workforce development initiatives help transition people from public assistance into meaningful jobs at CVS health.
- Goal 13: Climate Action: The health of our planet is inextricably linked to the health of all people. We are committed to addressing our climate-related impacts by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and embedding sustainability across our operations.
- Goal 15: Life on Land: We are reducing our paper use and aim to procure all paper from sustainable sources. In 2016, we published Our policy on palm oil; our goal is to ensure that by 2020 100 percent of the palm oil we use in our products will come from verified, responsible sources.
GD: CVS has long lead the way in corporate responsibility and social impact: banning tobacco sales, limiting digitally enhanced photos in its advertising for beauty products, and cutting back sales of addictive prescription drug sales to 7 days. How do you suggest other companies follow suit?
HF: We are a purpose-driven company, and that purpose is helping people on their path to better health. Every action we take, every decision we make, is viewed through this purpose. As you noted, some examples include removing tobacco from our stores, rolling out an enterprise-wise opioid initiative, adding better-for-you products options at our stores (i.e. adding healthier food options, removing transfats from our store brand food and committing to eliminating chemicals of concern from our store brand beauty and personal care products)– as well as our recent announcement around transparency and authenticity for beauty imagery with the health of women and girls in mind. As an enterprise, we identified our purpose and we use it as a guide for all that we do.
GD: How do you ensure all aspects of a company’s retail business are ethical and profitable? Does one take precedence over the other? What’s the balance CVS tries to find?
HF: We always lead with our purpose and use it to inform everything from how we operate our business to generate revenue and profits, as well as how we act as an ethical, socially responsible company that is positively impacting society. I believe that success follows when you adopt a customer-first mindset. This means focusing on solving customer pain points and making health easier for them.
For example, the United States faces limited access to affordable care, rising rates of chronic disease, an aging population and an epidemic of prescription drug abuse. We touch millions of consumers every day and we can help them navigate their health challenges in a variety of ways, including helping to ensure that care is more accessible and more affordable for more people, offering customers healthier food options, helping patients with chronic disease adhere to their medication regimens, and fighting tobacco and prescription drug addiction with industry leading programs. This is how it is possible to “do well by doing good.”
GD: Moving forward, what key areas are you looking to build partnerships and initiatives around?
HF: We focus our giving in three key areas to help advance our purpose and support key public health challenges in the communities we serve. We support organizations that are committed to:
- Increasing access to health care for underserved populations
- Supporting smoking cessation and youth tobacco prevention
- Mitigating and preventing prescription drug abuse
Editor’s note: This past Monday, 5 February, Foulkes announced she’ll be moving her talents to Hudson’s Bay Company, the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, on 19 February where she’ll become their new chief executive.