Ian Walker

Why CSR is critical in the business of health care

Ian WalkerCorporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important business practice – and the lack of public health in many developing and some developed countries allow health care companies to actively participate in meaningful CSR.

“Improving Access” was the focus of the keynote address by Ian Walker, senior director of Johnson & Johnsons Global Community Impact, at the 2017 Health Care Club Conference UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Johnson & Johnson has a strong history of caring to improve the health of all, says Walker, and quoted CEO Alex Gorskey as saying, “Health is not a privilege; it is a basic human right. That means businesses, like ours, must help create healthier societies.”

CSR tactics and campaigns need to be based on a strategy that connects to the company’s values and mission. These efforts need to be measured and evaluated so all parties involved – and for the rest of the world to see – the impact that partnership, donation or company actions had on society and for the company.

Walker points to the potential mistake of “corporate ego.” This happens when a company makes a big fuss and gains a lot of media coverage over a small action, but after crunching the numbers and looking closely at the effort has made a huge difference, which can happen with celebrity appearances, for instance.

CSR efforts at Johnson & Johnson have community-based partnerships. “These groups are recognized for their expertise and their direct experience in the field; therefore, their ideas stand the greatest chance at success,” says Walker. Partner organizations can range from large non-governmental organizations to small, grassroots groups.

In 2011 the UNC Burn Center partnered with Johnson & Johnson to provide aid to people in Malawi affected by severe wildfires. The motivation and the passion within the individuals directly involved in the programs are what keep the programs running.

More recently this team with Johnson & Johnson has been very busy assisting with the major natural disasters that have happened in fall 2017. They donated thousands of hygiene kits to those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and earthquakes.

Partnerships are not the only way to have social impact. Another method is through procurement. Johnson & Johnson has pledged to donate $15 million per year to assist social companies, those that employ ex-prisoners, disabled persons or the terminally unemployed.

This idea of doing good in the world is becoming even more important as more millennials enter the workforce. It is predicted that around 80 percent of millennials want to work for a company that cares about and gives back to society.

Lack of access to proper health care is a problem in many nations, including the U.S. The dearth of supplies and attention to health in developing countries gives health care companies many channels to act and many ways to give back, Walker says.

By Emily Brice (BA ’18)