October 21st, 2011

Evolving to Sustainable Solutions

In my role at Johnson & Johnson leading Public Affairs & Corporate Citizenship, I find myself in some extraordinary meetings with some amazing – even awe inspiring – people.

Yesterday was just such a day.

As watchers of Johnson & Johnson know, we’re involved in social good partnerships with NGOs, government agencies and multilateral organizations.  So I was at a USAID conference to talk about our partnerships with America’s international development agency:  why we do them, what works well and what we all can do better.

Our partnerships with USAID and others help babies breathe at birth, treat children with intestinal worms, train birth attendants, and give moms text messages on how to have a safe pregnancy and birth — all in some of the most remote and underserved places on earth.   Talking about this work, … well…it doesn’t get much better.

Yesterday, I learned that maybe it could.

As friends of Johnson & Johnson know, our social good efforts are rooted in Our Credo’s mandate to care for and be responsible to society.

There’s a practical side too. Make the world a better place; “lift up all boats,” especially the life rafts that so many people must rely on, and our company – indeed all business — will flourish too.  Some people think of this as charity; I’d call it enlightened self interest, which seems like a good and honest idea.

The 300 people gathered at the Reagan Center — from companies, governments, and NGO’s — celebrated what’s been accomplished in USAID’s 1,000 development partnerships, but the question that hung in the air was “What’s next?”  “How do we step up progress?”  There was an edge in the room.

The answer came in the form of a challenge from USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.   He asked that companies build their good works into the very fabric of day-to-day business, and that we place a focus on Sustainability — in the social and economic as well as environmental sense.

The tremendous good that business delivers through its philanthropy can be leveraged and multiplied, Shah said, by building local capacity in developing countries (perhaps by enhancing sustainability of the local supply chain) and by meeting the purchasing needs of people with less resources.

Why does this matter?  Sustainable approaches to business create opportunities for people so they can help themselves; they build local markets and stimulate demand that generates jobs, some here in the US.  A virtuous circle is created.

At Johnson & Johnson we launched our first broad sustainability targets, our Healthy Future 2015 Goals just this year, taking another step toward what Administrator Shah called “a new wave of creative enlightened capitalism.”

Leave a Reply

All comments will be reviewed before posting. Since this blog is about Johnson & Johnson, comments that don’t directly relate to the Company or to topics covered on this blog won’t be posted. Please see our comments policy for details.