Lauren joined Johnson & Johnson in 2015, and is Vice President, Global Community Impact. She has held leadership roles in Corporate Social Innovation, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Philanthropic efforts at eBay Inc (2009-2015) and Starbucks Coffee Company (2000-2008). Prior to her work in Corporate Social Responsibility, she held leadership roles with several NGOs.
GlobeScan co-CEO Chris Coulter recently interviewed Lauren to reflect on her first year in Johnson & Johnson and how the company is approaching health from a global community impact perspective.
You are a year into your new role at Johnson & Johnson as VP, Global Community Impact. How’s it going?
It has been a remarkable experience. I have learned so much, joining a company in an entirely different sector. My commitment has been to learn as much as I can about Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and how I can contribute to the amazing history and commitment of the company to people and communities.
I have been fortunate to come to this job with experience from two very values-based companies with visionary founders and leaders, starting with Starbucks Coffee Company and Howard Schultz, and eBay with Pierre Omidyar. Growing up at Starbucks where Howard was passionate about people first – employees and customers, and how having a positive impact on people meant everything else would fall in place. That was a critical learning for me. My experience at Starbucks also taught me that the real opportunity for impact was through the business, and how our team could partner with the business on creating social and environmental impact. We were an early model for CSR teams, and I learned a lot.
At eBay, Pierre Omidyar founded the business on some key principles, including creating a level playing field and trusting each other. CSR wasn’t really separate – it was how the business operated and a core part of the corporate culture. The purpose of the organization at its origins carried through all we did or tried to do.
Coming to J&J has been and I think will continue to be a great learning for me. At J&J, the company has such direct impact on people all over the world every single day – in big and small ways. We have some of the world’s best scientists innovating new products to fight global disease challenges. J&J has an amazing history of breakthrough advances related to public health. It’s important for the Global Community Impact team to deeply understand the business and our opportunity to make investment decisions that are complementary to what our business is trying to achieve, because that’s where the strongest impacts will likely be.
I’ve really enjoyed stepping in and learning. For example, I had the opportunity to spend time with an R&D team in Belgium, sitting with the scientists who do sophisticated research and modelling of critical diseases. It is such a remarkable experience to have a discussion with someone who is arguably one of the smartest people in the world in their domain and then to think of how to engage them in our work. It is truly a privilege.
How are you engaging with the business?
As you know from the research you did for us, we are taking a deep look at the opportunities for our team, and at the expectations that stakeholders have for us. We see people on the frontlines of care as a big part of that equation. Our team is currently having conversations and building a strategy related to what we learned.
We are learning from our partners in the J&J Innovation Centers as well, applying a similar “open door to ideas approach” to come up with new solutions and approaches. Our team understands that local people know local solutions and we should learn from this knowledge and see how we can support local ideas. In fact, we are in the process building our first global competition to do just that – modelling our work on what our business does best and looking for opportunities for scalable and purposeful solutions.
J&J is a health care company. How are you approaching health from an impact perspective?
Everything about global health is changing: who delivers it, how it gets delivered, and who feels a part of the system, among other things. We’re sensitive to try to understand new, diverse players in the health care space – CVS or Google or Fitbit – and we see how much more important technology is a part of the health agenda going forward. As a consumer, your expectations are completely changing, things are being disrupted, and it’s hard to know where the future will take us. Our team will always be one that is continuously learning, partnering, testing, and adjusting, to try to understand and support opportunities that will really make a difference.
In such a dynamic, changing environment, this means we also need to collaborate with all interested partners, NGOs, governments, and other businesses, in order to help create broader systemic changes that will allow for better access to health to more people.
What are you most proud of at J&J?
I am most proud of the commitment of J&J to truly create a better world, and the company’s commitment to health for all people.
This focus and commitment around impact goes back to our Credo, which speaks to supporting doctors, nurses and caregivers, and patients, employees, and communities, and then our shareholders. If you take care of the first priorities, business success will follow. It is very real, and very authentic. People have long careers here, and are focused on the purpose and values of the company. The Credo was truly ahead of its time. Every single employee knows about the Credo, and it has a prominent position in every office. At its foundation it is a commitment to always doing the right thing.
I am also impressed by my J&J colleagues who are relentlessly innovating, and are action-oriented. They look to new solutions and test and learn. We have a flexible environment, and we’re encouraged to try new things. My team has amazing expertise and experience. We recently played a role in creating a comprehensive SDG for J&J and sharing that during UN General Assembly week in September 2016.
We are also about to launch our first impact investment, which is a great way to kick off 2017!