How does a global organisation, making $94 billion annually and with over 127,000 employees, avoid damaging the Earth’s resources? We talk with Gavin Fox-Smith, Managing Director, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Australia and New Zealand, about how healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson mixes business with sustainability.
It’s 1943, and Johnson & Johnson is about to become a publicly traded company. From humble beginnings making medicated plasters to establishing the world’s first mass-produced sterile surgical supplies, Johnson & Johnson is already a renowned brand and is about to undergo rapid expansion.
Conscious of this, then chairman Robert Wood Johnson, a member of the company’s founding family, crafted a vision for its employees to live and work by. ‘Our credo’, as he called it, challenges Johnson & Johnson to put the needs of the people it serves first and, well ahead of his time, to protect the environment and its natural resources.
Since 1990, Johnson & Johnson has revisited its sustainability goals every five years, aiming to build on and exceed the previous targets. In 2016, the company launched its latest objectives — its Health for Humanity 2020 Goals.
“Our current environmental goals are focused on reducing our impacts on climate and water resources,” explained Gavin Fox-Smith, managing director, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Australia and New Zealand.
“Specifically, we’re working to reduce absolute carbon emissions by 20% and produce or procure 35% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. We’re also going to conduct a comprehensive water risk assessment at all of our manufacturing and research and development locations.”
Rethinking work practices
Johnson & Johnson is always seeking ways to adapt and rethink its processes in order to achieve its sustainability goals. Its Earthwards program strives to reduce the environmental footprint of its products by integrating sustainable design solutions.
To receive Earthwards recognition, a product must achieve three or more significant sustainability improvements across six key areas: materials, packaging, energy, water, social and innovation. Today, Johnson & Johnson has more than 100 Earthwards-recognised products worth $15 billion in revenue across three sectors: consumer, medical devices and pharma.
One example of an Earthwards-recognised product is the Expedium Verse spinal system. Fox-Smith says its design led to a reduction of instruments needed per procedure when compared to competitors, and a reduction in energy and water used to sterilise and disinfect instruments by more than 70%, while also helping create time and cost efficiencies in the operating room.
“We also seek feedback from customers about their environmental sustainability needs, such as improved packaging,” said Fox-Smith. “For instance, DePuy Synthes, one of our medical device companies, designed flat packaging that cuts packaging materials for medical devices by 49%, and significantly improves shipping efficiency. These savings help reduce emissions and minimise storage space for our customers.”
To foster new ideas and generate environmentally focused innovation, Johnson & Johnson implemented a Sustainability Accelerator Grants Challenge, designed to encourage Johnson & Johnson employees to jump-start the next big sustainability idea that will help more people in more places live healthier lives. The challenge incentivises employees to submit their ideas in the areas of waste, environmental health and sustainable product design.
Johnson & Johnson also partners with other like-minded organisations, working closely with the C40 Climate Leadership Group — a network of the world’s 90 megacities that are committed to climate leadership and action — and has invested $1.3 million in uncovering the link between climate change, air quality and human health. Another close partner is RE100, a collaborative, global initiative of influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity.
Importantly, Johnson & Johnson encourages its supply chain to take sustained, long-term action to address energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, just as the company itself has done. “We are committed to engaging and partnering with suppliers who are transparent about their sustainability goals, who can assure us that they’re responsibly producing the goods and/or services we are buying, and can verify the legal and regulatory compliance of their supply chain,” Fox-Smith said.
Leveraging renewable resources
Johnson & Johnson has set itself an ambitious target of reducing its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and is confident about achieving this goal.
“So far, we’ve been particularly successful in switching to renewable energy,” said Fox-Smith. “After celebrating our success in securing a 100 MW wind power purchase agreement last year, we decided to increase our original goal of producing or procuring 20% of our electricity needs from renewable sources to 35% by 2020.”
Beyond the wind power purchase agreement, Johnson & Johnson has increased its on-site renewable and clean-technology energy capacity by recently installing two wind turbines on properties in Ireland, two fuel cells on properties in California, and solar arrays on properties in Puerto Rico. As of the end of 2016, the company had 54 MW of clean or renewable energy systems installed on its properties globally.
“We participate in CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) reporting programs, achieving recognition in 2016 as part of the CDP Disclosure Leadership Index for the seventh consecutive year,” said Fox-Smith. Johnson & Johnson also participates in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program, which helps companies voluntarily increase transportation energy efficiency while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
The company’ efforts are not going unnoticed. Johnson & Johnson has received numerous recognitions, including #13 in Fortune’s Most Admired Companies List (2017) and #19 in Newsweek’s Global Green Rankings (2016).
Almost 75 years after Robert Wood Johnson penned the Johnson & Johnson credo, it is clear Johnson & Johnson employees take it to heart, with more than 20,000 team members engaged in volunteering in key programs, devoting more than 15,000 hours in support of initiatives in 2016 alone.
This engagement comes in part from the programs Johnson & Johnson has established to encourage employees to support its Health for Humanity 2020 Goals. One such program is the Environmental Sustainability Ambassador Network, where employees commit to supporting an action, share that action with others and recruit new ambassadors.
“We’re connecting these Sustainability Ambassadors through our WeSustain employee engagement and awareness program, which offers opportunities to positively impact our citizenship and sustainability goals,” explained Fox-Smith.
Last October, Johnson & Johnson also launched a global Sustainability Month, which encourages employees to explore the interconnectedness between environmental and human health through a series of digital and on-site activities. Globally, there are approximately 1000 ambassadors and 20 local teams focused on bringing Johnson & Johnson’s environmental sustainability efforts to life.
“Our citizenship and sustainability approach is inextricably linked to our vision of a world where a healthy mind, body and environment is within reach for everyone, everywhere,” said Fox-Smith.
“Our credo, written in 1943, calls out our responsibility to ‘protect the environment and natural resources’. This was progressive for its time … now 143 years later, more than ever, it remains important.”
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