Enacting prescriptions for a better world
This year’s award for best CSR disclosure went to CVS Health for ‘walking the talk’ in its decision – taken in 2014 – to stop selling tobacco products. It’s not easy to wave goodbye to $2 billion in annual revenue from cigarette sales, but the decision to do so stemmed from the company’s ‘health-in-action’ principle of building healthier communities, one of the three pillars of CVS Health’s CSR road map, which is entitled ‘Prescriptions for a better world’.
The company’s efforts to establish that road map coincided with the introduction of the G4 sustainability framework, whose requirement for disclosure of anything material was of great interest to the company, explains Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of CSR and philanthropy at the company. ‘We decided to adopt [the framework] early with the idea that we could test it out and see where we were going,’ she says.
The CSR team spent a lot of time talking to stakeholders and people within the company to identify what was important to them from a materiality standpoint. Those insights became the basis for the CSR road map. For the health-in-action pillar, Boone and her team focused on three things: accessible and affordable healthcare, chronic disease management, and patient & customer safety and well being.
Taking a broad ‘enterprise approach’, they compared what the company was doing currently against what it could do differently in the future. ‘Essentially, what falls out?’ Boone asks. ‘Tobacco fell out and wasn’t consistent with what we’d committed to from a purpose perspective.
‘The great thing about what we decided to do is that we decided it with a very strategic long-term view. We felt the decision to get rid of tobacco products was something that was consistent with our purpose and that aligned with our focus on healthy outcomes for all the stakeholders who matter: clients, members and consumers. We felt making this decision would be a proof statement of how committed we as a company are to community health.
‘From a business perspective, we knew that while we might take a short-term hit [by] removing tobacco from our retail pharmacies, we believed we would recoup it. We felt this was something that, over the long term, would be a benefit to the business.’
Boone considers herself lucky to have responsibility for CSR and philanthropy at a company where ‘there is a real focus on and attention around the value this presents for us in the long-term CSR strategy.’ There are many leaders at CVS Health who are focused on the impact of corporate decisions on the stakeholders the firm cares about, she says.