We caught up with Katie Decker, Global President of Essential Health at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, to delve into the motivation behind the company’s ambitious, multifaceted mission and the practicalities of delivering on it.
Last month, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health launched its Healthy Lives Mission — with a commitment to invest $800 million through 2030 to meet ambitious goals of improving people’s health while protecting the health of the planet. The environmental targets include using 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025; the mission also involves creating strategic partnerships to address complex health issues.
We caught up with Katie Decker, Global President of Essential Health at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, to delve into the motivation behind the mission and the practicalities of delivering on it.
How does the Healthy Lives Mission reflect the company’s purpose?
Katie Decker: Our lives and those of our communities demand healthy ecosystems. Nutrition, food security, clean air and fresh water are essential for human health. At Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, we take a total health approach to helping people live their healthiest lives. Our products are rooted in science and endorsed by professionals. And we understand that to thrive, people need healthy places to live, work and play.
Aligned with Our Credo, the Consumer Health sector is accelerating action to protect our environment and address important human health challenges.
Our Healthy Lives Mission is a movement and a catalyst for our Consumer Health sector’s sustainability efforts to deliver greater benefits for people, communities and our planet. This mission is not an initiative or a program, it’s a framework for how we do business moving forward.
Have you seen any changes in people’s interest in protecting their health since the pandemic began?
KD: When COVID-19 hit and became a part of daily lives, consumers started prioritizing their health — and the health of their loved ones — above everything else. And at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, our products exist to make consumers’ lives healthier.
As always, we remain focused on what our consumers want and need. Today, that means delivering great quality, science-backed products in a more transparent and sustainable way.
It’s been incredible to see the dedication of our teams throughout this pandemic to making sure that parents and caregivers have the solutions they need to keep their families safe, which sometimes means pivoting how we work. When the shortage of alcohol-based sanitizer began, we needed a solution to firstly protect our essential on-site workers from COVID-19; and secondly, to have product to donate. On March 15, we sought to create our own hand sanitizer at our manufacturing site in Lititz, Pennsylvania — a site that produces Listerine; and in just four days, production began. This required people to come together from multiple sectors and make decisions in an unprecedented, accelerated way — showing how the possibilities are endless with agility and problem solving.
The intersection of human health and planetary health seems an important part of the Healthy Lives Mission. How is your company in a unique position to address these interrelated needs?
KD: As part of the world’s largest healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health is uniquely positioned to approach health — of people and our planet — in an integrated way. We create products that make a meaningful difference on human health by understanding our consumers’ needs and combining those insights with our superior science.
Our investment over the next 10 years is intended to embed sustainability in three areas:
our product portfolio
to fund partnerships that will have a broader societal impact by 2030
Given the company’s heritage, and the fact that many well-loved brands have been made the same way for years, how do you introduce the operational changes that are needed to increase sustainability?
KD: We are working to improve human health by creating and delivering our products in a way that considers the health of the planet without sacrificing the safety and efficacy of our products. Safety and efficacy are paramount. We’ve instituted a Design for Recyclability policy and governance process to ensure our packaging is designed with recyclability in mind.
Eight leadership brands in our portfolio have already integrated sustainability into their brand strategies — committing to developing our products using fewer, smarter resources; innovating to simplify our supply chain, and increasing sustainability across a product’s lifecycle — from how we source ingredients and materials through their use and next life — for the well-being of us all.
For example, the new NEUTROGENA® Skin Balancing cleansing line features our first wipe that is made up of 100 percent plant-based, home-compostable fibers. This innovation is a big step toward portfolio-wide wipes sustainability and is a shining example of how we’ll accelerate transformation across our portfolio of brands and the industry.
Have you found that changes you have introduced to create more sustainable supply chains and products have also generated business benefits?
KD: Sustainability is imperative for today’s brands and embedded in our business and brand strategies, because human health and environmental health are inextricably linked.
In rethinking our business and delivery models to tackle sustainability at all levels of our supply chain, we found that sustainability innovation and simplification often brings reduced costs — while delivering meaningful brand upgrades.
The changes we’ve made across our business will deliver profitable growth by creating healthy, growing brands that are prepared for future trends and shifts in the industry; and have an impact on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. We don’t prescribe to the idea that you can either be sustainable or profitable. We know that we have a responsibility to be both.
How will the investment be used to support sustainable innovation?
KD: We are rethinking how we do business, encouraging experimentation and embedding game-changing behaviors in everything we do. Sustainability commitments impacting people, communities and the planet are part of our Operating Plans, and are critical to how we measure business success.
Our eight leadership brands will lead the way and speed innovation by experimenting with new approaches and sharing learnings across our portfolio, so brands in all regions can swiftly apply learnings. Our ability to scale will ensure faster adoption of innovation so we deliver on our commitments for a healthier planet.
The Healthy Lives Mission includes partnering with other organizations to help bwith eradicating smoking and preventable skin cancers. What will the company bring to these partnerships?
KD: The topic of sustainability and what path to take is incredibly dynamic. We are collaborating with partners (i.e., NGOs, multilateral organizations, the scientific community, retailers and industry) to learn, understand; and share knowledge, expertise and innovations.
No one company, government or retailer will have the answer, but if we keep our eyes on our north star — a healthier future — positive health outcomes are sure to follow.
As an example, NEUTROGENA commissioned a documentary in partnership with the American Academy of Dermatology, The Melanoma Research Foundation, and one of Hollywood’s top actresses and producers. The film is intended to inform consumers about the potential risk of sun exposure and drive accountability for sun-safe practices to inspire behavior changes.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
KD: The announcement of our Healthy Lives Mission is not a hard start for us — we’re proud of the work our brands have already moved forward and for what is to come.
Scale and science are our differentiators. Our expectation is not to be first or the fastest, but to create long-term changes to our business and scale innovations across our portfolio for the health of people and the planet.
This is just the beginning for our Healthy Lives Mission, and I’m really excited to be entering the exploratory phase of identifying the right partnerships with external stakeholders. I’m inspired by initial conversations we’ve had and the possibilities for the work we can achieve together. The more companies that join the movement, the greater impact we will have on addressing environmental and health issues.