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WBA details diversity initiatives in new report

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The report highlights diversity and inclusion within the company.

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) has issued its inaugural report on diversity and inclusion within the company. The report, titled “All Together. Different,” details the numerous multifaceted programs that have been implemented throughout the company, across different geographies and businesses; explains the key initiatives that have driven progress, particularly over the last two years; and presents the objectives for continued ­progress.

“A diverse and inclusive organization is a top priority for our business, and we are proud to embrace and support the many cultures, backgrounds and experiences of our customers, patients and employees across the globe,” said Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and chief executive officer, WBA. “Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are core to our purpose of helping people live healthier, happier lives.”

The report can be accessed here, and the WBA D&I highlights video here.

Carlos Cubia

While the report focuses on activities and achievements since the merger of Walgreen Co. and Alliance Boots GmbH in 2014, it also reveals that both Walgreens and Alliance Boots had demonstrated an impressive commitment to diversity and inclusion before their combination. Walgreens, for example, in 2007 enacted industry-leading disability inclusion policies, and in 2008 established the Walgreens Diversity Donation Scholarship program to increase diversity in the pharmacist profession.

So while there was a shared awareness of the need for diversity in the workplace, the level and scope of recognition and understanding differed throughout the various parts of the organization, says Carlos Cubia, global chief diversity officer for WBA. For instance, in the United States ethnic diversity has been a more compelling issue than in Europe or Asia, where gender equality has been the primary focus.

The diversity and inclusion (D&I) program created by Cubia and his team since the merger is the outcome of a vision, he says. “That vision was to put diversity and inclusion at the center of everything we do, whether it’s a marketing or advertising decision, or selection of a product to put on our shelves,” he explains. “We wanted to make sure that we filtered those decisions through a diversity and inclusion lens to help us better understand and make the right decisions for our customers, our employees and for the communities where we do business.”

Consequently, the D&I team created a program to educate the company’s leaders on why D&I was not only the right thing to do, but how it yields such benefits as improved employee engagement and productivity and retention. The training incorporated hard data and research that demonstrates that companies with solid D&I programs outperform those that do not.

Over the last two years, several initiatives designed to drive what Cubia refers to as the “All Together. Different mindset” have gained momentum and are driving cultural change throughout WBA’s far-flung organization, which operates in 17 countries with more than 342,000 employees. Some of the key initiatives include:

  • A leadership accountability model to measure and drive leader-led actions to increase the number of women and people of color in leadership positions. According to the report, during fiscal 2019 (which ended last August), the percentage of women in leadership positions increased modestly to 39%, while the percentage of people of color in U.S. leadership positions reached 20%. Targets for fiscal 2020 are a further 3% increase for women to 42% and a 2% improvement for people of color to 22%.
  • A global inclusion council consisting of 21 senior leaders from all divisions of company. The purpose of the council, which meets quarterly and monthly, is to accelerate promulgation of a D&I culture throughout WBA. Cubia, who chairs the council, describes it as “a board of directors for D&I.”

“It’s a formal group of leaders who are passionate about D&I and are nominated by the most senior leaders in the company,” he says. “If we want to launch an initiative, we vet it through the council, and they take it to their individual business units and ask their employees what they think about it or how they can advance the strategy.”

  • Expansion of employee-driven business resource groups (BRGs) that represent different issues and interests. The concept of the BRG was created by Xerox Corp. 50 years ago when it formed its National Black Employees Caucus. There are currently about 14 BRGs, including nine in the U.S. and five in Europe and Hong Kong. They are focused on such issues or themes as African-American leadership, Disability Inclusion, Environmental Sustainability, Next-Gen Empowerment, W-Vets, Pride Alliance and Women of WBA, or WoW.

Although they are, in a sense, grassroots organizations, the BRGs are formal structures governed by policies and procedures. Each BRG has an executive sponsor, usually a vice president or senior vice president. For example, Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, executive vice president and global chief human resources officer, is the sponsor for Women of WBA.

  • Increasing business opportunities with diverse suppliers and supporting their development. According to Jim Townsend, WBA’s chief procurement officer, supplier diversity is a key part of WBA’s vision to be the first choice for pharmacy, well-being and beauty.

In 2018, Walgreens engaged with or purchased from more than 2,600 diverse and small businesses, including more than 900 minority-owned and women-owned enterprises. Last year the company’s merchants began using a tech platform called RangeMe to research and identify diverse suppliers. The tool enables merchants to easily gather information about a supplier, review its products, request samples and engage directly with it.

The report concludes with a look at the future. The company will focus on recruiting — and retaining — diverse talent and continuing to develop inclusive leadership. Diversity in the recruiting process will be tracked, and diverse interview panels will be introduced.

The D&I team will also continue its educational efforts, “as we honor and celebrate the global melting pot of racial, ethnic, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ and military veterans that is WBA.” There will be an increased focus on supplier ­diversity.

Cubia says he is hopeful as he looks to the future. “I think we’ve done a lot of positive things, but I think there’s more that we can and need to do,” he says. “But I feel the momentum is moving in the right direction and that we’re poised for great success.”


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