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WBA’s efforts recognized by the UN Foundation

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Walgreens Boots Alliance co-COO Ornella Barra.

Walgreens Boots Alliance co-COO Ornella Barra.

The United Nations Foundation last month recognized five individuals and organizations whose support has helped the UN address a range of serious issues around the globe.

Honorees included President Obama for his efforts to end armed conflict and fight climate change; Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme; Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Rovio Entertainment Ltd. and Sony Pictures, sponsors of the Angry Birds for a Happy Planet Campaign; and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

WBA, the first pharmacy operator with a truly global reach, was cited for its work to enhance health around the world, an important component of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The foundation singled out the company’s “Get a Shot. Give a Shot.” program, which has provided immunizations to more than 15 million children in developing countries.

cdr-filler-opinion-750The initiative, which works in concert with the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, donates a vaccination for polio or measles for every immunization administered at a Walgreens, Duane Reade or Healthcare Clinic location in the U.S.

Ornella Barra, co-chief operating officer of WBA, who accepted the award on behalf of her colleagues and the company’s customers at a gala dinner in New York City, stressed WBA’s determination to be a good global citizen and help people in all nations live happier, healthier lives. In addition to Get a Shot. Give a Shot., that commitment is made manifest by the company’s work with Vitamin Angels; its partnership with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer; its role as the exclusive U.S. sponsor of Red Nose Day, which raises money to support children’s health; and Boots UK’s partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support in Great Britain.

Walgreen Co. has always been a generous backer of charitable programs, but since its merger with Alliance Boots in 2014, the company’s efforts have become more focused and effective. Barra, who is responsible for a wide-ranging portfolio at WBA — including pharmaceutical wholesaling; global brands; the retail pharmacy international businesses outside the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland; human resources and other business services — nonetheless finds time to pursue her passion for corporate social ­responsibility.

Together with Richard Ellis, WBA’s vice president for CSR, Barra has narrowed the scope of the company’s charitable work to concentrate on fields that closely align with its core mission of fostering the health and well-being of its customers and, in the process, redoubled the impact of the programs.

Walgreens’ work with Vitamin Angels illustrates the difference WBA is making. Since June 2014, the drug chain has donated 1% of all nutritional supplement sales to the charity, which provides vitamins and related products to undernourished mothers and children in countries around the world to help prevent blindness and other serious health problems. Walgreens’ goal of assisting 100 million individuals was reached last month, more than a year ahead of schedule. The program has touched people in some 50 nations, including the United States.

WBA is not the only instance of a retail pharmacy operator making significant contributions to the communities it serves. CVS Health and Rite Aid are two other drug chains whose robust commitment to CSR deserves recognition.

In keeping with its position, first and foremost, as a health care provider, CVS’ Prescription for a Better World encompasses three areas of concentration — Health in Action, Planet in Balance and Leader in Growth. One cause that has received special attention since the company removed all tobacco products from its drug stores two years ago is fostering the first smoke-free generation.

For its part, Rite Aid targets its CSR activities to enhancing children’s health and well-being, and supporting communities and company associates during times of special need. In addition, the drug chain has become a strong backer of Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships for the children and spouses of military personnel killed or wounded in action.

WBA, CVS and Rite Aid continue to demonstrate what good corporate citizenship is all about and, in doing so, reinforce the image of community pharmacy while making life better for countless individuals.


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