While the last year has been one of turmoil, for many businesses it reinforced their priorities. Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) was one such company as the pandemic elevated the importance of entrepreneurial thinking blending with corporate social responsibility. I sat down with Annie Murphy, SVP/Global Chief Commercial Brands Officer and International Retail at Walgreens Boots Alliance to talk about their approach and the issues that are top of mind for the business.
Dave Knox: How has the pandemic impacted the prioritization of corporate social responsibility for Walgreens Boots Alliance?
Annie Murphy: WBA is uniquely positioned; our scale, solutions, global partners, and our passionate and dedicated teams together enable us to keep making a positive impact in the communities we proudly serve. CSR has not only been a key priority for our business, but it is also the fabric of who we are as a company. If anything, this pandemic has reinforced our approach to CSR and elevated our top issue of healthcare access. As outlined in our newly released CSR Report, we are continuing to step up to help people across the world live happier, healthier lives because it’s imperative at all times, not only in times of crisis.
I think these unprecedented times have underscored the critical role that we play at WBA as a leading global pharmacy retailer. Patients, consumers and businesses depend on us for medications, expert information and care, essential items, and – now – for Covid-19 testing and vaccinations.
Our businesses are helping the world emerge from the pandemic by testing millions of people for Covid-19, vaccinating patients in the U.S. and the U.K., and helping to store and distribute vaccines globally.
We are committed to driving equitable access to vaccines and prioritizing communities of color, many of whom have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. In the U.S., our vaccine equity initiative is focused on addressing common access barriers, including vaccine hesitancy and lack of transportation. Efforts include partnerships that remove access barriers, educational outreach and rolling out new care models, like off-site clinics.
In addition, WBA’s businesses also supported communities through numerous campaigns, donations and ongoing charity work to continue to prioritize our CSR efforts. We improved healthcare access and raised awareness on health issues through Covid-19 testing in underserved communities, outreach to more than a million vulnerable patients in the U.S. to help them stay on their medications during lockdowns, programs in Chicago to address health inequities, safe spaces for victims of domestic violence in our Chile, Ireland and UK pharmacies and online pharmacy and beauty support for people living with cancer in the UK, all while managing and reducing our waste and emissions to help mitigate climate change.
Knox: To no surprise, Covid-19 has greatly impacted retail, causing a large shift from in-person to digital sales. How has the pandemic changed customer behaviors and expectations?
Murphy: The digital world exploded as a channel for research, for inspiration, and for purchases during the pandemic, and we’ve seen a huge uplift in the use of our online resources. The convenience of our resources and digital tools has taken on new meaning for patients seeking to access medications from home or to consult with a pharmacist through an app on their phone.
The MyWalgreens app and the Walgreens Find Care digital platforms are great examples of that. We rebranded the Walgreens customer loyalty program while redesigning the mobile app entirely, and it’s become an even more powerful health and wellness tool that features a…