Living our purpose

Ornella Barra, co-chief operating officer and CSR Committee Chair, shares her passion for giving back to the communities we serve.

Ornella Barra, Co-Chief Operating Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
A Q&A with Ornella Barra

Q. How is WBA adapting its environmental, social and governance priorities in the fast-changing healthcare and retail industries?

Ornella Barra (OB): We and our legacy companies have a long history of engaging with stakeholders and listening to the emerging priorities and topics where they believe we have a significant impact. Our stakeholders expect us to help address urgent issues in healthcare, especially around access, affordability and awareness. They also want us to do our part in addressing environmental issues such as the harmful impacts of plastics. In response to this feedback from stakeholders, and to reflect the priorities that emerged in our 2018 CSR materiality assessment, we have refreshed our 12 CSR commitments. These now include commitments to improve access to affordable, quality healthcare and awareness about critical health issues, to help combat opioid abuse and to reduce the negative impacts of plastic in our owned brand products.

Q. What are the company's sustainability priorities?

OB: We are committed to engaging with communities to improve societal health and wellbeing, protecting the planet, doing business fairly and with integrity and fostering a safe and inclusive workplace. Within each of those four key CSR areas we have three commitments.

Q. What were some of WBA’s CSR milestones during fiscal 2019? 

OB: Walgreens was named No. 13 on the Fortune Magazine Change the World List for its Balance Rewards for healthy choices (BRhc) healthcare innovation program. Through our long-term partnership with Vitamin Angels, we have helped to provide more than 200 million children and mothers with life-changing vitamins. And we have helped to provide more than 50 million lifesaving immunizations through our Get a Shot. Give a Shot. campaign over six years of partnership with the UN Foundation. We have raised more than $100 million for Red Nose Day over five years, to help children who have the most need.

Boots UK won the Business in the Community’s Responsible Business of the Year 2019-2020 award, for supporting people living with cancer through a long-standing partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, emissions reduction and other initiatives. Also, over 15 years Boots UK and Boots Opticians have raised more than £12.7 million ($20 million) for BBC Children in Need, helping to change the lives of disadvantaged children and young people.

Tackling climate change is becoming increasingly urgent and WBA’s businesses continue to invest in energy and fuel efficiency including lighting, heating and air conditioning, refrigeration and vehicles. 

Q. Why is sustainability important to you? 

OB: I am so inspired when I connect with WBA employees around the world who are helping their communities and making a difference. During fiscal 2019, employees from across our global businesses participated in the Kilometers for Cancer campaign, walking, running, skiing or cycling approximately 700,000 kilometers (430,000 miles) to raise money for cancer charities.

As a pharmacist by training, I’m passionate about our initiatives that help support people living with cancer and other diseases. Through our Collaboration for Cancer Prevention, Research and Support, a transatlantic charitable partnership with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), Macmillan Cancer Support, Susan G. Komen and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) we are working on initiatives to develop and support innovative cancer research infrastructure and to share best practices to improve patient care.

Q: Why are marketing initiatives linked to causes such an important part of your CSR strategy?

OB: Our aim is to lead by example and to maximize the impact of our initiatives, especially in the area of health and wellbeing. Our businesses support campaigns that generate customer loyalty, energize employees and help to improve the health and wellbeing of millions of children. This means our CSR work is good for business and for communities.

I am humbled by the spirit and the giving shown by our customers and employees, and would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation.