Q&A with Our CSR Committee Chair, Ornella Barra

Ornella Barra ESG QNA image

During the second year of the pandemic, what stood out for you in WBA’s response?
As a pharmacist by background, it is inspiring for me to see our nearly 35,000 pharmacists operating at the top of their profession, being the trusted professional that millions of people have turned to for testing, vaccinations and trusted counsel.

Our U.S. Vaccine Equity Initiative was astounding. We partnered with hundreds of community and government organizations, and we conducted more than 1,200 vaccination clinics, providing more than 200,000 vaccines, mostly in communities of color. We administered millions more vaccines in medically underserved communities where our pharmacies are located.

Operating on the front lines of patient care, we knew we had an important role to play in this phase of fighting the pandemic. We helped build trust in the vaccines through a marketing campaign with support from trusted Black and Hispanic influencers.

In the UK, Boots supported the National Health Service rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, with vaccination sites in 55 stores by the end of August. To address access issues, Boots team members were specially trained to support people with hidden disabilities who might need extra assistance to receive the vaccine.

What is next for WBA and health equity?
Since 2013, we have supported Vitamin Angels’ efforts to provide vitamins and minerals to undernourished women and children worldwide, and we are building on that with a new prenatal vitamin program in Chicago.

The $21 million we raised through Red Nose Day in 2021 supports programs for children so they can lead healthier lives. Through Get a Shot. Give a Shot. we have helped provide more than 70 million immunizations to some of; the world’s most vulnerable communities through the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign.

Other initiatives include our diabetes and pediatric asthma programs in communities of color in the Chicago area, HIV self-testing in Thailand, and safe spaces for victims of domestic abuse in our pharmacies in the UK, Ireland and Chile.

We know that climate change is a contributor to health inequities as extreme weather events and drought contribute to unsafe air and drinking water, and to food insecurity. That is just one reason we are doing our part to address climate change through our new target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

What were some important achievements for WBA as a corporate citizen during fiscal 2021?
We cannot drive change in our workplace or in our communities without transparency. We set ourselves ambitious targets for diversity in leadership; we held ourselves accountable by tying part of incentive pay to our performance. I have always been passionate about professional and leadership development for women and minority groups, and it has been immensely gratifying to see us meeting these targets and deepening our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

What are WBA’s beauty brands doing to advance the sustainability agenda?
We continue to strive to meet our customers’ expectations for responsibly sourced products that contribute to a healthy planet and community wellbeing. I feel immensely proud of the significant progress that has been made across our beauty brands this year.

We launched the No7 Beauty Company in April 2021 as a consumer led beauty business with bold commitments to sustainability, including halving the overall impact of products we place on the market by 2030. Boots and No7 Beauty Company launched an innovative take-back program for hard-to-recycle cosmetic containers. Liz Earle achieved CarbonNeutral certification for its operations and its Holiday 21 gifting range also achieved CarbonNeutral product certification. Soap & Glory and the Boots gift range 'A Little Something' became our latest brands to achieve Cruelty FreeInternational Leaping Bunny certification, following Botanics and Liz Earle. No7 also launched its flagship Unstoppable Together campaign in the U.S. and UK focused on empowering women and also completely redesigned its iconic 50-millileter jar to be more sustainable.

What comes next for WBA and corporate responsibility?
I’d say continuing to work together and taking a step further in our contribution to build up healthy communities, a healthy planet, a sustainable marketplace and a healthy and Inclusive workplace. Day in and day out, I am inspired by our team members’ passion and dedication. Through their initiatives and example, they truly embody our purpose to help people lead ;more joyful lives through better health. WBA wants to become an even more consumer-focused healthcare company. This objective comes with taking a leading role in health equity issues and increasingly educating and empowering our customers to make smarter environmental choices.

Ornella Barra
Chief Operating Officer, International, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
Chair of the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee