Q&A with Our ESG Committee Chair, Ornella Barra

Q&A with Our ESG Committee Chair, Ornella Barra

So much has happened over the past year within WBA. What are you most proud of?  

There is much to be proud of, but as always, I am most proud of our teams. The way our team members have continued to support each other, while also caring for our patients and our customers in the midst of ongoing social, political and environmental change and uncertainty has been exemplary.  

Our people are unwavering in their dedication and commitment to create healthy communities, such as our recent milestone of reaching 350 million women and children through our partnership with Vitamin Angels. WBA team members have also continued to help foster a healthy and inclusive workplace, and we’re proud to have achieved our goal to increase leadership numbers for people of color. In our ongoing efforts to make our planet healthier, we continue to make progress toward our goal of reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 global carbon emissions by 30 percent compared to a 2019 baseline, thanks to a 7.5 percent reduction in fiscal 2022. Lastly, we are empowering a sustainable marketplace through supplier initiatives that reduce waste in packaging.   

Speaking of WBA team members, there is an increased emphasis on health and well-being in the workplace. Why is that a priority?  

The health and well-being of our team members has always been a priority at WBA, and even more so at a time when so many are still looking for support, having gone through the events of the past few years. The role we play as a large global employer has never been more critical when it comes to meeting the healthcare needs of our employees. It’s vital we provide additional resources to help them manage their health and well-being, such as increased access to mental health resources, a new business resource group focused on working parents and caregivers, and more tools and programs that aim to help our team members live more joyful lives. I am so glad to see these resources being embraced.  

WBA is being intentional about transparency and accountability, especially in disability inclusion and ESG goals. Can you explain some of the programs you have in place?  

We already had a diversity goal as part of our Leadership Accountability Model, which tied a portion of bonus incentives to certain diversity goals. We have also recently added health equity goals to that model for fiscal 2022 because we know everyone can have an impact on the environment and affect ways to keep our planet and communities healthy. We have also included a goal to increase the number of team members with disabilities. We believe in being accountable across all aspects of ESG and DEI, and felt it was important to add these new goals as part of our commitment.  
In what ways is ESG being ingrained into every aspect of the company?   

Our owned brands are an inspiration due to their focus on delivering what our customers need, expect and want. In fiscal 2022, our owned brands continued to progress on increasing sustainability in our products, packaging and supply chain. We expect our suppliers to do the same and have implemented a rigorous and detailed assessment tool to weigh their progress on – and adherence to – sustainability.   

One of our most impactful moves was to unveil our Global Minimum Requirements for Product Sustainability, which applies to our owned brand products in Asia, the U.S. and the UK. We track this data through our Product Sustainability Hub, where suppliers share sourcing material and other information. I am proud to see our owned brands leading the way in accountability and sustainable products.   

What’s next for WBA and ESG?  

I have seen WBA progress so much over the past few years, and the growth can only continue. Our team members are innovating in ways that are both impactful and inspiring, from recycling schemes to community health partnerships to health equity incubators. We will continue our journey to becoming a consumer-centric healthcare company with a purpose to enable our customers and patients to live more joyful lives through better health.  

Ornella Barra  
Chief Operating Officer, International and Chair of the Environmental, Social and Governance Committee