As we celebrate another Earth Day, it is only natural to reflect on the state of the environment and the challenges we're facing—a changing climate, loss of critical ecosystems, declining biodiversity, pollution, ocean acidification and more. What many don’t realize is that these environmental challenges often impact human health as well.
For example, climate change is leading to increased heat stress, changes in infectious disease patterns and increases in airborne allergens. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 people globally breathe air containing high levels of pollutants, resulting in seven million deaths per year. These are daunting challenges with serious impacts, but as a leading healthcare company with a history of sustainability performance, Johnson & Johnson is uniquely positioned to address the intersection of environmental and human health.
But how are we translating our potential into action? To help celebrate Earth Day, let's take a closer look—and look at some of the ways you can join us, too. When your passion and drive meet our collective purpose, there's no limit to the positive impact we can make together.
Bringing Our Credo to Life: High-Impact Partnerships
Protecting the environment is a central part of Our Credo. For Phil Dahlin, Global Director of Sustainability, that means framing sustainability and environmental initiatives in terms of human health.
"What ultimately determines our health outcomes isn't just the quality of care we receive, but a whole number of factors, including our diets and how often we exercise—and the environment plays a major part, too," he explained.
“If we are truly going to change the trajectory of health for humanity, we need to impact all determinants of health as best we can,” he added. Phil recognizes accomplishing that is going to take a collaborative effort—including global partners and people like you—to help us achieve our vision. As he put it: "We're one of the world's largest and most broadly based healthcare companies, so when it comes to sustainability, we have so many different areas where we can make an impact. Right now, for example, we're working with customers, medical professionals, suppliers, employees and many others to create a more sustainable future."
To demonstrate what that work looks like on the ground, Phil highlighted three focus areas of Johnson & Johnson's environmental health efforts: research, advocacy and impact.
"We know that forestry and agricultural practices are connected to the spread of infectious diseases,” Phil said. “That’s why we’re partnering with organizations that can advance our understanding of those connections and help turn that knowledge into policy and action to help protect the environment and human health. And an example of that is our partnership with EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), an environmental health nonprofit. We're helping EHA conduct research that will create models of potential human health impacts from land conversion, which can then be combined with models that estimate environmental impacts, to provide a holistic view of the true costs of converting land, like tropical forests, to uses like palm oil plantations.”
Phil added that the ultimate goal is to help people around the world plan development more sustainably and responsibly. He noted that this project not only builds on our expertise in responsible sourcing for palm and forest products, it also builds on our leadership in addressing emerging infectious diseases like Ebola and in pandemic prevention.
"Our partnership with the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health is a good example of how advocacy can drive outcomes. With the Consortium, we're focused on educating physicians on human health impacts related to climate change—specifically for their patient populations.”
And, Phil said, because we're engaging with physicians through their own professional society meetings, like the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Psychiatric Association, we're making a lot of progress.
“Our goal is to identify, train and nurture public policy advocates—again, it's about working at the intersection of environmental and human health," he said.
"We're collaborating with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an organization that helps cities around the world take action on climate change,” he noted. “City mayors around the world are taking bold action on climate change, and they were realizing that these actions would improve air quality and should ultimately improve the health of their citizens.”
But he added that most cities don't have the capabilities to comprehensively study the health benefits of environmental improvements—so that's where we come in.
“We're working together with C40 and as many as 30 cities from the network. By helping these cities determine the positive health impacts of the actions they're taking, they can include health as part of the value proposition to take further action on climate change."Share
Unlimited Paths to Johnson & Johnson
When you join Johnson & Johnson, you'll find amazing opportunities to grow, learn and explore your interests—wherever they might take you. And as Phil's story illustrates, you'll also be supported every step of the way.
After studying environmental science as an undergrad, Phil launched his career as an environmental engineer in the waste management sector. And even though he learned a lot on the job, he quickly realized he wanted to move into the sustainable business sector—and eventually landed a role at Johnson & Johnson as an Environmental Specialist.
Having worked his way up through environmental, health and safety management, Phil felt ready to take on new challenges. In 2007, he decided to transition from our consumer products business to our pharmaceutical sector.
"As a corporate strategy, sustainability was only just emerging at the time I became involved with it. And at Johnson & Johnson, it was emerging from the bottom up—from each one of our sectors. When I was asked to participate in a strategic planning exercise for the pharmaceutical supply chain, I saw that there was an opportunity to integrate sustainability into the plan. That project turned into a whole new role for me, and a new function within the company."Share
To bolster his knowledge of the field, Phil went back to school. With the support of his managers—and with financial backing from Johnson & Johnson—he earned a master's degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley.
"I found that I could bring ideas from work to school and vice versa, making connections between what we do in the environment and our core mission of improving public health," he said.
Making those connections is what Phil continues to do today, integrating and aligning Johnson & Johnson's sustainability practice with the overall business strategy. And that entails driving impact in multiple directions.
"One of the hypotheses I have," he explained, "is that, as we innovate and improve care delivery, we’re simultaneously getting more and more efficient and reducing our environmental impact. To me, that really makes sense in the context of outcome-based medicine."
Join Forces With Johnson & Johnson Today
Whether you're here for a day, a month or a decade you, you'll find opportunities at Johnson & Johnson to collaborate, innovate and make real-world impact that can touch the lives of people everywhere. So if you're ready to accelerate your growth with a company that shares your commitment to creating a more sustainable future, check out all of the opportunities to join the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies right now.