In the next decade, healthcare will continue to transform, evolve and expand, with old models being replaced by innovative new methods that promise to bring better care to everyone. That means new treatments, new approaches to product development and even entirely new roles within the healthcare space.
Take product stewardship, for example. What exactly is it? And why is it so vitally important to our mission at Johnson & Johnson?
To find out, we caught up with Homer Swei, Director of Product Stewardship at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. He told us about some of the amazing work he and his team are doing every day—and why he believes we can change the world through product stewardship.
Rewriting the Formula for Product Stewardship
Broadly speaking, product stewardship refers to an ethical commitment that covers the full life span of a product. Typically, that commitment is tied to a specific goal, like reducing the product's environmental impact or improving customer health and wellness.
But Homer has a different—and more ambitious—definition in mind when he talks about product stewardship at Johnson & Johnson. After all, we're the world's largest broadly based healthcare company, with products that touch the lives of billions of people every day. And Homer believes that with unrivaled scale comes unrivaled opportunities for impact.
Sustainability? Compliance? In Homer's view, these are fine places to start from—but they aren't the finish line.
“The story of product stewardship originates in a compliance mindset," Homer explained. "But at Johnson & Johnson, what we're doing is something very different. It's something much broader and built into all of the work that we do."
As an example of that, Homer explained that product stewardship is holistically integrated into the innovation process at Johnson & Johnson from end to end. That means product stewardship is "embedded in our work," as Homer said. "It's not something that gets tacked on as an afterthought."
To maximize his impact, Homer's role entails working not only with internal teams but with a range of external stakeholders as well. For instance, he routinely meets and speaks with other companies, healthcare professionals, environmental groups, nonprofits and government agencies, among others.
"I bring the conversations we're having inside of Johnson & Johnson to my conversations with external groups," Homer said. "Then I take the conversations I have out there and bring them back with me to Johnson & Johnson. That way, we all get smarter.”
Envisioning a Career in Product Stewardship
Like a lot of us, Homer has a STEM background. He studied engineering as an undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley before going on to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Northwestern.
But after working a few years with large chemical companies, Homer felt something was missing. He didn't just want to design and make new materials. Instead, he wanted to make a positive impact on the world at a large scale. That's what attracted him to Johnson & Johnson—and a career in product stewardship.
“My purpose matches the company’s purpose,” Homer said. “I love the people here and their dedication. You can see that Our Credo is very much alive in all of the work that we do. It’s not an abstraction. It's something that pulls everybody together.”
Homer, who describes himself as an engineer, consumer advocate and artist ("because there's an art to what I do"), added, “Here's how much I love my job: Honestly, if they stopped paying me, I would keep doing it as a hobby."
So, what makes for a successful career in product stewardship?
“My entire career has had to do with ingredients,” Homer said. “I've worked with ingredients, studied regulations around ingredients, supported ingredients—I've done all of it!"
Yet when it comes to finding your path to a career in product stewardship, Homer insists "there's no one recipe to get here.”
Find Your Own Path Today
Ready to chart your own career path alongside people like Homer? At Johnson & Johnson, we're not only innovating and disrupting every day, but doing so in a way that's guided by a clear ethical vision, with the end goal of changing the trajectory of human health. Whether you're here for a year or for a decade, there's no end to the impact you can make when you apply your passion and expertise to our collective purpose.