Like no other period in our lives, 2020 and 2021 unleashed an unimaginable confluence of events: a deadly global pandemic and widespread protests over social injustice and systemic racism. These two distinct yet ultimately intertwined issues were the driving force behind so many of the actions we took over the last two years. They fueled our passion, informed our strategy, and accelerated our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) work.

WBA is a global, pharmacy-led health and beauty company. Helping to ensure the safety and well-being of our team members and our customers around the world is inherent in who we are and what we do. Our purpose is to help people across the world lead healthier and happier lives. Our WBA vision is to be the first choice for pharmacy, well-being and beauty – caring for people and communities around the world. We are creating a culture where DE&I is at the center of everything we do and an environment in which everyone feels respected and valued. We are embracing our values and living our purpose, speaking up and standing up – quickly taking decisive action with and for our team members, customers, patients, communities and suppliers.

Listen, Learn and Act

The tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May 2020 reignited the racial equity movement in the U.S. and across the world. It put an unflinching spotlight on systemic racism, social justice and the lack of progress and real, meaningful change. With its portfolio of iconic businesses and brands with more than 331,000* direct team members, spanning 17 countries, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) believes it has the duty and power to be a catalyst for real, meaningful change.

protester holding a poster that reads Black Lives Matter
Stefano Pessina, then-Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, WBA
Stefano Pessina, then-Executive Vice Chairman
and Chief Executive Officer, WBA, May 31, 2020

“We share the sadness and sense of injustice felt by so many about the tragic death of George Floyd, and the disturbing pattern of similar incidents across the United States. We are deeply committed to the diversity, inclusiveness, equal treatment and safety of all people, including our more than 230,000 Walgreens team members and 8 million daily Walgreens customers and patients. We will continue to champion the health and well-being of all and work to foster change and build bridges in every way possible.”

Carlos Cubia, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer, WBA
Carlos Cubia, Senior Vice President
and Global Chief Diversity Officer, WBA

“It’s a time for everyone to open their minds to different things, to different perspectives and to those from different backgrounds, and understand the importance that everybody has.”

We began with a series of diverse, candid open conversations with people inside and outside our company, where people of color shared their experiences, insights and feelings. We know that change only comes through understanding and understanding only happens through active learning. Our Listen, Learn and Act series and key programs, such as the DE&I summit (hosted by the Racial Equity Movement Board, headed up by Annie Murphy, Senior Vice President, Global Chief Commercial Brands Officer and International Retail, WBA) and safe spaces created by our Business Resource Groups (BRGs) gave us the chance to listen to different perspectives, normalize conversations around race, and help identify where we could – and should – take action.

Change Starts Here

We know that to succeed in driving meaningful, sustainable change, we must take bold and intentional actions in our own company. For instance, we are working with leaders to ensure that DE&I is woven through every aspect of our business. When we say DE&I is a part of who we are, we mean it.

Adding Equity to Diversity and Inclusion

To achieve true equality, we must first understand and address equity. With this in mind, we added equity to diversity and inclusion. At WBA, creating equity means seeing the potential in all people and understanding our team members’ needs so that we can apply meaningful interventions that make it possible for them to reach their full potential. When everyone at WBA has the opportunity to succeed, the company succeeds, and we all benefit when that happens.

Adding Inclusion to Our Values

We added inclusion to our corporate values follow this link to the corporate values page, will open in new tab.: Trust, Care, Innovation, Partnership, Dedication and Inclusion. We know that having diversity is not enough. People must feel welcomed and experience a sense of belonging. Inclusion gets to the heart of our team members feeling safe and comfortable to bring their authentic selves to the workplace, feeling heard, and contributing to the overall success of the company. DE&I is not just the right thing to do for our people, it’s the right thing to do for our business.

Holding Ourselves Accountable

WBA committed to diversify its leadership ranks and employee base. We know that to truly understand and deliver on our mission to serve our customers, we must reflect them. More than just talk, we appointed the first African American woman member to our WBA board of directors, Valerie Jarrett follow this link to learn more about Valeri Jarrett, will open in new tab.. We went on to welcome Rosalind “Roz” Brewer follow this link to learn more about Rosalind "Roz" Brewer, will open in new tab. as our new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Both assignments demonstrate our commitment to diversifying our company. Roz is currently one of two African American women CEOs of a Fortune 500 company and her appointment illustrates our promise to seek out top talent from underrepresented groups, such as women and people of color, at every level of the company — from the boardroom to the storeroom. Further, through our Leadership Accountability Model, we now tie a portion of bonus incentives to our performance on our diversity goals.

Making a Difference in the Lives of Those We Serve
Providing a patient vaccination during COVID-19.

With the onset of COVID-19, while the world around us withdrew to protect one another, our WBA team members were on the front lines to provide goods and services, including trusted advice and health expertise, to the customers, patients and communities we serve. Amidst a global pandemic, our company stepped up to help address the health disparities plaguing underserved communities, from testing and vaccine hesitancy to transportation and vaccine administration.

Increasing Access to Care

Data about COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities put a fine point on how systemic racism has led to health disparities in communities of color. WBA intensified its efforts to improve healthcare access and equity during this global crisis. For example, 70 percent of our COVID-19 testing sites in the U.S. are in medically underserved communities. We established the Vaccine Equity Initiative to drive equitable access to vaccines, including creating new access solutions.

Walgreens ‘This is Our Shot’ campaign encouraged COVID-19 vaccination and addresses hesitancy in the U.S. Through our Vaccine Equity Initiative, we partnered with hundreds of community organizations to implement more than 1,200 off-site vaccination clinics in underserved communities, administering more than 202,000 vaccines as of Sept. 15, 2021. And in the UK, Boots partnered with BRGs to create a campaign to address mistrust and increase vaccinations among Black and Asian communities.

Our push for healthcare access and equity doesn’t stop with COVID-19. As our Global Chief Diversity Officer Carlos Cubia said, “If there is one positive to come out of the pandemic, it’s that people are realizing we can’t go back to ‘normal,’ because ‘normal’ wasn’t working for everyone. We have to make changes, and I’m proud that WBA will be leading the way.”

Beyond Healthcare

We hope that someday soon COVID-19 will be behind us. However, our commitment to serving all people – team members, customers, patients and communities – equitably will continue to be a guiding principle.

Our teams worldwide made moves to support meaningful action, such as the Marketing for Change team, who helped ensure we are intentional in the way we source, develop, test and market products in our retail stores. Through listening sessions and research, our team discovered that our stores were lacking in beauty and hair products for Black women, in particular. As a result, we’ve increased our supplier diversity efforts, launched a wider array of shades in our No7™ beauty brands to match the skin tones of women of color, and have diversified our marketing imagery.

And to ensure that we are hiring and promoting the best and brightest, not just the most familiar, we have implemented a new tool that analyzes the language in job descriptions, so the wording is more inclusive. That, along with requiring diverse candidate slates and diverse interview panels for open roles, have enhanced our ability to reach and attract more diverse talent.

These are just a few of the many initiatives we have launched to ensure that we are living our values and driving sustainable change in every aspect of the way we operate. But we will not stop here. We are expanding our programs, products and services to better meet the needs of our diverse customers, patients, team members and communities. We’re continuing to listen, learn and act to break through any barriers, drive change, and build a truly inclusive workplace, supply chain and marketplace.

Global Strategy, Local Execution

Over the past two years, we sharpened our focus and deepened our investment in DE&I outside of the U.S. We now have a dedicated, senior DE&I professional at every division. From training to sourcing to products and leadership, our approach to DE&I now extends across the globe to all of our people, and all of our customers, patients, communities and suppliers. But, while our DE&I strategy is global, our execution is local.

Global Inclusion Council

Our business leaders are empowered to execute based on local cultures, regulations, and customs; they are emboldened to listen, learn and act. In support of this approach, we introduced our Global Inclusion Council (GIC) made up of leaders from across WBA to advise on DE&I initiatives, share local DE&I experiences and provide regional ambassadorship for DE&I. Together, GIC members help WBA accelerate the pace and adoption of diverse and inclusive practices, and provide guidance to execute against the DE&I plan seamlessly.

*All figures are as of Aug. 31, 2020, excluding equity method investments. Including its equity method investments in U.S. drug wholesaler AmerisourceBergen, Chinese pharmacy chain GuoDa and other companies, WBA employs more than 450,000 people in more than 25 countries.