Michael Bzdak: The Power of Using Talent for Good

By Michael Bzdak, Executive Director, Global Community Impact, Johnson & Johnson 

When considering the ways in which the private sector can advance global health and development and improve our world, a few obvious options come to mind. Funding is usually high on the list, as is research and development, but other interventions are in demand. Business acumen, supply chain knowledge and monitoring and evaluation expertise are among the competencies that nonprofits are seeking from the private sector to make a stronger and more sustainable impact.

 

As most companies know, however, one of the most precious resources any organization has is its people. And their talents and altruism are important tools to leverage when seeking to make progress toward any philanthropic platform.

 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a perfect case in point. On the surface, the goals seemed overwhelming. Critics charged that there were too many goals, and that they were too broad to be achievable. But once understood, it became clear there are manageable sub-targets that provide a path forward. From a Johnson & Johnson perspective, our employees will play an increasing role in meeting the targets in our own commitment to the SDGs, and making a difference on the front lines of care.

 

Building the global health work force 

Valeria Del Canto is on a six-month J&J Secondment, building the capacity of the North Star Alliance (North Star) in Kenya. North Star, a Flagship Partner of our Global Community Impact Team in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, connects hard-to-reach mobile populations – such as truck drivers and sex workers – with primary health care services, HIV testing and health education in 10 countries across Africa through their Blue Box Roadside Wellness Centers. In March, Valeria temporarily transitioned from her management role in external manufacturing for Johnson & Johnson in Zug, Switzerland, to lead North Star’s laboratory development efforts in Kenya. North Star has been hosting J&J Secondees in EMEA since 2014.

 

 

Addressing Global Disease Challenges

When Zika started to spread across Brazil late last year, Johnson & Johnson medical teams partnered with Brazilian health authorities to identify how best to mobilize and combine our resources with those of local collaborators to help stem the outbreak at the source. In partnership with public and private entities, Johnson & Johnson is implementing a program to help train public healthcare professionals, nurses and physicians to care for women who are pregnant and at risk of delivering babies with microcephaly as a result of becoming infected with Zika. The goal is to train 1,650 healthcare workers in six priority regions with the highest concentration of infections: Recife, Salvador, Cuiaba, Araguaina and Campina Grande.

 

Improving access to surgery

According to data from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 5 billion people—particularly in low-income and lower-middle-income countries — lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care. Cleft lips and cleft palates, birth defects in which a piece of the lip or palate (the soft tissue at the top of the mouth) are missing, is an area where safe surgery is particularly needed – especially in remote parts of the world like the highlands of Guatemala. Reinhard Juraschek, Associate Director of Research & Development, Ethicon, has taken advantage of the Extended Volunteer Leave Policy and boarded a plane bound for the Guatemalan highlands every February for the past six years. In a small town with little access to healthcare, he joins the Rotary International’s Iowa MOST (Miles of Smiles) team, which performs cleft lip and palate surgeries on children.

 

In each case, employees who have participated in volunteer or secondment programs have reported that the opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in settings other than their everyday place of work gave them a great deal of satisfaction. In turn, the nonprofits they’ve served have reported their appreciation for the opportunity to work alongside and benefit from the talent of our employees.

 

We are also encouraged by the advent of IMPACT 2030, a global, private sector-led collaboration to mobilize employee volunteers in support of the SDGs, which Johnson & Johnson joined this year. This ambitious agenda includes the development of open-source measurement frameworks, benchmarks and reports on how volunteer efforts impact the SDGs. According to their charter, “IMPACT 2030 was created in response to UN Resolution A/RES/66/67 that encouraged further engagement with the private sector ‘through the expansion of corporate volunteering and employee volunteer activities’.”

 

As the practice of HR becomes more closely aligned to CSR in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development, there are tremendous opportunities for private sector employees to accelerate progress toward the Global Goals. A smart, skilled, dedicated employee base has the power to create a ripple effect that can achieve key targets within the SDGs, meet a company’s philanthropic goals, and leave a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the wider world. When considering the contributions private sector entities can make in achieving the SDGs, the talent and passion of employees must not be overlooked.  

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