CVS Takes CSR to the Next Level

Last week, CVS Caremark redefined the meaning of “corporate social responsibility”. As the largest pharmacy healthcare provider in the United States, they announced that they would stop selling cigarettes and all tobacco products later this year in an effort to make it easier for customers to lead tobacco-free lives. Eileen Howard Boone, SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy, submitted the following post to CSRwire Talkback about the decision. What do you think? Socially responsible, or simply P.R.?

Originally posted on CSRwire on February 5, 2014.

CVS-quits-for-good

Today, CVS Caremark announced that we will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at our more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores, by October 1, 2014. I am proud that CVS/pharmacy is the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of our patients, customers and colleagues.

As a health care provider, our purpose is helping people on their path to better health and put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with this purpose. It is also the right thing to do for our customers and the communities we serve – and we are committed to making it easier for them to make healthy choices and that includes helping them to live tobacco-free lives.

Now more than ever, pharmacies are on the front lines of health care, becoming more involved in chronic disease management. All of these conditions are made worse by smoking which is the leading cause of illness and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths annually.

When we asked ourselves where we expect to be in the future as a health care company, it became clear that removing tobacco products is the right thing to do. Eliminating tobacco products from our stores also aligns us more closely with our health care partners who, like us, are looking to deliver better health outcomes while reducing health care costs.

To that end, this spring, CVS Caremark will launch a robust smoking cessation program with the goal of helping millions of Americans quit smoking through resources in our CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations and online. This will also help offset the estimated loss of 17 cents in earnings per share of stock annually, as reported by the same NYT article.

This decision also supports our continued philanthropic focus and commitment to community health. We have made significant investments in charitable organizations that provide access to quality health care and help people achieve their best health. Through our Foundation, the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust, we are fortunate to partner with two of the country’s largest community health organizations – the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics and the National Association of Community Health Centers.

They work hard every day to provide much-needed access to health care for underserved populations, many of whom are struggling to prevent and manage chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, and all of these conditions are exacerbated by smoking.

We also recently launched a partnership with the School-Based Health Alliance – committed to providing quality health services to school-aged children. It is startling that about 80 percent of smokers start as kids – while you read this, three American kids will smoke their first cigarettes.

We believe our decision to stop selling tobacco products in our stores will help to further reduce the social acceptability of tobacco use and inspire other retailers to follow our lead.

I’m excited for the journey ahead and hope that people across the country will rally around this decision and be inspired to make healthy choices and help others to do the same.

Banner picture courtesy of meddygarnet

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