Caroline Roan of Pfizer is Named the 2022 CSR Professional of the Year by PRNews

Caroline Roan

At the Social Impact Awards ceremony held at the Ritz-Carlton in Arlington, VA on April 20, 2022, PRNews honored Pfizer’s Caroline Roan as their CSR Professional of the Year. The other finalists included Brianna Cayo Cotter (Viacom CBS), Curtis Sparrer (Bospar PR), Jean Henri Lhuillier (PJ Lhuillier, Inc.) and Kendra Fogarty (US Cellular). These runners-up each received Honorable Mentions.

The PRNews Social Impact Awards recognize communicators who use their platforms to “better their community and the global community at large.” Winners “usher in a diverse, equitable future and redefine their organizations’ role in the fight for global change.

Roan’s Mutually-Reinforcing Roles

Caroline Roan is busy. At Pfizer, she performs three complementary (and mutually-reinforcing) roles:

  1. Chief Sustainability Officer
  2. SVP, Global Health & Social Impact
  3. President, The Pfizer Foundation

Roan’s coordinated approach to strategic philanthropy and responsible investment expands access to medicines and strengthens health care delivery for underserved people around the world. During her tenure, Pfizer has refined its corporate responsibility strategy to better align with the company’s evolving business priorities.

In a congratulatory message about the CSR Professional of the Year Award, Pfizer colleague Deb Mangone observed that Caroline Roan “has made a positive impact on countless patients, partners, and colleagues across the world.”

Navigating the Social Contract of a For-Profit Company

At a Power of Purpose Corporate Responsibility Summit, hosted by The Atlantic, Caroline Roan explained the dilemma posed when the mission of a for-profit company overlaps with its social contract: “If you think about the pharmaceutical industry, and Pfizer specifically, our mission from (both) a business perspective AND a social perspective is actually one in the same… We discover, develop, and bring to market medicines and vaccines that hopefully let all of you live longer and healthier lives. Because of that, we have a deep commitment to a social contract… to address health care access issues for our products. But that’s not so easy to do when you look at (the complications of the healthcare industry).”

Roan is not unaware of the reputation issues which challenge for-profit pharmaceutical companies. “Access, pricing, and safety of medicines remain key issues facing the industry and Pfizer,” she says. “When we think of corporate responsibility at Pfizer, we think of it as the ‘How’ in how we do business. Nothing influences our reputation more than how we do business,” which is why corporate responsibility is so central to Pfizer’s reputation and Roan’s mission.

The Pfizer Foundation

As president of The Pfizer Foundation, Caroline Roan leads the charitable organization in its efforts to: expand access to quality healthcare; increase employee volunteerism; and provide assistance in response to humanitarian crises.

Give Forward

The Pfizer Foundation’s employee engagement program is called Give Forward. The incentive program consists of:

  • Community Volunteer Rewards: Employees receive “rewards” for each hour volunteered that they can then donate to any eligible nonprofit organization.
  • Matching Gifts: The Foundation matches donations contributed by Pfizer employees to eligible charities.
  • Disaster Match: In the event of large-scale humanitarian crises, the Foundation matches employee donations dollar-for-dollar to select charities involved in disaster recovery.
  • Skills-Based Volunteering: Pfizer invites its employees to become ‘Global Health Fellows’ and to join ‘Global Health Teams’. As part of this program, Pfizer employees have volunteered approximately 400,000 hours in 51 countries.

Grant Programs

The Pfizer Foundation targets its grants and investments to improve access to healthcare in underserved communities and developing countries.

The Foundation’s Grant Programs include:

  • Global Health Innovation’ Grants: The Pfizer Foundation provides funding to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs in low-income countries to support the development and scale-up of innovative health products and services for underserved individuals.
  • ‘Healthy Families, Healthy Futures’ Grants: The Pfizer Foundation partners with global charities including International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, World Vision, and CARE to provide immunizations and access to family planning services.
  • ‘Access Accelerated’ Grants: The Pfizer Foundation is trying to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by working with partners to improve the capabilities of low-resource primary care settings.

As an example, The Pfizer Foundation awarded a two-year Health Equity Grant to the American Diabetes Association to expand community gardens and provide diabetes-related training to healthcare workers in underserved areas of Montgomery, Alabama and Tampa, Florida.

The Pfizer Foundation’s Accelerating Health Equity Grants program was established in 2020 to support community-based organizations working to improve the health of Black communities across the United States. The program has already awarded $7 million to over 15 community nonprofit partners.

Investing in Building Trust

Roan recognizes the endorsement value of “program partners and organizations that are more trusted in the public’s eye to tell stories of (Pfizer’s) good deeds.”

Caroline Roan visits with students

Trust conveyed by corporate social responsibility initiatives can protect a pharmaceutical company’s license to operate as well as lead to market growth opportunities. For instance, as Roan points out: “In emerging markets, if you’ve been there a long time and have been doing the right work with stakeholders and are seen to be helping address the government’s social priorities, it’s more likely that you’re going to have better relationships and more trust. And if people trust you, they are more likely to engage with you in a productive dialogue that can help benefit the business.”

A Harvard Business Review Analytical Report showcased Pfizer’s approach to strategic CSR investments. According to Roan, Pfizer’s “philanthropic activities (in developing countries) align very directly, in the broadest sense, with building a viable market—not for our products per se, but for quality healthcare, so that patients everywhere can access quality healthcare. That’s good for our business, and most importantly, it’s good for patients. It’s easy for (Pfizer) to justify these investments because in order to do our business we’ve got to have a healthcare delivery system that is functional and meeting the needs of all patients.’

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Michael Organ
Michael Organhttps://CSR.org
Michael Organ is the Editor of CSR.org and CauseMarketing.com. He is also the host of the Meaningful Impact podcast. Listen to new episodes at MeaningfulImpact.com

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