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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

CVS Health Sponsored Series

Are Americans Getting Healthier?

CVS Health Offers More Than Just a Local Drugstore


CVS Health's offerings go well beyond the pharmacy counter and make-up aisle. The company also offers healthcare services. These MinuteClinics provide everything from vaccinations to examinations from healthcare practitioners. Call it the one stop shop for all your basic health care needs. Or as Larry Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Health, said in a letter to stakeholders contained in the latest CSR report, “Our company purpose is helping people on their path to better health and serves as the lens through which we make our business decisions.”

“Our purpose also guides us in ensuring that our corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments align with our enterprise growth strategy,” Merlo wrote. “This includes the work we do every day to make quality healthcare more affordable, more accessible, and more sustainable.”
The CSR report, the company’s ninth annual, lays out its three sustainability pillars: health in action, planet in balance and leader in growth. These three pillars shape both its strategy and the report.

Health in Action

MinuteClinics are a big part of CVS’ Health in Action pillar. They are walk-in clinics and, as of the end of 2015, there were over 1,100 of them. In 2015 alone, CVS Health added 85 new MinuteClinics. Billed as the largest provider of retail health care, MinuteClinics provide healthcare services to people and most services are available for less than $100, with over 80 percent covered by insurance. In 2015, there were over five million patient visits to the clinics.

MinuteClinics are a key component of a healthcare services landscape that is growing increasingly complicated and difficult to access. As the report acknowledges, demand for healthcare services “is exploding while, at the same time, [providers] are struggling to keep pace with the demand.” That prompted CVS Health to “consider how MinuteClinic can help fill the gap, beyond our traditional suite of services.” In 2015, the company added care for gastro-intestinal illness, muscular skeletal pain, and headaches. In 2016, it launched women’s health services, which includes contraception counseling and first-trimester wellness checks for pregnant women.

There will be a projected shortage of doctors by 46,000 to 90,000 by 2025, according to a study last year by the Association of American Medical Colleges. CVS Health employs nurses and nurse practitioners to work in its MinuteClinics but doctors supervise them, making good use of available resources in a constrained field. 

In order to meet the needs of rural customers, CVS Health has expanded the reach of its MinuteClinics through what it calls telehealth, which delivers healthcare services using electronic and telecommunications technologies. As the report puts it, “Our goal is to use technology to provide the same convenient, affordable and quality care offered in our MinuteClinic locations to an expanded group of patients." CVS Health conducted about 7,500 telehealth visits in 2015.

When CVS Health decided to expand its healthcare offerings, it needed to reassess its product portfolio on the sales side. While cigarettes are a lucrative product to sell due to their addictive qualities, there is a big disconnect between any company that positions itself as a healthcare provider and also sells tobacco products. In 2014, CVS Health took the step of removing tobacco products, including cigarettes, from its stores. The reason why the company decided to take the step is that the “sale of tobacco was inconsistent with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health,” according to the report. The removal of tobacco products from its stores has had a “measurable and positive impact on health.” A study commissioned by CVS Health and released in September 2015 showed that in states where CVS Pharmacy had a 15 percent or greater share of the retail pharmacy market, there was a one percent reduction in cigarette pack sales. The study also found a four percent increase in nicotine patch purchases in the same states. The study only covered an eight-month period.

Planet in Action

One of the first steps a company needs to take to address its environmental impact is figuring out its energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. CVS Health has done both since 2008 and is taking steps to reduce its GHG emissions. To do so, it is focusing on energy efficiency in stores, distribution centers and office parks. The company has a substantial retail footprint with over 99 million square feet of retail space in 2015 so this is a great area of focus. The energy efficiency measures it has undertaken are paying off. In 2015, CVS Health achieved a 16 percent reduction in carbon intensity, surpassing its 15 percent carbon intensity reduction per square foot of retail space by 2018. It attributes those reductions to lighting efficiency upgrades, reduced demand for heating, and changes in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) electricity emissions factors (eGRID factors). These updated factors showed the electricity usage was less energy-intensive than had previously been thought. 

It makes sense for a company that provides healthcare services to reduce their GHG emissions. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that climate change affects health. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is projected to cause about 250,000 deaths a year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. The direct damage costs to health from climate change are estimated to be $2 to $4 billion a year by 2030. In other words, reducing GHG emissions can result in better health and save money.

Leader in Growth

An important aspect of the third sustainability pillar of CVS Health is its supply chain. The company requires all of its suppliers to comply with its Suppliers Ethics Policy, which covers ethical standards. “In interacting with vendors/suppliers and potential vendors/suppliers, CVS Health is committed to following the highest ethical standards and complying with all applicable laws,” according to the report.

The purpose of the ethical standards is to keep interaction between vendors/suppliers and CVS Health employees above board. They range from permitted business meals and entertainment to payment for services. For example, the Policy states that CVS Health employees can accept “occasional, unsolicited, and reasonable business meals or entertainment from existing or prospective vendors/suppliers” if they meet certain requirements. Those requirements include that the vendor/supplier providing the meal or entertainment meets with the CVS Health employee, the value of the meal or entertainment is “modest as judged by local standards,” and the venue where they meet is “conducive to informational communication and includes or is contiguous to legitimate business discussions.”

It's clear that in CVS Health's 9th report the company has honed in on the material issues facing the company from a sustainability perspective. By including Health in Action in their reporting, the company is able to focus on areas where it has a positive impact on society, in addition to the environmental impact of it's footprint -- an important message.


Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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