What I Learned About Lilly’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Initiative

September 14, 2021
Alexandra Aguirre Mendez
California State University East Bay '22
Alexandra is a business student focusing on Operations and Supply Chain Management at California State University East Bay. She has lived with type one diabetes for over 10 years. Alex understands a supportive medical team and modern treatment is essential for better diabetes management. Hence, her goal is to grow professionally in the diabetes sector. Her goals are to work with companies that develop treatments to make resources more cost-effective and accessible to everyone living with diabetes, especially minority populations. Alex enjoys working out and outdoor activities such as camping, swimming, skiing, biking, and hiking.

My name is Alex and I am a 2021 NextGen Fellow with CDN. I am a student at California State University East Bay pursuing a BA in Business Administration with a focus on Operations and Supply Chain Management. As a person living with T1D for over 10 years, I understand that access to insulin and modern treatments is vital. One of my personal goals is to make resources more cost-effective and accessible to everyone.

“One of my personal goals is to make resources more cost-effective and accessible to everyone.”

My life purpose is deeply linked to Eli Lilly and Company’s (Lilly) Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiative that launched in May 2021. I had the opportunity to interview Jim Greffet, head of the ESG Strategy at Lilly. Jim has worked at Lilly for 21 years. His wife has had T1D for 46 years now and she is the reason why Jim is passionate about his work at Lilly.

I asked Jim to tell me more about Lilly’s Insulin Value Program, which makes most Lilly insulins available in the U.S. for no more than $35 a month. Jim mentioned that Lilly has focused on insulin pricing and accessibility for a long time. The program began at the height of the COVID pandemic, when people started experiencing job loss and other life disruptions that made it difficult to afford insulin. Lilly created a downloadable copay card on their Insulin Affordability Solutions website. Once downloaded, you can bring the card, along with your prescription for Lilly insulin, to the pharmacy and pay only $35 for a one-month supply of insulin – regardless of your insurance status. Lilly realized that there is an ongoing need for this program, so these cards will continue to be available for the immediate future. Lilly has also expanded the program so people who use government insurance, like Medicare, are eligible. The card lasts for one year, but you can download a new card once the year is up so you can continue to access discounted medication.

In my talk with Jim, I emphasized that insulin is a global need and asked him if there are plans to implement similar programs outside the U.S. Jim said that specific needs and circumstances need to be considered at an individual country level first. He told me about a relationship between Lilly and a non-profit organization called Life for a Child that has helped them respond to international insulin access and needs. Lilly partnered with Life for a Child in 2009 and since then, they have helped about 23,000 children with diabetes and plan to expand that impact to 150,000 over the next 10 years. In addition, through the end of last year, Lilly donated almost 2.5 million vials of insulin to those in need.

“In addition, through the end of last year, Lilly donated almost 2.5 million vials of insulin to those in need.”

As a woman who wants to work in the diabetes field, I asked Jim about Lilly’s commitment to advancing women (especially BIPOC) in their workforce. Jim explained that diversity, equity and inclusion are a priority for Lilly. Through our conversation, I learned about several characteristics and programs at Lilly that exist to help promote a more progressive work environment:

  • At the end of last year, women made up half of Lilly’s workforce globally, and nearly half of Lilly’s management team is composed of women.
  • Lilly launched an initiative called Employee Journeys to help Lilly more fully understand the experiences of a particular group of employees — and how those experiences might differ from those of other employees.
  • Lilly has programs designed to remove points of friction and create career development opportunities to help foster a better environment for all employees.
  • Lilly is committed to ensuring pay equity for all employees. For more than 20 years, Lilly has regularly conducted pay equity studies of their workforce in the U.S. and has more recently started conducting studies of their workforce outside of the U.S. While infrequent, pay adjustments have been made as warranted based on these analyses.
  • In order to help support new parents, Lilly offers up to 10 weeks of paid leave to their employees as part of their benefits packages. After taking 10 weeks of paid time off, parents may choose to take an additional 10 weeks of unpaid parenting leave.

I also asked Jim whether Lilly has plans to become more eco-friendly. Jim told me that Lilly wants to be carbon neutral in their own operations by 2030. Their strategy includes the following components:

  • Lilly plans to buy all of their purchased electricity from renewable sources, like wind, solar, or hydropower.
  • Lilly plans to eliminate waste from their operations to landfills and use plastic waste much more thoughtfully to improve their impact on the planet.
  • Recently, Lilly launched their largest solar field at their manufacturing plant located in Ireland.
  • In their cafeterias, Lilly no longer uses any Styrofoam materials.
  • Lilly’s salesforce is using more hybrid vehicles.
  • In order to eliminate wasted water, Lilly is recycling most of the water that they consume in their manufacturing plants.
  • Lilly avoids releasing pharmaceuticals into the environment inappropriately.
  • On the consumer side, Lilly launched a pilot program in Germany last year that enables patients to recycle their used insulin pens.
  • Lilly has replaced cleaning agents for their equipment with products that are more environmentally friendly.

After talking with Jim, I was especially impressed by Lilly’s programs that affect people’s health and their adjustments in processes to become truly eco-friendly. Now, I really want to pursue a career at Lilly to be part of their holistic commitment. I thank Jim, and Lilly, for their openness and transparency in discussing how their ESG Strategy contributes to their people, the rest of society, and our planet.

Editor’s note: Lilly is a Corporate Member of The Diabetes Link.

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