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Focusing
on a positive impact

Where the Front Lines of Care Meet the Cocoa Industry

By By Simon Neill and Steve Hauswirth

At the end of 2019, we were each approached by our leadership at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) with a unique opportunity to give back to our community on a broader scale through the J&J Lion Secondment Program. J&J has numerous programs aimed at supporting the communities it operates within. However, this one was particularly unique because it was an opportunity to give back using our professional skills, and turns out that it is fairly competitive to get into! The process began with a series of interviews with a variety of nonprofit organizations (NGOs) much like a job interview. Afterwards, just like a match-making website, applicants were paired with an organization according to their personalities and expertise as well as the goals and objectives of the NGO.

Most of the Traditional Secondment placements embedded our J&J colleagues for 6 months at the host organization to truly immerse themselves in the project and experience the frontlines of care firsthand. Our Lion Secondment was slightly different in that it aimed to recruit senior J&J leaders able to dedicate 20% of their time consulting for a partner NGO remotely, a step ahead of the new reality necessitated by the COVID pandemic which had yet to emerge.

We were two colleagues who've not previously met, connected only by our common employer. Simon, a VP of Legal working across EMEA in Medical Devices, and Steve, a Business Unit Director for Marketing & Sales working in Oncology in Germany. Our mission was to partner with Save the Children, a long term partner of J&J and an international NGO committed to giving children in the U.S. and around the world a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm.. 

Our Mission

For this assignment, we partnered with Save the Children's Child Protection and Partnership Strategy and Innovation teams, who are primarily based in the U.S. The goal was to assist these teams in developing a new strategy for Save the Children to engage with its corporate partners to ensure a clean and non-harmful supply chain in the global cocoa industry. Needless to say neither of us knew much about the cocoa industry but we dug through our pantries to find out exactly where our cocoa comes from.

We quickly realized how many lives Save the Children was improving within the cocoa industry and far beyond. Since their founding over 100 years ago, Save the Children has changed the lives of over 1 billion children. Last year alone, they reached 144 million children in over 100 countries, including 328,000 in the United States. However, over 150 million children are still subjected to hazardous work worldwide. The urgency of our assignment became even more relevant as many millions of children will drop out of school due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on agricultural communities this year.

The assignment began much like any other for those in a corporate project with clearly defined objectives:

  • Develop multi-faceted trends analysis of corporate partnerships that support child labor prevention and remediation in the cocoa supply chain
  • Identify opportunities and recommendations for Save the Children's engagement with corporate partners
  • Strengthen Save the Children's team capacity to understand and respond to corporate priorities related to clean supply chains

Partnering to Redefine a Story of Impact

The reality became much more meaningful as the initial formal calls turned into deep connections with individuals who have an immense passion for the work that they are doing, a desire to learn and to be challenged so they would be more effective in their mission. We spent 6 months diving into the complex and challenging issues surrounding child labor in the cocoa sector, which, unfortunately, we discovered is much more prevalent than you might expect. We helped in refining a story that helps Save the Children connect with corporate partners, helping the Save the Children teams better understand the main drivers for their corporate partners without losing the special aspect of what drives Save the Children in its core purpose. Throughout this process we held countless interviews, brainstorming sessions, slide reviews, and mock pitches and all while the COVID crisis unfolded. We embraced the challenges of Zoom, dogs jumping on screen, bad audio quality, unique camera backgrounds…and laughed loudly with individuals we'd never met in person but formed close professional bonds with.  

It was a chance to truly take a step back from our careers and daily responsibilities and think completely differently. We were able to connect with people working in different countries and different sectors. Our objective was to take time and give back by transferring our skills and expertise to Save the Children. It turned out to be far more of a two-way process as we were equally rewarded with a multitude of new learnings to carry over to our own jobs including:

  • Cultural Agility – the value of working with organizations of different cultures and building cross-cultural awareness
  • Resilience – how to operate in challenging environment and build self-confidence
  • Leadership – ways to improve leadership and coaching skills
  • Innovation – gain new approaches to problem-solving including in new areas outside our usual work specialties

Giving Is Receiving

From our Lion Secondment, we realized that taking the time to give back is an experience that pays itself back 10-fold. Diving into uncharted waters has a way of opening your mind back up and providing a refreshing outlook on your day-to-day routine. It's been incredibly rewarding to see how you can positively impact others and watch them go on to succeed in just a short period of time.

Johnson & Johnson and Save the Children are working side by side throughout the world, building the resilience of children through innovative approaches to health, education and protection, while serving as the leading voice for those who need it the most. Our shared vision is a world where no child dies from preventable causes and every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. We can't wait for the COVID pandemic to end so we may celebrate with our new friends at Save the Children and thank them in person for the amazing work they do on the front lines of care.

 About our Employee Engagement Strategy 'Talent for Good'

Our Talent for Good strategy aims to empower our nearly 140,000 employees from across the globe to grow personally and professionally by applying their time, their skills and their resources to build healthier communities around the world. We are not looking at a specific employee target audience (or pay grade), but aspire and strive to activate all employees within the Company, no matter what level and/or stage they are in their career within J&J. We offer opportunities for all employees, from donating to fully immersive assignments with NGO organizations so that they can play their part in creating positive and meaningful change by sharing and enhancing their skills whilst pursuing their passions.

Find out more by going to Save The Children: savethechildren.org​