In 1943, Johnson & Johnson Chairman Robert Wood Johnson established a credo of four core values to guide the company’s corporate responsibility mainly in its home community in New Jersey.
Now more than seven decades later, as Johnson & Johnson has evolved into a corporate giant with operations all over the world, the company is still following that credo, said Laura Angelini, North American president for the company’s Jacksonville-based contact lens subsidiary, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc.
“It’s really amazing that it has not changed since then,” Angelini said Tuesday in a presentation to the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville at the Downtown River Club.
“We all adhere to the four basic values of how business should be done,” she said.
The four values are to serve the customers, employees, community and the stockholders.
Angelini’s talk focused on corporate responsibility to the community and Frank Barker, retired group chairman of Johnson & Johnson, said the company spent $1 billion globally on community projects last year.
“It’s as important as any of the other tenants of our credo,” he said.
Besides charitable donations, the Vision Care unit’s community support includes educational programs such as internships for high school students.
“We have made a huge commitment” to education, Angelini said.
She also said understanding diversity is an important part of Johnson & Johnson’s credo, and that should be reflected in the work force.
“The beauty of the United States is that you have a lot of diversity embedded in your workforce,” said Angelini, a native of Italy who came to Jacksonville two years ago to take the Vision Care job.
“I think I bring a different perspective to my team,” she said.
Besides her position, Angelini said Vision Care has a Bolivian in charge of operations in Asia, an American in charge in Japan and a South African at the top in Europe.
“I think it’s important you represent the diversity of your customer base,” she said.
Angelini said a person should “respect and defend your personality and uniqueness” but “be open to the diversity of others.”
Although Vision Care is not an independent business and is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, it’s one of Jacksonville’s largest companies and one that reaches the entire globe.
“We are a good business within Johnson & Johnson,” Angelini said.
“We really serve 52 countries all over the world from Jacksonville,” she said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”
Angelini told the story of the business’ history, which was started by an optometrist named Seymour Marco who had an idea to make disposable contact lenses, as opposed to using the same pair of contact lenses all the time.
“This idea was brilliant,” Angelini said.
“A good business idea can come from anywhere. You will never know where it goes,” she said.
Johnson & Johnson bought Marco’s Jacksonville company, Frontier Contact Lenses Inc., in 1981 with the intent of turning his contact lenses into a global brand.
The company now sells its Acuvue contact lenses to 125 million customers around the world, Angelini said.
Vision Care is the market leader in contact lens sales but sales had slipped in the past year, after Johnson & Johnson repriced its products in mid-2014. However, sales are beginning to rebound.
Angelini’s talk to the World Affairs Council came the same day that Johnson & Johnson released its results for the third quarter. Total sales in the Vision Care division fell by 3 percent to $683 million, but the drop was caused by the strong U.S. dollar’s impact on overseas sales.
Excluding the currency impact, Johnson & Johnson said Vision Care sales rose 8.1 percent on an operational basis in the third quarter.
Angelini said after the meeting Tuesday that she could not provide much comment on financial results, but she is optimistic about the sales outlook for Vision Care.
“We started seeing a significant improvement,” she said. “We expect to continue that trajectory.”