By Joseph Wolk, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Johnson & Johnson, and Alice Lin Fabiano, Global Director of Social Innovation and Investment, Johnson & Johnson
If there’s one notion that has become even more clear over the past 20 months, it’s that good health can’t wait, and during this time of uncertainty, we’ve never been surer of the need for further innovation in healthcare.
At Johnson & Johnson, we leverage Our Credo as our guide, helping us serve all our stakeholders, including the parents and families who depend on our lifesaving medicines and the communities hardest hit during times of crisis. It’s these values that led to the expansion of Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures (J&J Impact Ventures), which is putting $50 million from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation toward supporting entrepreneurs who are focused on making an impact in healthcare around the world, aligning with our missions of both supporting frontline health workers and driving greater health equity around the world.
At J&J Impact Ventures, we know that our capital alone will not be enough to address some of the most complex challenges facing the globe at large—it will require a herculean effort from leaders, companies, and investors everywhere. Today, too few are prioritizing health as part of social investment strategies: of the $715 billion global impact investing market, only 7% of those investments go toward health.
Aiming to unpack the “why” behind this reality and begin to problem-solve, J&J Impact Ventures recently brought together some of the most influential leaders in the health investment space for a roundtable discussion with the Aspen Institute, where we posed two specific questions:
- How do we make public health a high and sustained priority within the broader impact investing world?
- Collectively, what actions can be taken right now in the impact investing community to address myriad health issues, including social and racial inequities?
What followed was a wide-ranging conversation where we identified some of the most notable challenges in health investing around the world, finding some key areas where our organizations can help lead the charge, both individually and collectively, to maximize our efforts.
As it stands, we see the need to:
- Redefine the narrative around health impact investing. Helping fellow investors as well as agenda drivers better understand and align on what health impact investing is, the need, and the reward. We need to wrestle with how we can drive greater investment in health when the sector is not always seen as a place for private or corporate investment (and, rather, is seen as a public good).
- Help shape the markets of the future to build more inclusive and sustainable healthcare. This means supporting innovations that both focus on reaching people who don’t have adequate access to quality services and that proactively aim to reduce ripple effects that would negatively impact other areas of life.
- Build the leadership base, including corporations, to help make a difference. From our conversation, it was clear that there is an appetite for companies—especially those engaged in healthcare—to help define the path forward.
- Continue to take risks and invest in earlier stage concepts, while encouraging other stakeholders to do the same. Given its complexity, health is an inherently risky venture that requires more patient capital and sustained commitment throughout the innovation life cycle to bring new innovations to those who need them most. It may take longer for a health solution, with its life-or-death stakes, to be refined before going to market, in turn, making for slower financial returns. But with the right support, the reward can be great for both the investor and community it serves.
- Focus in on the most pressing health challenges facing communities around the world and identifying the right entrepreneur-led solutions.
Through J&J Impact Ventures, we are invested in making a difference across the health landscape. Our imperative is clear in this moment, and this is only the beginning. We look forward to not only continuing these discussions, but also advancing the ecosystem to advance investing in health for those who are currently overlooked or impacted by a system that doesn’t work for them.
J&J Impact Ventures’ approach to partnering with impact entrepreneurs is an effective business strategy for both doing well fiscally and ensuring good health for all. Smart investments in inclusive innovation at the front lines of care can help improve the lives of billions of people around the world, and we encourage others to take up the charge, too. Together, we can bring better health to everyone, everywhere.
Joseph J. Wolk (Joe) is the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Johnson & Johnson. Joe serves as a member of the company’s Executive Committee, plays a strategic role in the overall management of the organization and leads the development and execution of the business’ global long-term financial strategy. Additionally, as a financial steward of Johnson & Johnson, Joe’s scope of responsibilities include driving competitive and profitable growth, generating sustainable cash flow, allocating capital to maximize value creation and managing risk across the entire enterprise.
Alice Lin Fabiano leads Johnson & Johnson’s social innovation and investment strategy to foster a healthy, vibrant innovation ecosystem. Her team partners with technologists, entrepreneurs, social venture investors, thought leaders and communities in the discovery and nurturing of ideas addressing issues that are disproportionately impacting people in low-resource settings.
The views and opinions of the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Aspen Institute.