Crisis Management and Ethics Best Practices: Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is a model of effective crisis communication, demonstrating transparency and a firm commitment to consumer protection and sustainability

Posted by Joe Gerard in Ethics, Ethics & Compliance on April 15th, 2010

A long history of recognition and awards has positioned Johnson & Johnson as a brand that represents commitment to transparency and consumer protection. It was ranked #2 on the Barron’s World’s Most Respected Companies list, a survey ranking the world’s largest companies on strength of management, business strategy, ethical  practices, competitive edge, shareholder orientation and consistent revenue/profit growth. Working Mother Magazine included Johnson & Johnson in its list of the “2010 Best Green Companies for Children.” Johnson & Johnson was recognized as a leader in addressing climate change challenges and for its philanthropy and sustainability.

Johnson & Johnson appears on these lists, and many others, every year. This year it holds position #29 on the Fortune 500 list, ranking America’s largest companies, as well as securing a place just shy of the top 100 on the Fortune Global 500 rankings- J&J is #103.

Crisis Management

Johnson & Johnson understands its responsibility to provide safe products to its consumers.
With the Johnson & Johnson brand consistently occupying spots on lists like the ones above, other companies can learn a lot from its actions. More than 60 years ago, Johnson & Johnson published “Our Credo“, as a way to communicate the mission, vision and accountability that the company represents for a variety of groups- doctors, nurses, patients, families, employees, local and international communities and company stockholders.

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Johnson & Johnson also makes a statement about how workplace diversity and inclusion helps the company to achieve all of its goals and visions laid out in “Our Credo”. As a key player in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, Johnson & Johnson understands its responsibility to provide safe products to its consumers.

Johnson & Johnson has always been ahead of the CSR and ethics trend, beginning with the efforts taken when faced with a massive Tylenol recall in the early 80’s. The transparency and crisis response that is consistently shown at Johnson & Johnson has established the company as one to learn from and emulate. In the LA Times article “Toyota, What’s So Hard About Doing the Right Thing?”, David Lazarus says that Toyota could learn a lesson in crisis management from the Johnson & Johnson team and writes:

“The gold standard for corporate crisis management remains Johnson & Johnson’s response to the Tylenol scare in 1982. Seven people were killed after some loony placed cyanide-laced capsules in packages on store shelves. Although the deaths were limited to the Chicago area, J&J immediately recalled all Tylenol nationwide — 31 million bottles — at a cost of about $100 million. The company also launched a public-awareness campaign to protect consumers.”

Ethics and Transparency

Johnson & Johnson addresses issues from medical ingredients in products to environmental sustainability to full disclosure of payments made to healthcare professionals and to the use of animals in product testing. An excerpt from their Ethical Code of Conduct demonstrates this:

  • It’s our responsibility to ensure all Company-based, medically relevant product information is fair and balanced, accurate and comprehensive, to enable well-informed risk-benefit assessments about our products.
  • It’s our responsibility to understand differences in values across cultures and to adapt our behaviors in keeping with our ethical principles.
  • It’s our responsibility to challenge each other regarding medical and ethical concerns.

Johnson & Johnson addresses the fact that not all of the necessary information can be gathered from tests conducted through computer simulation and test tube methods of research. Therefore, in order to ensure product safety and identify the side effects, Johnson & Johnson resorts to animal testing only when necessary. The company has also strongly supported nonprofit organizations involved in advancing alternatives to animal research and was one of the first corporations to put in place the “3 Rs” principle of animal use: replacement (of animals used), refinement and reduction (in the numbers of animals used).

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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