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Sanofi US’ Diana Blankman Roberts on Driving Social Change From Within

Originally published on LinkedIn by Diana Blankman Roberts, Sanofi U.S.’ Head of Corporate Social Responsibility. Sanofi U.S. ranked No. 27 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.

 

When I joined Sanofi as Head of US Corporate Social Responsibility in 2019, it was clear we needed to change our Corporate Philanthropy function from one born in the “nice to have” era of corporate social responsibility to one that was a “need to have,” strategically aligned and fully integrated across the business. To be successful, we needed clear focus and a strong sense about where we could make the greatest impact.

Listening and partnership are the key pieces to every aspect of our work at Sanofi and they were equally key to evolving our CSR strategy. We spent nearly a year talking with external communities and stakeholders to identify specific — and perhaps overlooked or underserved — issues. We also wanted our people across all departments to take ownership of the new strategy, so we worked to collaborate at all levels internally to help reach a consensus on our priorities. The process was time-consuming but critical to ensuring people across the organization know they are part of the solution.

The process reinforced many of our beliefs about an effective and enduring CSR strategy and taught us some important lessons. Here are a few top takeaways:

 

Supporting community-driven change is impossible without the employees embedded in those communities

Our partners in the community and in our company make real change possible. Their input helps us identify problems others aren’t addressing and bring the right partners to the table.  We can make good guesses about community needs from headquarters, but unless we’re embedded there, there is a strong chance there are urgent issues we don’t see, holding us back from making a meaningful impact.

That’s why we focus on building bridges between our employees and the communities we serve. We provide employees the critical tools and resources they need to take action.

 

The global pandemic exposed just how “local” we are… and how everyone deserves access to healthcare

Our new CSR strategy was finalized just as COVID-19 took hold. In the early days of the pandemic, COVID-19 was touted as “the great equalizer.” But it quickly became apparent that the pandemic’s impacts were anything but equal. We shifted our approach to listening and partnering into overdrive in response, and have found what we’ve cultivated at a local level to be life-changing for communities in need.

For example, in October 2020 we partnered with the Allergy & Asthma Network to launch the ‘Not One More Life’ Trusted Messengers program to address systemic drivers of health inequities exposed by COVID-19 and improve long-term health outcomes in communities of color.

The program mobilized community and health advocacy leaders to drive engagement, expand healthcare access and accelerate digital innovation to correct disparities that go well beyond the pandemic. Piloted in Atlanta, Trusted Messengers helped to overcome misinformation through expansive multi-channel COVID-19 education, including downloadable educational resources in English and Spanish, virtual live events and webinars, and a telehealth education program.

The evolution of our CSR strategy has helped us focus on Sanofi’s commitment to health equity because everyone deserves equal opportunity to thrive, to be healthy, to be an innovator and to be part of a flourishing community.

 

Innovation begets innovation: fostering the next generation of talent has endless benefits

Diversity of talent and perspectives fuels innovation, and innovation is at the heart of everything we do. Our cross-functional team made it clear from the start that connecting with community partners to address systemic gaps in education is a priority. That is why we collaborate with local organizations to support teachers and students developing STEM skillsets.

We share our expertise with partners through a national youth mentorship program and through educational partners like Discovery™ Education that create engaging learning experiences. We also support students who love and master STEM skills with scholarships and internships.

 

It’s often the ones who provide the support who need our support the most

Sanofi has been a longtime supporter of the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW), an organization that unites frontline public health workers to serve as a link between health services and the community.

We are about to embark on a new effort with NACHW to support critical workforce development efforts that improve access to care, through in-home and community-based services or hospitals, community health centers and other public settings.

At Sanofi, listening has done more than help us learn and gain consensus. It has helped us find meaningful ways to make an impact on communities in need – and we’ve just gotten started! As we continue listening to our stakeholders, partnering with experts and supporting our employees, our programs will evolve and become increasingly effective. I encourage you to review our progress and see where we are focused for the future by viewing our Global Integrated Report and website.

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