Innovative ESG for a Healthier Planet with Lori Hunt

October 25, 2022

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Lori Hunt has been at Amgen for 19 years.  After 9 years in Global Regulatory and Safety, she moved into the newly formed Amgen Transformation Office designed to drive and deliver business transformation across the enterprise.  In that role, Lori led several large cross-functional initiatives and provided training to hundreds of Amgen staff on managing change and building resilience.  In 2021, Lori brought her leadership and transformation skills to Amgen’s Environmental Social Governance work.  Together with a team of ESG experts, Lori has evolved the program to increase scope and transparency and further embed into Amgen’s culture, strategy and decision making.   

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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. This is a very special edition. We’ve got Lori Hunt with us. She’s the Executive Director of Environmental Social Governments at Amgen. Welcome to the Impact Podcast, Lori.

Lori Hunt: Thank you very much, John. I’m excited to be here.

John: Well, you hold a very important role in Amgen. And Amgen’s very big company with a very big footprint, that makes really moves the needle when they make big decisions like this, to go all in with ESG and other sustainability like-minded program. But before we get talking about great and important work, you’re doing there. Let’s talk a little bit about Lori Hunt. Where did you grow up and how did you even get here, Lori?

Lori: Okay, well it’s a real privilege to have to work at a great company like Amgen, where our mission is to serve patients, and doubly great to have a role in ESG, where I get to help execute and communicate about all the awesome, amazing work Amgen does.

John: Yeah.

Lori: And that’s a tremendous honor. So, how did I get here? My journey to ESG is probably less traditional than most and decidedly opportunistic and fortuitous. I was in healthcare delivery before Amgen and decided to get my Executive MBA, while I was still working.

John: Okay.

Lori: And in that program, I was on a team with an Amgen employee and she asked me before the program ended to come and work for her. So that was 19 years ago. And I only interviewed that first role after that, I sort of just went with a company needed me. And for the first 9 years that was roles in regulatory and safety, which gave me a great overview of biotechnology. And really helping me to understand the industry and then Amgen made a decision corporately to start a corporate wide business transformation project, and they created an internal group that was of the employees and I ended up being asked to join that, and we, they trained us on a methodology for transformation and change management. And I thought that was also a tremendous opportunity, something I really loved and so I did business transformation for the company for almost 9 years again.

John: Wow.

Lori: Another 9 years. And the part of my client group was actually Corporate Affairs, which is where our corporate responsibility was run out of. So, I’ve been working with them on and off for a few years and I thought I’d retire doing transformation work, honestly. It was so, it was fun and rewarding but my boss and I have had Career Development discussions regularly and I told her after Amgen, I did, I really didn’t know that there was an actual for me. After Amgen, I was thinking I’d go into non-profit and sort of give back, because of what a great company Amgen has been to me and how lucky I felt to end up there. You know, you have to remember we. It’s a suburban community, safe schools, no traffic. I’m six miles from work. How do you find that? Anywhere else in California.

John: That’s like the dream, you’re living easily.

Lori: I used to tell. I know.

John: [laughs]

Lori: And so I always thought I’d leave and then when the company decided to create, to really take CSR and turn it into ESG, they knew they needed a more formal program and she remembered my boss remembered, my interest in non-profit work. And some of the work I’d already done with corporate responsibility and the CEO staff decided they were going to ask me to lead the program, so it was more than just my interest, obviously. They wanted me to bring the transformation tools in the change management methodology to the team and they knew they already had a couple of really deep experts that were in there. So, I didn’t need to be an expert to start. I had that and so now the team and I are working together, it’s been a huge learning journey for me but it’s ignited my passion for ESG. And meanwhile the team and I have expanded the scope and really change the way we talk about.

John: And when was that transition? When did you become the Executive Director of ESG at Amgen?

Lori: March of 2001. So 18 months ago.

John: March of 2021.

Lori: Sorry. 2021.

John: Right. Okay.

Lori: Yeah.

John: Okay. Just want to make sure I have the math right. Great. So, that’s it. Okay. That’s okay. So let’s step back for sure. Our listeners and viewers, first of all, to find Lori and our great colleagues at Amgen you could go to Amgen, How big is Amgen, over how many employees, over how many countries, just tee this up and give our listeners and viewers some scope.

Lori: Okay, so we are 24,000 employees roughly.

John: Yup.

Lori: We operate in 100 countries but we only have physical presence in the 75.

John: Got it. No, that’s quite large, you know. That’s a big mountain to climb. So, Lori when you join the Amgen and when I got involved actually in the. Let’s just say the sustainability field. ESG wasn’t part of our vernacular lexicon didn’t exist that acronym. It seems as though ESG now is undeniably here to stay an unstoppable trend that is going to take us from a linear to circular economy. Is that how you see the world as well?

Lori: Yeah. I mean, I got the same thing and you’re going to hear some of my research because [crosstalk] what I’ve found is that the whole concept of ESG is not new. It’s just the jargon.

John: Right.

Lori: It’s the point that is probably changed corporate responsibility has been an important feature in history since antiquity and social purpose was defining trait, even then, there’s been a push-pull relationship with social purpose throughout history, with government’s mandating, or, controlling errant behavior when it occurred. However, corporate responsibility in the recent decades was much more decent reactive to mission. Some of it more about public relations and branding. Where’s the modern ESG that we’re seeing now is integrated with business purpose and inextricably linked to the operations business. So I think the recent momentum that you’ve seen in the ESG has been driven by three factors, sort of some key world events, which I’ll go into, public demand, and then the fact that it’s ESG’s good business. And so, you know, I mean, the public events aren’t going to surprise you that I think have drawn it and that’s the 2015, Paris Climate Accord that gave ESG a shot in the arm.

John: Right.

Lori: You know, because legislators started putting requirements on investors who started putting requirements on companies and, then you had COVID and the death of George Floyd, and those brought out all the key social aspects and made them the prominence the clear implications and global visibility to various types of inequality.

John: Right.

Lori: Then on the public demand side, it’s interesting because I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but there’s a company called Edelman. Who does the Edelman Trust Barometer annually. In 2021, Edelman Trust Barometer showed, for the first time the public trusted corporations more than any other entity and with that trust comes expectations and demands and it seems that the public believes that governments haven’t been able to solve problems. So they’re turning to corporations to do it. And then we’ve got the constant media barrage of catastrophe, which is made people anxious to support any company doing the right thing, and punish those who are doing the wrong things. Along with that, you’ve got employees, which we every company will tell you. They’re really making demands now. And they can set expectations and employees want to work for companies that are doing the right things and that have a social purpose and that’s driving business everywhere. So, I think those are really the key public demand pieces.

John: I agree with you.

Lori: And then you.

John: I see it your way, but I want to just go into. And although, I see exactly the way you do and I’m so thrilled that someone with your vision is leading Amgen in this very important part of the of our future. What is that recent, quiet behind the scenes, even a little bit in front of the scenes drumbeat been recently with some states divesting themselves of funds that are supporting ESG, good ESG behavior now, their state pension funds, and other type of behavior like that. Why a backwash in ESG? I could see backlashes and other things. But I don’t, I haven’t met a person in any economic strata in society, or any race, or ethnicity or, any political affiliation, that doesn’t want their kids and their grandkids to breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water, and have more equity in this world. I don’t understand. Why this backlash?

Lori: Yeah. It’s a great question. And I think the best example, I can give you is, since I started in this role.

John: Yeah.

Lori: My brother has been sending me articles at least once a week. Is it a written to oppose or discredit ESG. Its kind of typical older brother, harassment.

John: Right, right.

Lori: But I’m glad he does, because I really believe that to make a cogent argument, you have to understand both sides of the issue.

John: Hundred percent. Yeah, you’re right.

Lori: So my takeaway, rightly or wrongly. My opinion only, is that there are two things irritating, a segment of stakeholders. And they are noisy. But I think they’re small. So one is, when companies way and really loudly on controversial political topics. They aren’t clearly tied to their mission and that’s a little risky. The other, the other thing is that I think there’s actually, especially recently that a mischaracterization about what ESG is supposed to do. So there’s a belief that if a business isn’t by Nature ESG positive, then it shouldn’t be able to have a good ESG score.

But I don’t think that makes sense because the purpose of ESG is to assess the company’s operations for risk and it wants companies to be transparent about their issues and address how they intend to improve them. If a business is legal but unpopular. Let’s take the example of oil producers. It’s still important to know that they’re improving safety for their employees and reducing their carbon footprint and improving safety of their ships to prevent leaks. I think ESG is [inaudible]

John: And have more board diversity and have more exclusivity and other great things that we can do. Right. Got you, make sense.

Lori: So, ESG just evaluates business operations. I think, it’s up to the public to vote with their pocketbooks and their feet. If they don’t like the businesses purpose.

John: That’s so interesting. Some to take me, I’m in the unique position where over the last 15 years, I’ve had about 17,000 or so, wonderful leaders like you come on this show. So some of the common themes that I get learn about is, where you start and where you are, but also where a company started from a Genesis perspective, from culture, and a DNA perspective. So where was Amgen from a cultural and DNA perspective before you took this very important role. So when you started, what did it look like when you started in this role and how have you evolve that culture to create inside champions or ambassadors. To keep this movement and to spread the word since you’re in 100 countries, 75 physically with 24,000 employees. It’s much more than one person can do themselves, obviously.

Lori: Yeah. A lot more than to ourselves.

John: [laughter]

Lori: So let me start with where it was when I started.

John: Right.

Lori: In 1991, they created the Amgen foundation. And that was really our first foray into that corporate responsibility place. And the Amgen Foundation is focused on creating the scientists of the future, we have four educational programs, for students and they run the gamut of contributing to Khan Academy, to online lab exchange, with in training scholars, both in college and high school. And those programs are so mature at this point. Last year alone, we had 27,000 students access. I mean, 27 million, sorry.

John: Wow.

Lori: 27 million students access our content. So, that’s a very exciting program. But the next thing wasn’t until the early 2000s that we started our environmental sustainability team. And at the beginning, it was much more of a grassroots effort and then it grew. And now, it’s of course, it’s probably our most mature element of the eighth. When I joined some time in those two decades between.

I don’t have a lot of good data on it, but we adopted five other elements, because we have seven elements when I joined and they were, business ethics, DINB, responsible sourcing, ethical research, and I am absolutely sure there’s another one. But here’s the problem. So this is what I’m going to tell you as I came in. When I first joined, there were these Seven Elements and they were all great and doing incredible work, but I would get stopped in the hallway and asked tell me about ESG and I could never recall The Seven Elements. So I kept thinking to myself it was like someone asking me about Snow White’s dwarves or Santa’s 12 reindeer. I just couldn’t remember it.

John: Right?

Lori: And so, one of the first things, my team did plus even when I did people don’t know offhand, what ethical research means. So why do I tell you anything? So, one of the first things, my team did is we worked on finding a way that was more aligned to our mission to communicate, what ESG is and we came up with what we call the four health things. Healthy people, healthy society, healthy planet and a healthy Amgen. And the work is still done in those elements that I described because those are the teams in our business that do the work.

But instead of talking about them is their individual elements. We roll them up into these four pillars that are much easier to communicate. And the progress we’ve made with our staff, in having them be able to articulate program and understand what it means to them and to the world is huge. So I think that was one of our first big wins and it was simply, because my memory is not good enough to remember Seven Elements.

John: [laughter] Who can. First of all, I think it, but it’s brilliant, really what your team did was they simplified it and made it made it gettable by everybody. Which is so smart, because then all of a sudden, you have 24,000 evangelist and ambassadors working with you. Moving the needle here.

Lori: That’s right.

John: Yeah, That’s great. Wait a second, so you started. So that’s. So really, let’s go back in 91, that was an educational structure that Amgen created which has now paid massive dividends now that it’s 31 years old or so. With 21 million, 27 million people accessing it and then you started getting involved with sustainability in the early 2000s, which was in the in the United States. A very, very early adoption, comparatively speaking. So really, it’s been really a great part of Amgen’s culture and DNA for quite a long time now. This is not just knew, you didn’t just take the role and start from scratch. It was a lot of substance to work with and start with.

Lori: No. That’s right. And I honestly, I think it’s important, I not take credit for how ingrained ESG is in the culture of Amgen when you start with the mission to serve patients. And I know that all of our peers have missions that are similar. But I’m telling you people really breathing, like people join Amgen because they want to take care of patients, because the disease’s we serve are grievance. This isn’t, you know, this isn’t, never mind.

John: Right.

Lori: You know, we’re treating really serious illness and people stay because we are such a purpose-driven company.

John: Right, right. Talk a little bit about now, you said, where you started and where you are. Talk about your operations, how have you now, integrated ESG into the operations, and how is that evolution been?

Lori: Okay. So, It’s probably when I joined you have The Seven Elements and one of the things we realized was that was still really focused on the corporate responsibility side because ESG covers so much more. So we added a variety of topics that we cover like cyber security, and product quality, and product safety and, human capital management. Which are previously were so ingrained into the culture of our company, in the way we work that nobody had ever considered them as items that might fall under ESG or be have disclosure requirements. So, that was a big part of our first year, to was adopting, those new places. So then if I gave you the example of how it’s ingrained. I want to come back to cyber-security.

John: Yeah. Me too.

Lori: [laughter] I know, that’s a favorite of yours.

John: Yes. It is.

Lori: So protecting personal information that’s been entrusted to us is extremely important.

John: That’s right.

Lori: But we don’t stop there Amgen created a global community of employees security advocates called Sentinels. And this program is one of the largest of its kind in the private sector with over 800 employee participants, representing 34 countries in every function within the company. So this has the benefit of making information security, everyone’s job and we’re all aware of how important it is.

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John: Right. Got it.

Lori: And let you come inside the studio, I can give you another example, which would you prefer?

John: Well, I want to hear more a little bit about your cyber-security six list. This is great. This is awesome.

Lori: The other example, we have is. Do you know manufacturing drugs for patients?

John: Yeah.

Lori: You know. We have to focus on cost-effectiveness. But it never comes at the cost of quality. So Amgen builds in quality beginning with the design of the medicine, all the way through to the development, manufacturing distribution to patients and we include more than 250 quality checks, and perform an in-depth analysis of our manufacturing performance to continuously improve it for every product.

John: Wow.

Lori: A few examples of how it’s ingrained deeply into our operations.

John: Yeah. Great examples and for those listeners and viewers who just joined us this we have Lori Hunt with us today. She’s the Executive Director ESG at Amgen to find Lori and her wonderful colleagues you can go to Lori, 75 countries you have physical facilities. A 100 companies are in, you got 24,000 employees. ESG means a lot, can be taken widely ordinarily. How do you assess the geography that you’re in and continue to move the the mission forward while assessing all the exterior geographies that you’re dealing with, not just the United States, being a Director of ESG for a company, that’s just located in the United States is one challenge unto itself. You are now head of ESG at Amgen, which is a multinational corporation. How does that juggling act work for you?

Lori: So, it doesn’t feel like too much of a juggling act, honestly. And maybe the way we’re structured, because what my team’s job is to report the global ESG’s information.

John: Okay.

Lori: So you know whether that’s environmental information or DINB information, whatever it is, but each of our country offices, a lot of them have also started local reporting. So some of them because they want to, and some of them because it’s becoming required, like in Europe.

John: Right.

Lori: And so the bigger challenge that I’m having isn’t so much the juggling trying to figure out, you know, where to worry about geographies. But instead, I need to make sure our messages and our data all rules up to the same numbers. And you know, there’s someone out there with way too much time on their hands who’s going to calculate it up if I’m not careful. So I have to be on top of the way every country does its own public reporting or statements about our ESG work and that’s been the challenge and trying to sort of wrangle all of that.

John: Well speaking about then that rolls perfectly into my next question. How did you decide to track your ESG progress and then report on it? Because I’ve read a lot of impact for ESG or CSR reports that called different things for different organizations. And that could also be a very different landscape in terms of progress, tracking the progress, and reporting on it. How did you choose the algorithms that work for Amgen?

Lori: Yeah, so we do an annual stakeholder assessment, where we ask our employees, we asked investors, we do social listening to hear what all of our stakeholders universally feel is important for us to be paying attention to. There’s also rating agencies who are happy to tell me what they think is important. And we do take that, we take that feedback as well.

John: Okay.

Lori: But, you know, we balance it out with the rest of it and based on that, we scoped our program each year and it doesn’t get smaller but it does get bigger, when we add new things. It’s not that we’re doing something different. It’s that we’re now talking about something different [crosstalk]. I mean, there are occasions where we’ve started something new, but not tremendously often, as I said, this companies operates without me at a very high level of ESG effectiveness. It’s my job to communicate that. So that’s what I try to do. And I based it a lot of it off of stakeholder assessment.

John: How often do you benchmark? What you’re doing at Amgen and what your Amgen colleagues doing against in dissimilar industry, you know, reports and then also different industry reports.

Lori: So, I would. My staff would probably tell you. We do it constantly, it feels like that certainly it’s one of the services my team provides to the company so it’s rarely that we do the entire program at one time, but we picked element by element or topic by topic and we will go benchmark against our peers. I have all of their URLs right there on my quick list.

John: Right, right.

Lori: It’s non-industry peers. We Benchmark most commonly when we are looking to do something, none of our peers have done. So the example, I would give you a cyber-security, when we decided we wanted to add that none of our peers in it. It’s not that they don’t mention it, they just don’t dig into it, and they don’t have a ton of information. I had to go outside of our industry and look at industries that we’re doing a much deeper dive into their cyber-security, so that I could get an idea of what, you know, is good from a transparency perspective.

John: It makes total sense. Where we stand today as we go into the fourth quarter of 2020. Talk a little bit about yourself personally. Hopeful about where we’re headed as a world, as an environment, as climate change, climate risk, and where we’re headed, or give me some of your thoughts on where things are going.

Lori: Well, you promised me no hard questions.

John: [laughter] I lied.

Lori: I would say that I am personally pretty helpful.

John: Yeah.

Lori: I worry that were, you know, in a pretty divided universe right now. But if the way that my colleagues at Amgen, you know, just get through it and do their work and continue to focus on the right things to do for patients and discovering new drugs and making sure that we’re improving access. If I base my theories on that, then I’m pretty positive.

John: Got it. You’ve been in this role for at least 18, or 19 months or so. What is the next two or three years now that we’re starting, think gosh, coming out of COVID. What is the next two or three years look like for you in terms of driving the mission forward?

Lori: Well, are we have several goals that are very important to us, you know, under our Healthy Planet Killer, for example, we have announced for road to NetZero and that is all of our metrics are based on a 2019 baseline, but it’s our goal to achieve carbon neutrality for Amgen owned an operated facilities and operations reduce water consumption by 40%, and reduce waste disposed by 75%. So, those things are definitely examples of what’s on our list for the next years to come and where we are so far, interestingly in renewable energy sources. Last year, 79 percent of Amgen’s total energy consumption was renewable.

John: Wow.

Lori: And that was a 41% in 2020, and I’m really excited to see the numbers for 2022 at the end of this year. We also [crosstalk]

John: Sorry. I’m interrupting you. When you listed all those things in terms of, you know, Carbon neutrality and your NetZero goals. Is it the same year as your goal line or different goal line for the different for the topics?

Lori: For those three topics of water, waste, and carbon. Our target is May 27.

John: Got it. Perfect. Go ahead. I’m sorry, I interrupted you.

Lori: That’s okay.

John: Huge progress and energy. Wow.

Lori: And we have lots of concrete examples. Like, we’re converting 30% of our Fleet to electric cars. Our Fleet is, of course, driven by our sales and medical reps and we’re opening a new plant in Ohio and Rhode Island and both of those will be cutting-edge technologies that are much more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional plans.

John: So did you have to? So when you’re embarking on those kind of things with your heart assets of your company, you have to work on issues, such as LEED certification of the building, in terms of energy water and all that. All those other things that come with it.

Lori: That is right and we aim to be LEED certified in both those facilities.

John: Congratulations. That’s huge. That’s huge, that’s exciting.

Lori: Thank you.

John: That’s very exciting. It’s exciting. And how does that [crosstalk].

Lori: And on the social side those same facilities are going to allow us to hire 750 new jobs and those facilities are in very diverse communities on purpose.

John: Right.

Lori: Because that continues to be also a key target for us to improve our diversity.

John: Obviously, you took this role during COVID. So travel really wasn’t part of the deal. Will travel become more part of your role in the coming months and years ahead.

Lori: No, I don’t think so. Partly, because we’ve really proven, you can work from anywhere and Amgen is a, we have a virtual first policy. And so if you need to come to the office, you’re welcome to come to the office. But we prefer people work virtually if it is as productive as far as when people will need to travel internationally, that’s still up in the air. As far as, you know, what’ll make sense for the company. I think, overall our travel will never go back to what it was pre-COVID.

John: Right.

Lori: We’ve learned enough things about how to work, that we won’t need to.

John: Do you get to go to conferences with other ESG Directors from around the United States and around the world and share best practices, is that part of also what you do?

Lori: It is. Most of the conferences I have been to so far have been virtual.

John: Right.

Lori: And obviously, those would be reasons to travel but my preference will always be virtual because I lose too much time in the travel.

John: Yeah.

Lori: Well then I couldn’t be working with my team.

John: Yeah. And how big is your team now?

Lori: I have four people working for me.

John: Wow. That sounds still for 24,000 employees in 100 countries in 75 countries physically, that doesn’t even sound like all that much. For all the work that you’re accomplishing.

Lori: Well, if you were thinking about. Major disclaimer, this is not my work I’m talking to you about, right? I, my work is to communicate it. Pull it together into a coherent story. There are thousands of people at Amgen doing the work. I’m trying to describe

John: Right. I know.

Lori: And my job is to bring them together.

John: That’s awesome, Lori. So what did you expect going into this role that didn’t happen and what didn’t you expect that did happen after you took this role?

Lori: So what did happen that I expected was that, I got to spend a lot of time focused on the sort of extra, the beyond goodness things that Amgen do and that that’s great, to wake up every day and do that.

John: But you did expect emails from your older brother and they came.

Lori: I actually didn’t.

John: Oh, really?

Lori: This is the first job I’ve had where he has really been sort of on top of it. I mean, he used to give me trouble in other ways, but now this one is because he’s in the Banking industry. So, this is his world as well.

John: Interesting, Interesting. Lori, you’re, you know, we could sit here for hours last thoughts. I would love you to have the last thoughts before we say goodbye for today, because what you’re doing is such important work, not only for Amgen just for the world at large because when companies like Amgen do the important work that you’re doing and go, like you said beyond caring for patients and really go all in on ESG. Other companies get inspired to follow big and small. So I’ll leave you for the last words and then I’ll do our sign off at the end here.

Lori: Okay. I think ESG isn’t perfect, but I think it’s the right direction for the evolution of corporate responsibility, as time has gone on, and although things may change parts of It. Ultimately, I believe that ESG is here to stay and that it’s the right thing for business and that companies who are worried about getting into it are going to find it works for them. So I encourage people to learn about it and institute it wherever they can.

John: Lori, thank you for all the great work you’re doing in sustainability and ESG at Amgen, to find Lori and her important and great colleagues and their great work, that they’re doing beyond caring for patients. Please go to Lori Hunt, you’re making a huge impact on this planet and so is Amgen, I thank you for your time today. You’re always welcome back on the Impact Podcast, and thank you for the great work you continue to do.

Lori: Thank you.

John: This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. Closed Loops platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps, and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to