Eileen Buckley is the Vice President of Corporate Responsibility (CR) at Stryker, one of the world’s largest medical technology companies. A sustainability executive with experience in strategy, operations, governance and risk, Eileen leads the company’s global CR efforts, including environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. Eileen works closely with senior leaders across the company’s international commercial and functional teams to develop goals that address carbon reduction, responsible procurement, social impact, and diversity, equity and inclusion.
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John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so excited to have with us today Eileen Buckley. She’s the vice president of corporate responsibility for Stryker. Welcome to The Impact Podcast, Eileen.
Eileen Buckley: Thanks so much for having me, John. I’m a big fan of the show.
John: Thank you. Eileen before we get talking about all the impactful and important things that you and your colleagues at Stryker are doing now to make the world a better place, can you share a little bit about your backstory? Where’d you grow up, Eileen, and how did you even get on this journey? Just share a little bit about yourself, please.
Eileen: Sure. I love this part of your show. I like hearing about where your guest come from and their stories. So I’ll share some highlights. I really grew up in a small-ish town in Clearwater, Florida. I went to a school that, so this will really paint the picture, I graduated with 19 people from high school.
John: Wow. Wow. That’s a small school.
Eileen: Smaller than most. My parents are lovely people. My mom was a nurse. My father did an assortment of things including in education and community, and actually was a religious leader for a period of time. So I would say they’re both very service-oriented and I’m probably reaching for some confirmation bias here, but environmental awareness was a very big thing in our household growing up. Turning off lights, recycling early on, composting, these sorts of things. So I came up, I would say, by two great people with a brother and sister as well and went through college at University of Florida. I went on to Vanderbilt for grad school. I studied organizational and community development in graduate school and that really oriented me to this intersection of business and society. So in graduate school, I was able to study developing communities and the World Bank. I had fantastic professors that challenged me in new ways. I came out of school and went straight to work in professional services for one of the big four and there I did lots of different roles. I was there for a little over 15 years and really developed and honed my business acumen. So, in additional to technical skills and interpersonal skills, my business acumen came along there. I was fortunate when I was in professional services to join the corporate responsibility team when it was just taking shape. So there were a handful of us, like four, when I joined and then when I left almost a decade later there were roughly 30 of us. So I got to see that team really grow and then I got an email from a Stryker recruiter and they said, hey would you like to come over and really build out this capability at Stryker, right before the pandemic, and I was very interested. So I did that.
John: So many great leaders and people that I’ve had the absolute honor and blessing to meet in the last 16 years because of this show, come out of professional services. And there’s lots of great companies that do this and you work for obviously, PWC, another great, great company. It’s so interesting the way you put it, you honed your skills there, your business skills, is that because of the great exposure that you get to so many different circumstances and so many different companies and industries? Is that really one of the great advantages for working for that kind of company and just makes your background and your experience that much richer?
Eileen: That’s right. You’re exposed to working in a professional services setting. You’re exposed to all different types of Industries. I worked in recruiting for a period of time so that was really interesting. I was an MBA recruiter here in Chicago. So working with top-tier MBA students. So you see different skill sets and really see where the marketplace is heading for different types of skills. The other thing about these types of firms, typically, is they are on the bleeding edge when it comes to technology. So you are learning data visualization, data analytics, these sorts of, and I was coding right when I got out of… Even though I wasn’t computer engineering or computer science, when I came into the firm I very quickly learned some basic coding skills. So all of that would prove to be very useful. Even now just with systems thinking and as we know, technology is really key when it comes to infrastructure automation, now with AI and having the mindset, it’s helpful.
John: You know, it’s still a brand new world. When I started my company in recycling, there was no such thing as Chief Sustainability Officer. This is before Al Gore did Inconvenient Truth, before there was an iPhone, it sounds like dinosaur days and it really almost is when it comes to these terms that we use now. ESG, circular economy, planet positive, and all these other great terms that are being rolled around now. When it comes to corporate responsibility at Stryker, you were brought in to sort of build the CR program there. There’s a curse and blessing to them to the white page, the blank slate, how was it? How do you start when there’s so much potential for a huge and wonderful and a great iconic brand like Stryker? You could be as wide as you want. You can be as narrow as you want. What informed you to pick a path to start creating this? Basically, starting with a blank page. How did you choose your path and how narrow or wide did you go when it came to your CR goals and impact goals and strategies at Stryker?
Eileen: Yeah, a few things helped inform our strategy from the get-go. I was very fortunate to work under an incredibly visionary leader when I was at PWC and she helped me see how to build from the ground up. So that was helpful that I had that role model early on in my career and I worked for her on and off for 15 years. So when I came over to Stryker we had, and by the way, the brand is in part what attracted me. I knew Stryker’s brand, who’s really strong. Stryker has a very thorough interview process and I think it’s a good thing. They also have a strengths-based culture, meaning we use the Gallup strengths inventory, and it’s very positive because they focus on your strengths. So part of my strengths are: I’m an achiever, I’m a learner, I love to learn, and I’m very school-driven. So that goes about well in this field. So coming in I was confident we could do it. We had some good foundation around social impact, but we had a lot of work to do to catch up. Even if you think about stakeholder expectations and, you know, John, in this space, we have many different stakeholders that we’re serving: employees, customers, suppliers have expectations, the government and regulators, investors, the community. So that’s just a handful right there and they have expectations for us. So we used many inputs to inform our goals. The textbook response for you is a materiality assessment. You definitely want to look at that, but you also want to look at what’s the trajectory for your company. What’s that company? What is your company strategy? So we [inaudible]. What is our mission? Our mission together with our customers is to make healthcare better. So how does corporate responsibility align to that? So we looked at these various inputs and set our goals and we made sure they were realistic. We can talk about that in a minute. [crosstalk]
John: Yeah, we’ll talk about that. You know, you’ve been there now a few years at Stryker, talk a bit about you were handed some, like you said, already, some things were underway but now you had to really make it tangible. You had to make it tangible, measurable, and all the things that analysts like to see, constituents like to see, investors like to see, institutional investors like to see now. So how did you do that? Talk a little bit about process and talk a little bit about the journey.
Eileen: The key part of the journey from the outset was bringing everyone along. So we have an amazing corporate responsibility steering committee that includes three of our C-suite leaders. So our CEOs, direct reports sit on that steer co. and I think this kind of practice, I am a CR practitioner, when I talk to my peers I do think sometimes people struggle to get attendance or engagement with these steering committees. I’m proud to say our steer co. is incredibly engaged. Our attendance rates are very strong because we make the meetings, I think the agendas are strong, we really look to that group for governance. So on something like setting goals, we’re looking to that group to help us provide that true governance. Are these the right goals? We have interim climate goals, carbon reduction goals, we also have goals for our supply chain for our suppliers, and then we aligned with DENI with diversity, equity, and inclusion on goals. So, those were a few of the areas at the outset and again, I would underscore that consensus building, which is time-consuming. I mean, we all know it takes time to go around to different groups and do that change management and talk about the why. But it was well worth it and we’re still doing that bringing people along.
John: Got it. Understood. So, what gets you up in the morning? Obviously, you can’t eat the elephant in one bite. So how do you start showing little winds along the way, proving out the vision, the mission, and then what gets you up in the morning today to keep the journey going and keep pushing the envelope and keep growing the platform that you’ve now created with your strategic team in terms of CR at Stryker?
Eileen: What gets me up? We’ve made really good progress. You’re right. CR has sustainability. We have those external scores that do give you a bit of a health check on how you’re doing and we’ve seen great progress with those scores. I think, for me personally, the effects of both the social side and the environmental side are becoming increasingly clear. So when I say the acute effects of climate, we knew and many people, we had a speaker with our board actually last week and we know climate change has been happening for a long time. But when I look at my children, when I say, just even locally here in Chicago, and I know our friends around the world have dealt with this in California, in India, in Canada, have dealt with air quality issues for a long, long time, now working in healthcare, seeing the effects of climate change on health, it’s concerning. A particulate matter when your kids can’t go to soccer camp because the air quality is so bad, I’m very motivated knowing that the work that I do every day is helping to try to mitigate when we look at climate adaptation and mitigation. And then the other thing I would say is I’m really trying to help everyone at Stryker see that they have a role they can play in this broader strategy.
John: Understood. For our listeners and viewers who’ve just joined us. We’ve got Eileen Buckley with us today. She’s the vice president of corporate responsibility is Stryker. To find Eileen and her colleagues and all the important work they’re doing with regards to corporate responsibility and ESG matters, please look at www.stryker.com/2022, which will take you to their Comprehensive Report on financial and ESG matters. Let’s talk about that 2022 Comprehensive Report. What can our listeners and viewers find in it that makes you the most excited about the first wins that you started getting that you’re now reporting on in that in that Comprehensive Report of 2022?
Eileen: I think reporting is quite exciting on the non-financial side and here’s why, it tells a company’s story in a more holistic way. So if I’m an investor, yes, I want to see the financials, of course, I do, but if I want an even more holistic picture of that company, I also want to get a sense of their culture, and your comprehensive or your sustainability or your ESG or your CR, whatever different companies, report is going to offer you that. So at Stryker, we call it our Comprehensive Report and what is unique about our process is that so many teams are involved in it, not in an overwhelming way but thousands of people offer up different information from their area of expertise to contribute to the report. So you’ve got information there about employee safety, which we’ve made strides in employee safety. You’ve got information about product quality which is incredibly important when you’re a med device company, Med tech company. Information about progress on decarbonization, everything from solar panels to our virtual power purchase agreement, diversity, equity, and inclusion progress, employee resource groups. So it’s a very broad scope. Additionally, it’s a streamlining tool. So to your point on investors, we do get questions from investors on a regular basis and it’s helpful to point them to one source of truth through that report.
John: It’s a great way of putting it. I never heard it that way. It’s like, Stryker, we’re not just hips. This really humanizes the company. That’s a great way of putting it, Eileen. I never thought of it that way. With regards to decarbonization, what’s your approach and how has it been working and have you already set goals or is that yet to come? How’s decarbonization working with regards to Stryker?
Eileen: Yes. So with regard to decarbonization we have two interim goals. We have a goal to reduce our scopes 1 and 2. So if you think about for our facilities reduced by 20% by 2024. So that’s one interim goal. Our second interim goal is to move to 100% renewable electricity by 2027. And then we have a goal to be carbon neutral for our facilities by 2030. And here’s, I think, just the interesting point on this because I talk with my peers a lot. A lot of like the guests you have on here John, we talk [crosstalk].
John: Right. Right. You guys have a fraternity. It’s really one of the coolest fraternities in the world, right? I mean, you guys, all of you men and women really get to share best practices and you don’t see the world as a zero-sum game, you really are very open and sharing. That’s one of the takeaways after 16 years of doing this that I constantly hear about.
Eileen: It’s true. It’s very collaborative. It’s collaborative cross-industry and it’s collaborative within our industry because it has to be. These are the massive problems or challenges, I should say, if you look at something like scope three emissions, when I see people or companies, tech consultants, everyone is trying to build tools and build technologies and solutions from the whole thing to figure out scope three, measure scope three, and some entities are farther along than others. I say entities because I mean companies, I mean NGOs, I mean cities, municipalities, what have you. So the fact is scope three is really messy including for a company like Stryker that has such a vast portfolio of products. So we are measuring our scope three and continue to disclose on different categories of scope three. I think one point of encouragement is if all of us continue making progress on our scope one and two emissions, we will then help the value chain make progress on scope three because we are our customers, you know, scope three and on. So that overlap is important.
John: It’s so interesting. Eileen, you mentioned your kids going to soccer practice only to miss it. You live in Chicago. I grew up in New York but I now live in California, middle of California and Fresno. Unfortunately, we got used to it. It became normalized to have the amount of fires that we have and massive smoke conditions. But the smoke conditions came to Chicago this year from the Canadian fires and into New York and if I’m not mistaken, this is the hottest year on record around the world. So the work you’re doing, when you have a platform like you have at Stryker, you really do get to move the needles. Not to say that smaller companies don’t have massive importance and startups don’t have massive importance to corporate responsibility in ESG as well, but really the platform that you have there is fantastic because you get to really move the needle, and when you guys make moves and changes along the way.
Eileen: It’s true. It’s true. One of my favorite parts of my job is working with other teams and what I find at Stryker is whether it’s our packaging engineers or MD Engineers or upstream marketers or sales reps, folks are excited to talk about this work and they see opportunity. So they see opportunity for cost savings, efficiency, logistics improvements. So, I think, when we think about innovation paired with sustainability, there’s tremendous opportunity for businesses to grow and to create value through this work.
John: Eileen, when I got into recycling it used to be companies could get away with saying, hey, we’re sticking to our knitting, we’re sticking to our mission, we’re going to leave environmental stuff to the tree huggers out there but that’s no longer possible, right? We’ve passed that tipping point where we truly are moving from a linear to circular economy. ESG and diversity and inclusion and environmental practices all are very critical now to both hiring practices and retention. As you said corporate culture and then examining all those other areas that you just mentioned, logistics and innovation, it really has to be embedded into the culture, the kind of corporate responsibility work that you’re doing at Stryker. It’s no longer okay for huge corporations to say, we’re just going to stick to our mission of the things that we innovate and create and where the other stuff is really left for others.
Eileen: Right. That is our goal, to integrate. When I say our goal, our CR objective, to integrate responsible, sustainable practices that deliver on our mission to make healthcare better.
John: For our listeners and viewers who aren’t familiar with Stryker, they will be when you share a little bit about some of your products and how big your company is not only in North America but around the world. So they understand what kind of amazing platform that you came into to be a change maker there.
Eileen: Absolutely. So Stryker is a remarkable company and it’s a Fortune 250 company. Last year, we delivered 18.4 billion in revenue. We have more than 50,000 employees operating in more than 75 countries. As far as products go, we have 22 business units operating across seven divisions and when I say divisions those span, well, if you think about medical products we have med surg and neurotechnology and orthopedics and spine being two of our groups of business. But under those, we sell everything from beds and cots to an amazing chair that goes upstairs. We have AEDs which I just ordered one for my parents. AEDs, it’s a good thing to have in your home. We have disposable products. We reach annually, together with our customers, 130 million patients. And we calculate that metric annually, John, so it’s kind of a growth factor for us but 130 million patients.
John: Is there a headquarters for Stryker somewhere?
Eileen: Yes, we’re headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan. So about two and a half hours.
John: COVID definitely changed the math and the algorithm of the workforce around the world, what’s the culture like at Stryker? Is everyone now coming to the office? Are people given the latitude to work from home or is it a little bit of a hybrid model? How does that work and how does that affect you creating a culture around and champions around corporate responsibility?
Eileen: Great question. It is determined by those divisions that you sit within, I mentioned those seven divisions, so it is hybrid. So, for example, at our medical division, most folks are in the office Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. For someone like me, I’ve been virtual since 2010. So I’ve been a virtual employee for a long time.
John: Wow. Okay.
Eileen: Yeah. I do my best to while being mindful of my carbon footprint. [crosstalk] Get in the office fairly often and it helps that I’m only two and a half hour drive from Kalamazoo. So, yeah, it’s a hybrid and these video chats have certainly helped.
John: How do you build a culture though with an organization as huge as yours and you’re bringing a whole new cultural aspect, and an important cultural aspect, with regards to CR to Stryker? How do you do that since you’re not sitting in the middle of 15,000 people at a headquarter on a daily basis and you have a dispersed workforce around the world as you said? How difficult or challenging or not difficult is it to create that everyone pulling the rope in the same direction?
Eileen: So building the culture of giving and volunteering is something that we are continuing to work on. And again, this is something that we see across industry. We have a global volunteer council that has taken the lead across the world, and then, we also have ambassadors globally. We’ve almost 1,000 ambassadors.
Eileen: When we think about this notion of purpose, people continue to look for purpose in their work and in their role, we are really advocating this kind of pick-your-path at Stryker for some folks. That’s Stryker’s environmental alliance equivalent to a green team. And so some folks are more active on the environmental front. For other folks, it’s our work with Operation Smile. So they’re an Op Smile Ambassador. And then for others, it’s very much the giving and volunteering platform and being active through that. There’s also our ERGs, our employee resource groups. So there are these, like, choose your own adventure kind of concept, but there’s no denying, John, we’ve, like many companies, have had to get creative with how to engage folks more virtually. And I’ll tell you like CECP giving in numbers shows the same trends that I’ve heard anecdotally that volunteering took a dip with COVID. When everyone was in the office, it was easier to do those volunteering and team events. So with COVID volunteering took a dip and so we’ve seen that a bit too and we’re working to find innovative ways to get those team events and individual events happening.
John: Eileen, you just mentioned Operation Smile, can you share a little bit about what Stryker’s work with Project Cure and Operation Smile are and what are those new initiatives all about for our listeners and viewers who aren’t familiar with those two initiatives?
Eileen: Absolutely. So Project Cure and Operation Smile along with Red Cross, those are our three signature partners, meaning that we work with those nonprofits very strategically. So it’s financial commitments but also working to engage employees around volunteering globally. Op Smile does a remarkable job bringing surgeries to underserved communities around the world. We specifically we’ve done missions with Op Smile. So bringing employees on international volunteer trips where they’ve been alongside health practitioners for surgeries and supported patients. We also have done extensive and funded extensive training for surgeons in underdeveloped countries with Op Smile. So that’s been some of our work with Op Smile. Project Cure is another amazing organization. So if you think about the recent events globally, so the invasion of Ukraine, the earthquakes in Turkey, these really tragic events in which high volume of medical technology is needed on site, Project Cure is a very skilled knowledgeable nonprofit that helps get those needed medical devices to disaster zones, disaster sites. So as you can imagine, that’s a very good fit with Stryker.
John: Right. Right. Now locally speaking, what about your impactful work with Hope Chicago? What’s the mission there?
Eileen: Hope Chicago is near and dear to my heart. Thanks for asking about Hope.
Eileen: I worked in education for years and obviously continue to do so with Hope. So, Hope Chicago is a non-profit based here in Chicago and it is a two-gen model. We are starting, meaning that, I’ll explain that, but we’re starting with five high schools on Chicago’s south and west side in which if you go to these high schools, John, you essentially get a free ride to college. Everything is paid for tuition, books, room and board, but you need to be a committed student. You need to go through the program. There’s summer school. There are commitments and check-in points. So we’re really looking, it’s an investment, to change the social and economic landscape of Chicago through education. And we are targeting specific schools, where we think there’s opportunity for transformation. And it is led by the incredible Janice Jackson, who is a longtime leader here in Chicago and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
John: So how many students matriculate through Hope Chicago every year?
Eileen: Our first class had 400 scholars but that will continue to scale, hopefully, with each class.
John: That’s amazing. Good for you. What a domino effect of life-changing experiences you’re giving to those students. That’s just incredible.
Eileen: And I left out the most important part.
John: What’s that?
Eileen: It also allows each scholar’s one parent or guardian is also entitled to an education under scholarship.
John: That’s great.
John: That’s really great stuff. Now that you sit in a very important and big chair at Stryker, you shared a little bit about the fraternity that the CR world is. There’s many other startup med tech companies, small and large but not quite as large as Stryker, talk about the importance of those companies with their CR strategies and are they coming to you and looking to you for guidance and advice now that Stryker is making a move and level setting the industry with bringing you in and creating a whole team and mission around it? Are other leaders coming to you from the med tech industry looking for guidance?
Eileen: The topic of corporate social and environmental responsibility is coming up more and more even in the MNA space. It has come up, I would say, internationally depending on the area of the world, in Europe or a bit further along, and part of that arguably might be driven a bit by regulation as we’re seeing more regulation around climate disclosures, plastic regulation. Even if a company isn’t big enough yet to have to report necessarily, it’s just the mindset, right? If you’re living in Europe there’s certainly a climate mindset. Over here in the US as I think private equity gets more versed on these topics and more so, again, going back to innovation and the benefits for business, my bet is it will become increasingly relevant and a topic that is more mainstream at conferences. We’re already seeing it, John. Sometimes I get questions of there’s the media and I get that there’s different points of view on different topics. I think it comes back to the business value and technology and where technology is heading. So, hydrogen, SAFS, sustainable aviation fuels, all of this is very exciting and I think funding will follow the innovation.
John: Yeah. My understanding is that the institutional funding, i.e. Larry Fink, BlackRock, and now the other institutions have to follow after he came out and made his proclamation that it’s not okay just to talk about ESG. You got to walk the walk not just talk to talk. It seems as though institutional investors in Wall Street are also now lining up to back companies that are truly walking the walk like Stryker’s walking now and there’s great favor being shown on those companies as well.
Eileen: I agree. I think something that our team keeps a close eye on is the marketplace trends, right? So we talk to investors regularly around the world and the bottom line is we let value drive our decisions and growth drive our decisions. So cost-savings, efficiency, our company strategy, of course, our mission and values and I’ll give you an example. Putting a combined heat and power generator in Puerto Rico where we have operations makes sense. Puerto Rico is vulnerable to weather events that could take down one of our lines.
John: You know, we’ve seen these climate events happen more and more. Katrina happened, obviously, in California where we’ve had a repeated history of these kind of events. I really never believed to wake up like I did yesterday morning and see Maui on fire. I’m like, no one is safe now. What we’ve done to the environment and to the shifts in the environmental structure, I don’t think anyone is safe, and as you said the fraternity exists. Your fraternity exists and why it’s not a zero-sum game and everyone, as you say, is so collaborative which I love and I’ve seen that myself in all these interviews over the years is because really we only have one environment. I mean, we’re all sharing this one environment anyway. We’ve got to work together to come up with the best solutions possible. So talk a little bit about your 18 and 22-year-old self. There’s a lot of listeners and viewers that are young that are graduating high school little bit lost, graduating college a little bit lost, and they listen to an interview like this, they see you, and they go, “I want to be the next Eileen Buckley.” What kind of guidance can you give the next generation coming up underneath you if they want to get on a CR trajectory and one day sit in this kind of seat that you’re sitting in?
Eileen: So advice for the end of the 18 to 22 year old range, the good news is now this is a major at so many schools. There’s so many formal courses and classes and I do work with a couple of universities that asked us what skills are needed now. And I’ll tell you, you know, sitting down and understanding the task force for climate-related financial disclosures, CCFD, or the new CSRD framework, or just carbon accounting. I mean, all of these skills, these are technical skills and I guess my note on that would be, I do think it’s important to have some robust technical skills whether it’s coming in as an analyst or reporting or social impact measurement. Sometimes people ask how do you measure social impact programs. There are very much ways to measure it. So when I talk about working with the nonprofits that we work with, Project Cure, Op Smile, helping them build that capacity, and talking with them about the ROI that we’re looking for as a corporate investor in that nonprofit. So those technical skills I think are really important and I do think that nowadays universities are very mindful of where the world is heading and how we can prepare for that.
John: Eileen, though we haven’t met in person yet, hopefully, we do one day, you sound like you just love what you’re doing and that you’ve got really great preparation over at PWC. You just love what you do and you love that you get to go to bed every night that you really get to make a difference. Not only make a nice living, which we all have to make a living to pay for the groceries and keep the lights on, that’s all part of just what life’s journey is, but you really get to make a difference every day. It sounds like you really dig what you do.
Eileen: I do and I get to do it with awesome people.
John: There’s nothing better than that. Eileen, you’re always welcome back on The Impact Podcast. Just continue to share the important journey you and your colleagues are on at Stryker with regards to corporate responsibility. To find Eileen and her colleagues at Stryker, you can go to www.stryker.com. To see their 2022 Comprehensive Report and financial in ESG status you can go to Stryker.com/2022. Eileen Buckley, thank you for being a guest today on The Impact Podcast. Thank you for making the world a better place with all the impacts you’re making at Stryker. Thank you for joining us and taking the time today and you’re always welcome back here on The Impact Podcast.
Eileen: Thanks so much, John. It was fun.
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