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Addressing systemic racism and inequality

July 08, 2020 | Diversity Equity Inclusion

An African-American woman gazes out of a window in her modern home office, smiling.

CVS Health is investing nearly $600 million over five years to advance employee, community and public policy initiatives that address inequality faced by the Black community and other disenfranchised communities. The company will also use its position to advocate for public policy that addresses the root causes of systemic inequalities and barriers, including efforts to address socioeconomic status, education, and access to health care.


“While we know that CVS Health alone cannot erase the toll that 400 years of institutionalized racism and discrimination has taken on the Black community, we recognize that we have a role to play in living up to the potential the future holds.”

— David Casey, Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health


CVS Health’s investment will focus on improving the employee experience, supporting communities the company serves and influencing public policy. The company’s nearly $600 million investment will build on its longstanding commitments to foster diversity in its workplace, including the following areas:

Colleagues and corporate culture

These investments will support the company’s commitment to ensuring that colleagues have fair and equitable access to opportunities for advancement and development at all levels, including senior-level positions. CVS Health will be working to ensure its mentoring, sponsorship and employee development programs support the advancement of employees, with a heightened focus on the experience of our Black colleagues. And the company will focus on corporate culture programs and company-wide training that promotes active and purposeful inclusion.


“The private sector must take action to get to the heart of institutional racism. As we learn from the perspectives of our Black colleagues and the diverse communities we serve, we’ll use that input to inform our advocacy agenda going forward.”

— Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health


Supplier diversity

Investments in CVS Health’s supplier diversity program will further the company’s focus on sourcing products from Black-owned and other diverse businesses by connecting, engaging, and networking with diverse suppliers, advocacy organizations, and corporate partners. The company will also continue working with national organizations to identify and develop diverse businesses. By working with business units across the company to integrate supplier diversity into procurement activities, CVS Health is able to continue to expand business opportunities for these diverse businesses. And as part of the company’s commitment to the Black community, it will create additional opportunities and development programs for its diverse suppliers. This work will build on the program’s success in creating jobs and increasing economic opportunities for the people and local businesses in the communities CVS Health serves.

Workforce initiatives

Investments to bolster CVS Health’s Workforce Initiatives will build on the company’s highly successful relationships to provide employment services and training to underserved communities. Through these programs, CVS Health works with local, state and federal workforce agencies to provide employment services and training to underserved communities. Through work with schools, universities, community colleges, faith-based and community organizations, these programs have helped thousands of people access meaningful employment opportunities.


“Our more than 300,000 employees are a microcosm of America, and a reflection of the diversity that is foundational to who we are as a country. The strategic agenda we’re laying out today will harness the strength of that diversity and focus on the areas where we can have the greatest impact.”

— Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health


Addressing health disparities

Health care is local. Addressing health disparities in the community is critical to addressing racial inequality, which is why CVS Health will expand its Project Health initiative and make other investments to increase access to health care. Project Health provides free health screening events at select CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide, focused within communities with large multicultural and uninsured populations. Project Health offers an array of free comprehensive health assessment screenings, including body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, glucose and total cholesterol screenings, which can help detect risk for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, which disproportionately impact Black people and other communities of color. The screening events also feature further information on weight management, diabetes resources, and smoking cessation programs. Increased investments in Project Health will strengthen CVS Health’s continued commitment to improve access to health care and help prevent cost from being a barrier to important preventive services.

Social determinants of health

Because studies have shown that your zip code can have as much impact on your health as your genetic code, CVS Health will focus on social determinants of health in Black and underserved communities. This work will have a particular emphasis on increasing access to affordable housing, which is inextricably linked to health. Since 1997, CVS Health and Aetna, a CVS Health company, have invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing and community initiatives. In 2019, the company invested $67 million in affordable housing across the country and the company plans to exceed that amount over the next five years to help address housing insecurities and promote community health improvement. Investments in affordable housing, as well as collaborations with community groups in these areas, help provide support to those who need it most.