Spotlight on our Board – In Conversation with Kyran Johnson

BITCI News - May 02, 2017

In the first of a new series, BITCI board member Kyran Johnson, General Manager Janssen Supply Chain Ireland discusses his views on sustainability and why it matters to business.

Firstly, how do you personally define CSR or Sustainability?

Corporate social responsibility is a very broad term and encompasses a range of activity. Focussed CSR can bolster staff confidence and leadership skills, enhance workplace morale and help retain top talent.   At Janssen, CSR sits naturally alongside our energy sustainability programme – twin commitments that create a culture that people can engage with and which also add to the profitability of the organisation.  I believe that every company has a responsibility to ensure that their CSR activity connects with their ethos or credo. The Johnson & Johnson Credo, which was crafted in 1943, outlines the values by which we operate.  Our first responsibility is to the doctors, patients, nurses and everyone that uses our products. Following that, our responsibility is to our staff and our community followed, finally, by the company’s shareholders.

How important is the sustainability agenda to your company?

More and more, people want to work for organisations that want to get involved in their communities so it’s a necessary part of the way we operate in our efforts to attract and retain top talent.  As a major employer in Cork, we are committed to leading the way in demonstrating how responsible and sustainable business practices can have a real impact on society. As part of our energy sustainability programme, Janssen’s Ringaskiddy site’s wind turbine supplies its entire electricity needs, which has resulted in annual cost savings of 37% since it was installed.  Janssen’s Cork facilities are in competition with other J&J facilities around the world and our focus on energy sustainability has helped to make the Irish operations cost-competitive – energy sustainability is good for business.

Janssen is one of the companies who achieved the Business Working Responsibly Mark.  What did the Mark do for your business?

Janssen has been a member of Business in the Community since 2005 and is now one of 23 companies in Ireland to have achieved the Business Working Responsibly Mark. We were particularly delighted to be the first pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Ireland to receive the Mark certification.

Business in the Community guided us through a process of formalising the work we were already doing and identifying areas of our community and sustainability activities that we needed to improve on in order to complement our overall business practices. In the competition for talent, employees want to work for a values-driven organisation.  Having the Business Working Responsibly Mark helps to differentiate Janssen as an ethical and morally-conscious employer.

What’s your one piece of advice to companies on the sustainability journey?

I believe that undertaking a journey of sustainable businesses practices is no longer a choice for employers, but a necessity. I would encourage companies to start by engaging employees at all levels in the sustainability journey. Without real engagement from your workforce, and strong leadership from your top-level management, it is simply not going to work.

You joined the board of Business in the Community Ireland in 2014. What prompted you to join and how are you enjoying it?

J&J is one of the top 10 leading life sciences companies in the world and I believe that we have a responsibility to be a company that actually leads and sets an example for other companies to follow.  For my part, I felt that Business in the Community offered a great opportunity to put this leadership into action in Ireland.  Becoming a board member has given me an opportunity to interact with other organisations through sharing our experiences and learning from others on how business can make a positive impact in the communities in which we operate.

What leaders inspire you?

Two leaders immediately come to mind – Sir Richard Branson and Alex Gorsky.

I think that Sir Richard Branson is an impressive leader and I very much admire his leadership style.  Richard Branson talks about learning and leadership skills going hand in hand. “Too much credit goes to me for what we have achieved at Virgin,” he has said. “The successes happen from working and learning with some of the world’s most inspiring and inspired people.”  There are no hard and fast rules about which leadership skills work best; it is all about choosing a style that fits the organisation and optimises the talent available.

I also very much admire Alex Gorsky, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson and leader of almost 130,000 employees.  Alex is a longtime advocate of diversity and inclusion and he has been named one of the “100 Most Inspiring Leaders” by Pharma Voice.  Not dissimilar to Richard Branson, Alex’s leadership style is very collaborative.  He has said that “people are not looking for a perfect leader. They want a leader who cares about them and is going to help them try to be better.”

Finally, what motto do you have in life?

“If a job’s worth doing, its worth doing properly.” My family jokes with me that I use this saying too much, but I honestly think that if you’re going to try something, you need it give it your all.


Kyran Johnson and fellow board member Chris Martin, CEO of Musgrave Group will be keynote speakers at the upcoming Cork Leaders’ Forum-Why Responsible Business Matters on May 30th. This event is in partnership with Cork Chamber.