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Sun, Aug

Leadership Profile: Gilberto Toscano, Associate Director of AstraZeneca

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Threading the Needle Between CSR and a Fortune 500’s Return to Growth

While many non-profit executives often lament the sector’s lack of resources compared to their Fortune 500 peers, how might they react if their supervisor’s challenge was to “deliver twice the value at half the cost”?  In this Q&A, AstraZeneca’s Gilberto Toscano shares his team’s creative use of Corporate Social Responsibility to address this actual mandate from the firm’s CIO.  Mr. Toscano is Associate Director, Application Lifecycle Services-Software Development for AstraZeneca. He earned his master’s degree in Information Systems and BS, Computer Science at the Universidad de Guadalajara. 

Q: With AstraZeneca’s strategic pillar of returning to growth, how can you even consider investing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts when some executives might question if such resources would be better invested in client-facing activities to increase sales? 

A: While some executives might view CSR efforts as merely “nice-to-have” activities, our team views it as part of the overall business strategy. While we have acquired some of the latest technologies to support our parent company’s business goals, we need fully engaged and committed employees who are effectively leveraging these tech tools. And that is where CSR comes into the equation. We have provided volunteer opportunities like mentoring and other caring programs which have enabled our staff to personally support youth at local orphanages and other community members such as victims of catastrophic events. Despite the perception that Fortune 500 employees only care about a good paycheck, our internal findings have echoed other research which point to how total compensation and benefits, like CSR opportunities, are part of an employee’s experience and satisfaction with an employer. Positive experiences and personal satisfaction can help elevate employee engagement, which in turn tie back to attaining audacious business goals like “twice the value at half the cost”! 

Q: Given the many potential levers that readers might deploy, what are the top three that you would recommend to effectively thread the CSR needle? 

A: First, leverage new technologies that can make your employees’ lives easier. Look, while my team is part of a global IT organization that provides value to other IT professionals around the globe, the complexity and speed of change can be daunting even upon them. When we select new technologies, the focus is on human design so that we simplify tasks and potentially free up hours to reinvest in additional throughput as well as volunteer activities which many people appreciate.  

Second, always consider the potential multiplier impact of your CSR strategies. Given our CIO’s mandate, our team needs to constantly think and act like a non-profit organization which has limited resources. For instance, we collaborate with a non-profit, Laboratoria , whose bootcamp has enabled more than 800 graduates to secure jobs working in technology and to transform their lives. My employees feel good about themselves given that their donated hours have helped others. Labortoria’s KPIs include a greater than 80 percent job placement rate and 3x average income increase among graduates employed. Such engagement with Laboratoria and local universities has enabled us to build an employer of choice brand within Mexico and maintain a robust talent pool of prospective employees. 

Finally, enable a growth mindset for your team. At first glance when one reads the point, “deliver twice the value at half the cost,” one might assume that it is the proverbial “do more with less” and less means fewer employees. However, as our team has a laser focus on delivery excellence and value impact for our internal customers, we have grown from no employees (in 2016) to 400 staff as of the first  quarter of 2019. When a team can reframe a challenge into a positive opportunity, a new roadmap of growth and positive experiences can be provided for all. 

Author Bio

Michael Wong has more than 25 years of experience working for Apple, AstraZeneca, EPAM, IBM, and Merck. Mike is Co-President of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association and his insights have been shared in the Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.