Johanna Jobin | The Innovator 25 North America 2021

Johanna Jobin

Global Head of Corporate Reputation and Responsibility


Cambridge, MA 

Hometown: Franklin, MA

“Like most companies, we’re still exploring what the future of the office looks like. Ultimately, I hope that future of the office is flexible, sustainable and equitable so we can all deliver on our goals and thrive."

Johanna Jobin has ushered the biotech leader into a new era in its long-standing ESG commitments, with a focus on climate, health and equity. Under her leadership, in September 2020, Biogen launched Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives — a bold $250M, 20-year commitment to run a Fortune 500 company entirely without fossil fuels. Biogen achieved carbon neutrality in 2014. Now, with Jobin at the helm, Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives aims to propel Biogen past net zero to becoming entirely fossil fuel free. Jobin has tied Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives directly into Biogen’s larger organizational mission — to pioneer science for the betterment of humanity.

Do you think the global pandemic has made the industry more innovative? If you would like, please elaborate on your response.
More innovative The pandemic has come together with movements around racial justice and the climate crisis to inspire innovation in the industry. I see my colleagues within Biogen and across the industry working to reach people in new ways, engaging with broader audiences, and addressing issues which may not have gotten the same level of attention a few years ago.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for innovation? 
Expanding the scope/meaning of public relations.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 
One of the professional accomplishments I am most proud of is the creation, launch and progress of Biogen’s Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives™. When we launched the $250 million, 20-year initiative in September 2020, Biogen became the first Fortune 500 company to commit to go fossil fuel free, starting with the elimination of all fossil fuel emissions across our operations by 2040.

Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives is propelling Biogen into a new era in our long-standing ESG commitments, going far beyond net zero. As a company that cares deeply about public health, we’re working to eliminate fossil fuels because they significantly impact human health by contributing to air pollution — one of the leading causes of death globally, claiming nearly 9 million lives each year.

Communications, stakeholder engagement and issue advocacy are key parts of this initiative, we’re tapping into the creativity and passion of Biogen employees through programs that encourage innovation, offer new benefits to decarbonize at home and creating new pathways to engage at home, at work and in the community. We’re also engaging our suppliers and pursuing innovative scientific collaborations with Harvard, MIT, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development and others to address the interrelated challenges of climate, health and equity.

Just as Biogen was the first company in the life sciences industry to become carbon neutral, now we aim to be one of the leading companies taking immediate action to help create a healthier, more equitable and sustainable world for all. I am honored to help lead this trailblazing effort to address what may be the most significant issues of our time.

We're at a pivotal moment on the future of the office and how we work. How would like to see 'office/work culture' evolve?

The last 18 months have demonstrated that office and work culture is malleable. Moving forward, I would like to see an “office/work culture” designed to create truly diverse and inclusive work environments — whether in-person, remote or hybrid — while also inspiring innovation to tackle complex social and environmental challenges. I think it’s important to look beyond questions of where we work to address systemic issues of equity and sustainability. In 2020, we saw important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in our facilities and from reduced employee commuting. Yet, for the first time, we also calculated the emissions from employees working from home.

To help mitigate that impact, Biogen decided to offer a new benefit to help all our employees use 100% renewable energy at home. We also introduced a new benefit to help subsidize the costs of switching to more sustainable options, such as from natural gas to electric appliances. I think it’s also mutually beneficial when companies recognize the whole person, helping with resiliency and mental wellbeing.

In the past year, Biogen offered additional coordinated vacation days for entire teams, so nobody would feel behind after they unplugged. Many parts of our business tried different ideas such as meeting-free days to help manage video conference fatigue and workload while continuing to deliver for our patients. Like most companies, we’re still exploring what the future of the office looks like. Ultimately, I hope that future of the office is flexible, sustainable and equitable so we can all deliver on our goals and thrive.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity?
The communications profession has a crucial role in acknowledging and celebrating all the ways that different perspectives, cultures and experiences drive innovation and make us stronger. I think it’s important for PR leaders to remember that when we commit to DE&I, we commit to more accurately reflecting the people we serve. We must continue to make our industry more diverse, starting with engaging under-served and under-represented youth at an early age, supporting Historically Black Colleges & Universities, actively building a robust and diverse talent pipeline and addressing talent retention and growth.

PR leaders have a responsibility to ensure that we are backing our commitments to diversity, inclusion and equity (DE&I) with tangible action. Progress should be tracked and PR leaders – and the executives they support – should communicate this progress transparently to all stakeholders. For example, Biogen doesn’t just have a 4-part strategy with actionable steps to deepen our commitment to DE&I, our progress is transparently reported through publicly disclosed data on our website, in our annual report, and shared with employees and investors. We publish our EEO-1 data and just released our first dedicated DE&I report.

What makes you most excited or proud to be part of the PR industry? 
The world has never faced greater challenges or seen greater potential for positive change at the frontiers of science, innovation and social justice. I’m excited by the potential for communications to engage diverse stakeholders, open minds and hearts, and change behaviors. Our industry plays a critical role in shaping the dialogue on a range of issues that directly affect people’s lives, and I’m proud to play a role in making a difference.

What are your fears/concerns for our industry? 
I think PR may be subject to more scrutiny than some other professions, and there have long been understandable concerns about the potential for greenwashing, purpose-washing and woke-washing. I think we must work to reflect our values, act with integrity and hold ourselves accountable to very high standards. Another challenge can be measuring the results of our efforts.

I would like to see our industry continue to evolve better tools and approaches for understanding our impact so we can evolve our programs to continually deliver even greater benefits for our organizations and the stakeholders we aim to engage.

What inspires you? This could be a person, place, activity, etc.
I’m inspired by the people Biogen serves, those living with complex neurological conditions like MS and Alzheimer’s. Every day, I see our scientists, our patient advocacy team and others who truly are driven by a desire to help preserve what neurological diseases can take away — how we move, how we think, our very sense of self.

Our commitment goes beyond scientific research and development to efforts to advance health equity and access, work to increase diversity in clinical trials, and collaborate with providers, patient advocacy groups and others toward better health outcomes.

What are you thinking about most these days?
As a new mother, I’m in awe of the way the brain develops, and thinking about all the ways my colleagues and I are privileged to help promote brain health. I’m grateful to see a direct connection between the child I’m holding in my arms and the work I do every day to try to foster a healthy, equitable and sustainable world.

I’m also thinking about all the children who aren’t as fortunate as we are. I feel a tremendous sense of urgency to address issues such as child nutrition, health equity and access, and inspiring education for every child. We all have a responsibility to the next generation of potential scientists and innovators. It’s up to us to create a diverse pipeline of future leaders who are equipped to overcome challenges and build a better world.

What is your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is challenging and inspiring work, time with family and friends and collaborative efforts to create a healthy, equitable and sustainable world.