Chapter 3: Stand for What's Right
Stand for what’s right: four words that capture the values of our company. Standing for what’s right is both about doing the right thing and taking a stand on important issues that affect the health and well-being of our employees, members, and communities.
That includes our holistic focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the importance of social justice, and the advocacy work we do on behalf of our members and the communities we serve.
In 2020, the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color and the escalation of systemic racism renewed awareness of health and economic inequities. “Social justice” surfaced as the rallying cause across the nation - and at Blue Shield of California - for taking decisive actions so that all people have equal access to economic, social, political, health, and education opportunities.
As a nonprofit health plan spanning California, we are uniquely positioned to address the root causes of health inequity and drive meaningful and sustained change. This is how we remain true to our north star of creating a healthcare system that is worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable – for all Californians.
Here are some of the commitments we made in 2020:
Investing in youth mental health
Mental illness is the number one reason California children are hospitalized, and half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14. That’s why we expanded BlueSky, our signature program that funds youth mental health services.
Seizing this moment to help youth, BlueSky collaborated with DoSomething.org in 2020 to launch “New State of Mind,” a nationwide campaign for young people to contribute tips for coping with stress and anxiety during the pandemic. Nearly 75,000 tips from 48,000 students throughout the country poured in. Major themes were published in a digital mental-health guide.
Supporting communities where we live and work
Financial resources mattered - more than ever - to nonprofit organizations as they struggled to make ends meet and serve communities. Our response? Set all-time records for charitable giving across the enterprise.
Employee Giving: In the darkness of the pandemic, our employees were a beacon of light, producing the most successful year of employee giving in company history. Participating employees donated $1.44 million to more than 1,600 nonprofits (including 2:1 company match during campaign). Employees generously contributed their time as well, volunteering more than 30,000 hours.
Corporate Giving: Totaling $11.3 million1 for the year, our corporate giving program provided a safety net for a wide range of nonprofits, including:
- Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation: $200,000 to support Youth Mental Health First Aid
- Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce: $100,000 for small businesses resiliency fund
- Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego: $20,000 investment for environmental justice
Blue Shield of California Foundation: In 2020, the Foundation bestowed more than 100 grants totaling $26.5 million. Among them were grants to 14 organizations helping Californians with increased health risks and financial hardships due to the pandemic. Other grants went to nonprofit organizations that support Black communities, offer domestic violence and childhood trauma prevention programs, strengthen the economic position of childcare workers and families who rely on them, and promote multisector collaborations that drive health equity.
Advocating for meaningful change
Addressing inequities continued to be a priority for Blue Shield’s advocacy team in 2020. Here’s a snapshot of steps taken:
- Blue Shield joined with California healthcare leaders to call on elected state and federal officials to preserve and further the gains achieved by the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court heard arguments about its constitutionality.
- As one of 18 Blue Cross Blue Shield Association plans, we joined with nonprofit Civica Rx to challenge expensive drug pricing and bring to market low-cost generic medications by early 2022. The Association provided $55 million to achieve this ambitious goal.
- To help tackle California’s homeless crisis and promote reforms to Medi-Cal, Blue Shield made a $20 million contribution to the California Access to Housing and Services Fund, which is funding the Project Homekey initiative.
- We continued to support Manifest MedEx, a nonprofit health information network that aggregates patient records so providers across the state can quickly access patient’s history in real time.
We achieved Carbon Neutral certification, a key milestone that offsets carbon emissions equal to taking 6,300 cars off the road each year, for the first time ever. We met three of our four sustainability goals2:
- 30% renewable energy use
- 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
- Mixed recycling at owned facilities
We remain focused on achieving our goal of reducing water usage by 25% and have invested in a landscaping retrofit project at our Lodi office to help us drive progress. In 2021, these goals are being replaced by our next generation sustainability goals which we anticipate will dramatically accelerate our climate journey.
To stand for what’s right in good times and tough times is one of the things that makes Blue Shield a great place to do meaningful work, and it’s one reason I am very proud to be Blue.
(1) This excludes certain funds given as part of Blue Shield of California’s 2% pledge.
(2) The footprint is based on the electricity, natural gas, and water consumption at our main office locations; this is consistent with our 2012 (baseline year) methodology and ensures the figures are comparable. We estimate it covers 75% of our total electricity consumption, above 95% of our total natural gas consumption, and 56% of our total water consumption. A complete greenhouse gas inventory (including scope 3 emissions) in line with the latest guidelines will be utilized for our next goal period starting in 2021.