Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


CVS Health Has Faith Partnerships


Washington DC Feb. 13, 2019: Olivia Lang, Director of Workforce Initiatives for CVS Health, spoke as part of the panel discussion “Business Success in a Religiously Diverse World.” Mrs. Lang discussed how attention to religious diversity and inclusion within the company is also reflected in community business opportunities. The event was cosponsored by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center, and Tanenbaum (see video).

Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs)

Within the company, CVS Health recognizes that it is important to offer programs that help their employees develop and grow professionally, while also providing the opportunity to connect with one another through a particular affinity, culture or perspective.

CVS Health Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs) serve this purpose for more than 7,800 employees across 45 states and Puerto Rico. This includes a Faith CRG that helps colleagues on their path to better health by building awareness and educating about religious diversity, increasing employee engagement by demonstrating the value of diversity, and supporting faith-based partnership opportunities that advance enterprise growth initiatives.

Mrs. Lang discussed the model adopted by CVS Health, one of the biggest retail pharmacy companies in the United States, to address health and social issues by developing meaningful partnerships in the faith-based arena.

The following summary of Mrs. Lang’s comments is provided by RFBF research fellow, Giulia Nembrini.

An especially fruitful partnership that CVS Health has focused on is its collaboration with Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) churches to address health issues among the most vulnerable and provide paths of opportunity to better lives and employment for people in the community. The program has come to serve as a model for other partnerships with faith-based organizations.

In order to develop this partnership, Mrs. Lang and her team started to look closely at pre-existent groups in society which would share the same values and have the possibilities to assist them in achieving their goals as a company. CVS Health learned that the church is often seen as the “gateway to community” and have the means and connections to assist companies like CVS Health in engaging “those that need our help the most.”

Mrs. Lang emphasizes that without a true and meaningful connection with our partners on the ground and roots in the deepest levels of societies, there is not an easy way for businesses to understand real issues and address them with a comprehensive approach.

This remarkable model and initiative started from a dialogue between CVS Health and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Churches in order to identify their shared mission of breaking the cycle of poverty and assist those in dire conditions not capable of accessing the healthcare system.

The conversation focused on the goals that the two entities wanted to pursue by collaborating in this common effort, making sure that their objectives and methods were aligned. In Mrs. Lang’s words, “once you identify what both organizations have in common, then you build a FRAMEWORK OF TRUST around it, not (around) what is different”. This is an extremely powerful and innovative approach.

The subsequent step was focusing on communications strategies, structure, and developing an organizational approach.

It is a remarkable example of faith-based groups and business coming together to work on social issues with a comprehensive perspective and common respect for each other. The shared work covers a variety of social programs such as military, mature worker, disability, and youth initiatives.

This collaboration extends even further as the faith-based groups offers an incredible pool of talents for the company interested in that particular segment of society. In return, CVS has pledged to support workplace development opportunities across the country, health awareness programs, and caregivers support initiatives for pastors and their congregations.

The reason behind this successful partnership relies both on numbers and on people: On numbers because it provides CVS with meaningful connection to foster their health and social agenda on the ground and meet their business goals. On people because people in the community share the same core values as CVS Hearth, including addressing healthcare disparity and breaking the cycle of poverty, which Mrs. Lang identifies as a substantial commitment undertaken by the company.

But what does it take for a business to get motivated and then embrace what some may see as an unconventional business approach?

Mrs. Lang’s answer is very clear. The business approach flows from the company’s core values of “Innovation, Integrity, Accountability, Collaboration and Caring for One Another.” Mrs. Lang particularly stresses the importance of caring for one another in an open environment which respects every faith background, including those with no religious affiliation. Caring for the community that CVS Health serves and for the people who are experiencing difficulties navigating a complicated health system is what motivates her in conducting business for the company.

Moreover, to make sure that these values are well understood by all the work force, Mrs. Lang highlights the role of the Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs), which increases the engagement among colleagues and demonstrate the pivotal role of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The culture promoted at CVS is a Diversity Management Culture where recognizing and engaging with the religious diversity within the company and within the communities the company serves is considered a cornerstone. The promotion of such a culture in the workplace has proved to have a positive impact not only on the people involved, but on the company’s own success as well.

This partnership with a faith-based organization is only one example of a wide-range of CVS Health initiatives that promote better health and more accessible healthcare for people.


A Look at the History of CVS Faith Partnerships

CVS Health has had partnerships with faith-based organizations for more than a decade. The following is July 16th, 2009, testimony of Stephen Wing, at the time Director of Workforce Initiatives, CVS Caremark, for the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety on reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998.

Partnerships with Faith-based Organizations

“Through a successful partnership with the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Washington, DC, we discovered that faith-based organizations could play a major role in recruiting qualified entry-level employees. Together we developed a partnership that would ultimately benefit Mt. Lebanon, CVS Caremark, and D.C. residents.

CVS and Mount Lebanon worked together to sponsor a church-based job fair, during which CVS interviewed ninety adults and hired forty. The job fair allowed CVS to expand its reach in the D.C. metro area and hire employees from the church to staff its new stores. Based on the success of subsequent recruitment fairs, CVS Caremark has since refined the church-based job fair model and is replicating it in partnership with churches in other cities across the country.

In addition to the workforce benefits, CVS employees have the option of becoming homeowners. CVS Caremark has developed a home ownership program for employees, called CVS Prescriptions to Homeownership that provides low interest loans for inner city residents. After two years, all employees can participate in the homeownership program. Managers and pharmacists are eligible upon their start dates.

Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church and the Washington Interfaith Network both serve as examples of CVS’s success in partnering with faith-based organizations to gain access to a network of potential employees. The faith-based partnership has also expanded within D.C., through the help of the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN). Through WIN, CVS gains a vehicle for advertising job openings in the D.C. area and sponsoring job fairs at over 60 churches in the area.

Additionally, CVS Caremark recently created a mini-learning center at Mt. Lebanon – the first faith-based One-Stop center in the country – to train qualified low-income residents for entry-level employment at CVS.”


“Some benefits to CVS Caremark of its various partnerships with faith-based, One-Stop, and intermediary organizations in coordination with the workforce investment system include:

  •  Access to qualified job-seekers.
  •  Savings from more effective use of company and adult education resources.
  •  Improved work quality.
  •  Increased employee retention.
  •  Improved customer service.
  •  Increased employee promotion rate.
  •  Support for the well-being and economic development of the community.
  •  Assistance with worker training and education needs.”