Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest and most well-known healthcare companies in the world. With popular consumer brands like Band-Aid, Tylenol, and Johnson’s baby products, J&J has become a household name.
But is Johnson & Johnson a black-owned company? The short answer is no, Johnson & Johnson is not a black-owned business. Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 by three brothers – Robert Wood Johnson, James Wood Johnson, and Edward Mead Johnson. All three founders were white men.
Today, Johnson & Johnson is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Its largest shareholders are institutional investors like The Vanguard Group and BlackRock. There is no evidence that any major shareholders are black-owned firms or investors.
While not black-owned, Johnson & Johnson has made efforts in recent years to promote diversity and inclusion, including within its senior leadership. In 2020, the company appointed its first black CEO, Joaquin Duato. However, the majority of board members and executives are still white.
History of Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey by Robert Wood Johnson, James Wood Johnson, and Edward Mead Johnson.
The three Johnson brothers had worked together earlier at Seabury and Johnson, a medical supplies company founded by Robert. But disputes with their boss led them to strike out on their own.
In 1886, the three brothers established a new company called Johnson & Johnson. They contributed a total of $313,000 in start-up capital.
Johnson & Johnson’s first product was a line of ready-to-use surgical dressings. At the time, most surgical dressings had to be made by nurses from raw materials. Bandages were expensive and time-consuming to create.
The Johnson brothers utilized new mass production techniques to offer pre-packaged, sterilized dressings at a much lower cost. This innovation allowed them to disrupt the medical dressings market.
Within a few years, Johnson & Johnson expanded into other consumer health products like baby powder, sanitary products, and dental floss. They were pioneers in manufacturing safe, effective consumer healthcare goods.
The company went public in 1944, listing shares on the New York Stock Exchange. But the founding Johnson family maintained control through a dual-share structure until 1962.
Over the decades, Johnson & Johnson grew both organically and through major acquisitions of companies like Tylenol, Neutrogena, and Ethicon. Today it comprises over 250 subsidiary companies in 60 countries, though still based in New Brunswick.
But throughout its 135+ year history, Johnson & Johnson has been owned and managed predominantly by white men descended from the original founders. There is no evidence it has ever had significant black ownership or leadership until recently.
Ownership Structure of Johnson & Johnson
As a publicly traded Fortune 500 company, Johnson & Johnson has many shareholders across institutional investors, mutual funds, and individuals. But no single entity owns a majority stake.
Here is a breakdown of the company’s major shareholders according to Nasdaq:
|The Vanguard Group
|BlackRock Fund Advisors
|SSgA Funds Management
|Geode Capital Management
The largest shareholders are institutional investment managers like Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street, and Geode Capital. None of these top 4 shareholders are black-owned firms.
Vanguard and BlackRock are two of the world’s largest asset managers that invest on behalf of millions of clients. State Street Global Advisors is another major investment firm managing index and mutual funds. Geode focuses on quantitative investing strategies for institutional investors.
While investment firms like Vanguard and BlackRock manage money for people across all demographics, they themselves are not black-owned corporations. The founders and senior leadership of these investment management giants have historically been white men.
Within Johnson & Johnson’s individual shareholders, there may be black investors with a small fraction of shares. But no SEC filings indicate any major direct black shareholders of the company.
Based on its current ownership structure, there is no evidence Johnson & Johnson has significant black ownership. Top shareholders are large investment managers representing diverse institutional and retail investors in their funds and products.
Leadership of Johnson & Johnson
For most of its history, Johnson & Johnson’s executive team and board directors have been predominantly white men. But in recent years, the company has made some efforts to increase representation of women and people of color in leadership roles.
In 2020, Joaquin Duato became the first black person to be appointed CEO of Johnson & Johnson. Duato had been with the company for over 30 years in various roles, including Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee.
Only 5 other black individuals have served on Johnson & Johnson’s Board of Directors. As of 2023, 2 of the company’s 14 board members are black:
- A. Eugene Washington, MD
- Gregory S. Williams
The percentage of black directors at J&J is 14% as of 2023. While modest, this representation surpasses many other Fortune 500 companies.
Johnson & Johnson also now has a racially diverse Executive Committee comprising top leaders across each business unit:
|Chief Executive Officer
|Joseph J. Wolk
|Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
|Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals
|Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Consumer Health
|Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Medical Devices
Thibaut Mongon, who leads the consumer health business, is the second black member of the Executive Committee along with CEO Joaquin Duato. However, Johnson & Johnson still has progress to make in black representation at the executive level.
The company’s workforce demographics also indicate opportunity for improvement. As of 2021, just 6.6% of Johnson & Johnson’s US employees were black. Over 77% were white. The company has pledged to continue increasing diversity across all levels.
Recent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts
While not a black-owned firm historically, Johnson & Johnson has taken steps to increase racial diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years. Some examples include:
- Appointing the company’s first black CEO Joaquin Duato in 2020
- Achieving 14% black representation on the board of directors
- Signing the Business Roundtable diversity and inclusion commitment
- Partnering with Black Girls CODE to support STEM education for young women of color
- Investing $100 million over 10 years to fight racial health inequities in the US
In 2022, Johnson & Johnson announced new representation goals for its US workforce:
- Increase black representation in management roles to 10% by 2025
- Increase black representation overall to 10% of the workforce by 2025
- Increase representation of women globally to 45% at the VP level and above by 2025
The company has published extensive goals, data and strategies around DE&I. However, Johnson & Johnson is by no means a leader in racial diversity and inclusion compared to peers. It has significant room for improvement.
Critics argue Johnson & Johnson’s diversity programs and commitments ring hollow given its actions as a corporation. In 2022, the company separately decided to spin off and dissolve the famous Johnson & Johnson consumer brands. Many employees felt betrayed by this move which will split the company in three.
Johnson & Johnson also faced thousands of lawsuits alleging its talcum powder caused cancer, particularly in black women and children. A 2018 Reuters investigation found the company knew for decades its talc products were sometimes tainted with asbestos but failed to alert regulators or consumers. After suffering billions in losses from lawsuits, J&J finally discontinued all talc-based baby powders in North America in 2020.
Despite positive steps on diversity, the company’s record on issues like consumer safety, opioid marketing, and protecting public health remains controversial. Johnson & Johnson will need to back up its inclusion rhetoric with meaningful actions as a corporation.
Is Johnson & Johnson Doing Business with Black-owned Companies?
Beyond its own diversity metrics, Johnson & Johnson could further demonstrate its commitment to racial equity by expanding business relationships with black-owned firms. However, data on the company’s suppliers and partners is limited.
In 2021, Johnson & Johnson spent approximately $26 billion on products and services from external suppliers globally. But the healthcare giant does not report any consolidated data on diversity in its supply chain or vendor partnerships.
This makes it difficult to verify if Johnson & Johnson is supporting black-owned businesses through its immense procurement and vendor budgets. While the company has inclusion programs for employees, it offers little transparency on inclusion for suppliers.
Some advocates have called on large corporations like Johnson & Johnson to allocate more spend to diverse-owned businesses, including minimum targets for black suppliers. However, the company has not made any specific dollar commitments to contracting with black-owned partners to date.
More transparency and traction on supplier diversity will be important metrics to watch for Johnson & Johnson. The company lags peers in this area. For example, competitor Bristol Myers Squibb runs a Global Supplier Diversity & Inclusion program committing to goals like:
– 10% annual spending on goods and services from diverse suppliers
– 25% spend with minority-owned firms by 2025
Growing engagement with black-owned businesses could significantly impact Johnson & Johnson’s total community impact beyond its own employee demographics.
Based on its founding, ownership, leadership history and current status, Johnson & Johnson does not qualify as a black-owned company. The multinational firm was started by white men and remains majority owned by large institutional investors to this day.
However, Johnson & Johnson has recently prioritized diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, including appointing its first black CEO. It has room for improvement in representation at senior levels and throughout the employee base.
While not black-owned, Johnson & Johnson could further demonstrate meaningful commitment to racial equity by expanding partnerships and contracts with black-owned suppliers and vendors. Clear goals and data transparency around supplier diversity will be key to watch going forward.
Overall, Johnson & Johnson is working to increase diversity but still has significant progress to make across all areas of DE&I as a global corporation. It must continue backing rhetoric with measurable action to truly support economic inclusion for the black community and other people of color.