The CVS Decision: A Matter Of Values

CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS) took a bold step this week with its announcement it will no longer sell cigarettes and tobacco products.

The move means the company will forfeit roughly $2 billion in annual revenue. At first glance, the news isn’t great for the company’s balance sheet. But you have to look deeper into the company’s brand and values to see why the move is fitting.

Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Caremark, said his company is in the business of health care, not retail. “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health,” the company posted on its website. Also posted on its website is its core values, which include:

  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Caring
  • Integrity
  • Accountability

This move is clearly in-line with their stated purpose and values, a move we don’t see often enough today in corporate America.

Relying on a strong foundation of values is often what sets market leaders apart from the pack. Think of values as the core guiding principles that act as the foundation of your organization. These principles should guide every decision and serve as your fallback in times of uncertainty. Take a look at the stated values of your company and ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to fight for them?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice for them?
  • Am I willing to pay for them?
  • Am I willing to spend time on them?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions you need  to ask yourself whether or not your company is true to its stated values and are these values aligned with your own personal values? When the actions of your company are inconsistent with your publicly-stated values customers will start to lose trust. On a personal level, when the values you genuinely espouse are inconsistent with those of your company, people around you will take notice.

In my experience, people don’t spend much time thinking about their values and they spend even less time actually articulating them in a clear and concise way. A clear set of values can act as a litmus test when making tough decisions for both yourself and your organization.

In a time where far too many companies do little more than give lip service to the nicely framed mission and values statements displayed on their walls, CVS demonstrated a wiliness to both sacrifice and pay for being true to their values. The decision will most certainly cause it some minor near term financial pain, but ultimately pay-off in establishing them as a genuine health and wellness leader. Consider taking some time to flesh out your own values and re-examine those of your company. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself: Am I actually living these values?