The battle of long receipts (and sustainability): Walgreens vs. CVS

No matter where you go, it seems there’s always a Walgreens or a CVS just around the corner. The two drugstores carry everything from groceries and cosmetics to household supplies and greeting cards. Both stores have pharmacies that offer services like flu shots, and both have rewards cards that offer serious savings.

Green is the new black, and with good reason. America’s landfills are overflowing, only two-thirds of our waters are fishable and swimmable, and human habits are ruining other species’ habitats. It’s time—past time—to think about minimizing our environmental footprint.1 The healthcare industry has a critical role in decreasing carbon emissions.

Deciding which pharmacy store to support can be stressful at any point, so we’ve tried to break down two of the more known chains and what your purchase will support.

Why you should trust us

At Ethically, we compile scores from over 700 verified sources to create a granular profile of more than 10,000 companies and brands, evaluating their impact on the environment, society at large, and good business. You can learn more about Ethically’s process in our Methodology and you can see the scores yourself by downloading the Ethically browser extension.

The companies

CVS

CVS Caremark Corporation delivers integrated pharmacy health care services in the United States. The company operates through three segments: Pharmacy Services, Retail/LTC and Corporate. As of December 31, 2020, it operated approximately 9,900 retail locations and 1,100 MinuteClinic locations, as well as online retail pharmacy websites LTC Pharmacy and On-Site Pharmacy.

Walgreens

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc is a  pharmacy-led health and wellbeing company in the United States. The company operates through three segments—Retail Pharmacy USA, Retail Pharmacy International, and Pharmaceutical Wholesale. As of August 31, 2020, WBA  operated 9,021 retail stores under the Walgreens and Duane Reade brands, and six specialty pharmacies.

Scores Overview

These two companies, often compared side by side, similarly have no distinction when it comes to overall ESG score. Even though they have the same exact score, there are some differences in a few subcategories that we look into. 

Overall, CVS and Walgreens both scored a 58/100. Within the subcategories, the differences are highlighted in all three categories which gives us more insight into how these companies operate differently.

Let’s dive in (Reminder, check out our Methodology for definitions on each of these subtopic scores)

Impact on the environment

Impact on the environment relates to how a company or brand impacts the natural world around us. This could be related to the products they create, their manufacturing policies, or even their corporate response to climate change. CVS and Walgreens both impact the environment in a number of ways, from their manufacturing policies to the products they produce. Below are more details comparing these two companies. 

CVS

Score: 72

Walgreens

Score: 69

Comparison

CVS has a slight advantage over Walgreens in this category, with the scores being 72 to 69. This category has to do with the companies’ compliance with environmental regulations, energy efficient operations and development of renewable energy and alternative environmental technologies. 

Double clicking on that score difference, CVS scored a 78/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 72/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 66/100 in Resource Management. On the other hand, Walgreens scored a 79/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 70/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 59/100 in Resource Management.

Impact on social responsibility

Social responsibility includes all the things that make a company “good”. Whether that’s giving back to the community, standing up for equal rights, treating workers fairly. CVS and Walgreens both have a number of policies around LGBTQ+ rights, community outreach, and equal pay and rights for all.

CVS

Score: 57

Walgreens

Score: 57

Comparison

Both companies’ share the exact score in the Social Responsibility ranking, 57/100. This category includes all programs, policies and performance in diversity, labor relations and labor rights. It also focuses on compensation and benefits as well as employee safety.

Upon further analysis, Walgreens beats CVS in the rankings of Compensation & Benefits (54 vs 50) and CVS scores higher than Walgreens in Training, Health, & Safety (62 vs 58). 

Quality of corporate governance

Corporate governance is much like social responsibility, but for how the company operates internally. Do they have a diverse board? Is there transparency in accounting? Are they doing what they need to do to survive and operate in an ethical and correct manner? CVS and Walgreens both are large public companies with shareholders and boards they answer to.

CVS

Score: 53

Walgreens

Score: 56

Comparison

Another slight score distinction is observed within the Social Responsibility category, where CVS scores a 53/100 and Walgreens scores a 56/100. The Governance score refers to leadership structure and the values that determine corporate direction, ethics and performance.

The major differences were the respective companies’ Board rankings CVS: 52 vs. Walgreens: 55, Leadership Ethics CVS: 53 vs. Walgreens: 57 and Transparency & Reporting with CVS: 54 vs. Walgreens: 55 score.

Summary

Ethically partners with CSRHub as a primary data source, which in turn, aggregates over 700 data sources, compiling them into simple, easy to digest grades. 

CVS and Walgreens are the two largest pharmacy chains in the U.S. that have grown through unit expansion and several major acquisitions. They both share the same overall ESG score; however, specific distinctions are noted upon further investigation in their sub categories within all three categories.

If you want to stay up to date on how these companies are progressing with their scores, make sure you download Ethically. We pull data regularly to make sure our scores reflect how companies are doing today, not years ago.

As always, please check out our Methodology page for more details on how we get our ratings data.

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