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Image courtesy Ahmad Baroudi / Save the Children
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Our Heritage
130 Years of Giving Back: How Johnson & Johnson Has Helped the World in Times of Crisis
What started as support for wounded soldiers shortly after the company's founding has evolved into a legacy of philanthropy that spans the globe. In honor of Giving Tuesday, we look at key moments when the company has helped those in need.

our Thanksgiving cranberry sauce is just a sweet memory, and you've survived (or avoided!) both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But before you get swept up in even more holiday hubbub over the next few weeks, consider taking some time this giving season to also focus on how you can give back to people around the world who need a helping hand.

And what better day to start than today, which happens to be Giving Tuesday—a global movement designed to harness the power of philanthropy to help address challenges big and small.

In support of Giving Tuesday—and in recognition of the company's ongoing partnership with Save the Children—Johnson & Johnson will ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange today.

But the company's support for communities both local and global goes far beyond just Giving Tuesday. Throughout its storied 130-year history, Johnson & Johnson has mobilized in many different ways to help the world in times of crisis.

From humanitarian disasters to epic natural disasters, here's a look at how the company has given back to those in need. These stories can help serve as an inspiration for how we can all play a part in helping the world—on Giving Tuesday and beyond.


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Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson archives

1898: The Spanish-American War

Johnson & Johnson had only been around for 12 years when the Spanish-American War broke out, and the company was called into service by the U.S. Army to help produce first aid supplies, like compresses and bandages (shown above), for wounded soldiers. When battleground demands exceeded the government’s budget, Johnson & Johnson made a moral judgment call and continued to send the supplies without compensation.


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1906: The San Francisco Earthquake

When a massive earthquake destroyed 80% of San Francisco, Johnson & Johnson responded quickly and generously. Hours after the quake hit, trains full of gauze, sutures and bandages were dispatched from the company’s New Jersey headquarters to the Bay Area, providing the city with the largest donation of post-quake medical supplies.

Johnson & Johnson also reduced or forgave the bills of drugstores and hospitals affected by the disaster. The company’s response marked the beginnings of what is now one of the oldest corporate disaster relief programs in existence.


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Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson archives

1930s: The Great Depression

During this period in our nation's history, unemployment reached 25% after companies cut costs with massive layoffs. But Johnson & Johnson took the opposite approach: Not only did the company refuse to lay off any workers, but it also gave a 5% wage increase to all employees, and shortened the work day, so everyone could keep their jobs.

In 1933, Johnson & Johnson also bucked the trends of the era by opening a new facility in Chicago to help create new jobs. Many of those employees were so grateful for the opportunity that they remained fiercely loyal to the company—including the nine above who were still employed in 1970.


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Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson archives

1942: World War II

Johnson & Johnson already had a well-established reputation for product innovation when the war broke out, so when the U.S. military was looking for a waterproof tape, guess who they called for help? Engineers reworked the company’s adhesive tape products to create duck tape—later known as duct tape. The military used the sturdy, waterproof tape for all sorts of repairs, including tents, boots, jeeps and, yes, duct work.

The company also manufactured other products for military use, such as gas masks, airplane parts and camouflage material. For its contributions, Johnson & Johnson received the Army-Navy E Award for Excellence—an honor bestowed on just 5% of World War II contractors. Company employees in Chicago are shown celebrating the distinction above.


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Image credit James Pursey for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

1991: The AIDS Crisis

By the early '90s, AIDS infections were slowing in industrialized countries, but they were quickly climbing in the developing world—and mother-to-child transmission was emerging as a particularly serious problem. To help address this concern, Johnson & Johnson became one of the first corporate donors to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, helping it grow to become the leading organization working to end the disease in children. Of note, funding from the company helped the organization open an office in Zimbabwe, where the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission has dropped from 40% to 6.7% since 2003.


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2001: 9/11

The Twin Towers were visible from the top floors of Johnson & Johnson’s New Jersey headquarters, adding a particular poignancy to a tragedy that shocked the world. The company sprang into action immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center, arranging for medical supplies to reach St. Vincent’s Hospital—the medical center closest to the disaster site—that afternoon. The company’s distribution centers also stayed open 24/7 so that orders could be filled immediately, day or night, to help the wounded. And with civilian airlines grounded, Johnson & Johnson’s corporate aircraft received rare “Angel Flight” status to help deliver the company’s blood screening and typing products to blood centers and military bases.


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Image courtesy Heart to Heart

2012: Superstorm Sandy

The monster storm impacted millions, leaving mass flooding and power failures in its wake. Johnson & Johnson's facilities staff members lent aid in a number of ways by providing fuel to police and emergency vehicles, supplying generators to local towns and even dispatching a company fire truck to a New York City hospital to help pump out water.

Johnson & Johnson also joined forces with the American Red Cross, Save the Children and other partners to funnel aid to those most affected. In addition to distributing 20,000 kits containing such hygiene products as Listerine® mouthwash and Aveeno® shampoo to impacted communities, the company activated its "One Child, One Blanket" program to provide comfort to kids, like these boys in Far Rockaway, N.Y.


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Image courtesy Ahmad Baroudi / Save the Children

2013: The Syrian Refugee Crisis

The effects of the Syrian civil war have been widespread and long-lasting. To date, 11 million refugees have fled Syria, most to neighboring countries overwhelmed by the sudden demand on their resources. Every year since 2013, Johnson & Johnson has funded a variety of services to tackle both the short- and long-term needs of these refugee families, including physician training, medical supplies and humanitarian aid. Most recently, in collaboration with Save the Children, the company committed $1 million to fund programs designed to strengthen the resilience of refugee children and their parents.

To learn more about the work that Save the Children and Johnson & Johnson are doing to help assist refugee families—and see how you, too, can contribute to the cause—check out this Humankind video series.


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2014: The Ebola Outbreak

As the Ebola epidemic was raging through West Africa, Johnson & Johnson committed to accelerating and expanding production of a preventative vaccine regimen, in partnership with research institutions and other companies. This September, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson applied to the World Health Organization for an emergency use listing that could potentially make it possible for the investigational vaccine regimen to be made available should another Ebola crisis strike.

In addition to its vaccine efforts, the company has also supported health worker training on infection control and prevention in African countries where Ebola was prevalent.