In the Nation's Interest
2017 Awards Dinner Spotlight: Mark Bertolini
Mark Bertolini is the Chairman and CEO of Aetna. You can read his bio here. He is the recipient of CED's 2017 Peter G. Peterson Business Statesmanship Award.
Is there a particular public policy that you believe business leaders are especially well-positioned to make a difference in?
One of my top priorities as CEO is to restore trust between corporations and the American public. While unemployment has finally dipped below five percent, wages for most individuals are stagnant, and according to the OECD income inequality is greater in the U.S. than in any other democracy in the developed world. Something is out of balance, and many companies have failed to realize that our most important resource is our people.
Corporations have an opportunity and a responsibility to act as a force for good, and this responsibility starts with our own employees. As business leaders, we need to take a leadership role in supporting the people and communities we serve by investing in our employees and the communities in which they live.
Has your company spearheaded a particular philanthropic or societal initiative that you would like to share?
In 2015, we noticed that some of our employees – especially those who most closely served our customers – were struggling to make ends meet. We realized that they needed help, and decided to take action by introducing a "social compact" with employees.
We started by raising Aetna’s base wage to $16 per hour for all U.S. employees and introduced an Enhanced Benefit Program to help lower out-of-pocket medical and higher education costs for employees with low household incomes. We also introduced mindfulness and other wellness programs to help employees manage their stress.
While there is certainly a business case for this improved social compact, it is also the right thing to do – for our employees, their families and the communities in which we operate. At Aetna, we are continuously evaluating how to further improve the health and wellbeing of our employees, and I regularly talk with public officials and other business leaders about how corporations are able to make a positive impact in society. We believe that companies should regularly review the social compact they have with their employees and evaluate if there is more that they can do to support their workers.
Which aspect of your company’s culture has made the biggest contribution to its success?
Creating a culture of empathy plays a significant role in our company’s success. As a health company, putting ourselves in the shoes of both our members and our employees who work every day to serve them is critical. Our business is all about people, and when we treat people with empathy, we have the ability to positively impact the lives of our employees, our customers and the communities we serve.