The final day of the 2015 International Corporate Citizenship Conference was rich with inspiration and ideas, as attendees solidified connections, learned from each other and from experts in the field, and were introduced to next year’s Conference sponsor—UPS—during the event’s closing session.
Progress through innovation
Following a morning of networking, the approximately 600 CSR professionals attending the Conference gathered for the opening general session, hosted by Wells Fargo—who not only sponsored the event, but also provided carbon offsets for all of the Conference attendees. During the session, titled “Collaboration Driving Innovation,” Wells Fargo environmental leaders Mary Wenzel and Ashley Grosh were joined by Richard Adams, director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for an in-depth look at environmental sustainability and the role of strategic partnerships—both within the organization and with external stakeholders.
To begin the session, Wenzel shared Wells Fargo’s journey to environmental sustainability, which was marked by multiple environmental commitments. The company’s current environmental commitment is comprised of 2020 goals that strive to create change within communities, within Wells Fargo, and within the company’s lines of business. Unlike previous iterations, the current commitment was developed by engaging stakeholders throughout the business first, and then rolling those goals up through leadership—a strategy that delivered results, as many of the company’s 2020 goals were met by 2012.
“We knew that in order to make sustainable, meaningful progress, the work needed to be owned by people throughout the company,” said Wenzel.
Now, Wells Fargo is working to broaden their commitment to include other aspects of corporate citizenship, such and social and governance issues. “To truly make progress on large problems, you can’t tackle them on a one-off basis,” said Wenzel.
The session then turned to a deep dive into one of Wells Fargo’s sustainability partnerships, the Innovation Incubator—better known as IN2. The result of a partnership with The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), IN2 fosters the early development of clean energy technologies, and through funding, technology resources, and mentorship—helps them enter the commercial marketplace.
In discussing the initiative, Grosh pointed to the importance of strong partnerships, and outlined the necessary qualities to lead a new program to success.
“When you’re coming up with a brand new idea and you don’t have a roadmap, you need a lot of partners both internally and externally,” said Grosh. “You also need to be patient, flexible, and persistent –and you need to set expectations.”
Adams also stressed the importance of partnerships, which he argued is necessary for a program as aspirational and far-reaching as IN2. As advice to the attendees, he offered: “Make sure you find a partner that you can develop a deep relationship with—it takes that level of trust to roll out a program like this one, and have the right sort of objectives that are balanced on both sides.”
As the session concluded, Conference participants dispersed to attend one of the morning’s breakout sessions, which included a materiality workshop led by Center for Corporate Citizenship Teaching Fellows Ronald Brown and Lynnette McIntire, four panelist discussions, and a company case study—during which leaders from The Travelers Companies, Inc. discussed the secrets behind their signature programs.
Focusing on the future
During the afternoon’s breakout sessions, CSR practitioners flocked to their choice of one of four panelist discussions ranging from diversity and inclusion to sustainability, an exploration of EY’s collaboration with College for Every Student, and a workshop on impact mapping and GRI G4 reporting presented by leaders at BrownFlynn.
Finally, following a networking lunch, it was time for the final event of the Conference, a look at the trends that are shaping the future of corporate citizenship led by the Silicon Valley Bureau Chief of Fusion and author of Powering the Dream, Alexis Madrigal.
To begin the event, the Center’s Executive Director Katherine V. Smith welcomed the attendees for the final time, thanked them for their engagement, and introduced Ed Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation at UPS.
During his remarks, Martinez reminded attendees of some recent corporate citizenship milestones –as 2015 is the year that the U.N. Millennium Declaration goals—which committed world leaders to a fight against a variety of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues—were to be achieved. He pointed to the progress these goals helped attain, and discussed the needs that the new goals—to be set in September—will work to address. Martinez called on the audience to amplify their role as corporate practitioners in this fight, which hopes to end hunger, combat climate change, and ensure access to safe water.
“The fact is, the world faces many challenges which the global communities must address, and they must do that together,” said Martinez. “I want to underscore the importance of the private sector remaining engaged as a key stakeholder in our global community. I know that the opportunities for the private sector to engage with civil society, U.N. agencies, government, and academia are more abundant now than they were 15 years ago.”
Martinez pointed to the UPS Foundation’s impressive corporate citizenship commitment—which includes a plan for UPS employees to volunteer 20 million hours by 2020—as an example of what is possible when corporations choose to take an active role in the global future, and he called on the audience to join him in that commitment.
“I’m convinced there is a tremendous opportunity to work together, to learn from each other, and to tap into our capacity to confront the challenges of today for a better tomorrow,” said Martinez. “It’s 2015. The future has arrived. Let’s solve problems together.”
Martinez then welcomed Madrigal to the stage for a session highlighting many aspects of the Conference’s theme: 2020 Vision: Future Business Focus. A leader of technology and media coverage across platforms, Madrigal explored how factors—including technology and demographics—are shaping the world ahead.
In his remarks, Madrigal asked the audience to step away from their preconceived notions about technology and about its role in their work, and to ensure that they were taking an active role in determining the how technology will impact the future.
“The futures that we get are not inevitable,” said Madrigal. “The people who use technologies change them as the adopt them, and part of having values now in today’s society is deciding what we want to hold onto as much as what we want to alter. The future has as much to do with what will endure as what will change.”
Madrigal provided predictions of the future—things like the proliferation of on-demand services, the presence of data in everything, and the introduction of searchable video—and talked about the effects these changes could have on corporate citizenship issues like privacy and security, healthcare, and employee engagement.
To close the session, Madrigal cautioned the audience about simply accepting technology changes and their ramifications, and offered advice to the crowd.
“As we move into a world where everything is on demand and where the feedback is flowing, every person in every corporation needs to be mindful that all of these technologies come with their own limitations and their own biases,” said Madrigal. “Don’t just react to technology, but instead plan for it and shape it.”
The conference closed with Smith once again taking the stage to thank Conference attendees, speakers, and sponsors for the incredible two-plus days of convening the best minds in the corporate citizenship space. Before the program wrapped, Martinez joined Smith to invite the crowd to the 2016 Conference, to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, with UPS as its convening sponsor.
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