All corporate citizenship work is change management; citizenship programs are designed with the express intent of creating meaningful, positive change in our companies and communities. Citizenship professionals are adept at building the case, marshalling (sometimes scarce) resources, and imagining that there could be better education, safer neighborhoods, and a healthier environment than there is now.
Even the best laid out plans have their challenges. During a recent conversation, a local member company mentioned that they even felt their corporate citizenship strategy was frozen in place. They had been making progress, but things just seemed to slow down once the snow set in. They wanted to know: How do other companies thaw out their corporate citizenship strategy each year? How do they keep it from getting frozen in the first place? For answers, I turned to members of the Center’s Professional Services Sustainability Roundtable and Community Involvement Roundtable. The Center has more than 400 companies representing 21 industries and a large range of company sizes, but the advice these corporate leaders gave regarding strategy was extremely consistent.
Our conference this year was kicked off by a great speech by FedEx executive Raj Subramaniam. In the opening minutes of his remarks Subramaniam noted that, “Adaptable leadership is leadership. Change is no longer what happens to any business eventually. It is what happens to every business constantly.”
When I was younger and imagining where my career would take me, the role of Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) did not yet exist in business circles. There were many roles focused on environmental protection but these were largely externally focused on preservation of our resources like trees, minerals and animals. And they did not offer a seat at the board room table – in fact quite the opposite.
There comes a time in every career when it is necessary to blaze an uncharted path or quickly change the course of our goals or priorities. Today’s corporate citizenship business environment changes at unprecedented speeds. Only those capable of quickly and effectively adapting to new situations and environments will see long-term success in their careers. As corporate citizenship professionals we know being an adaptable leader is woven into your DNA.
“Recalculating.” How many times have you groaned when you heard that word coming from your GPS because you thought you knew the route and the GPS was sending you a different way, or because it meant you had missed a turn and now had to reroute.
But often this recalculation is a positive. The alert to “recalculate” means it’s time to choose a different path. This new path will show you new routes you might otherwise have missed, or reintroduce you to routes you’ve already encountered.
Organizational change is inevitable in businesses today; the question is how do individuals not only endure but thrive in such an atmosphere? As one of our webinar speakers, Cathy Glover, Director of Community Investment at Suncor, points out, implementing any major organizational change is like “building the car while it is still driving,” – clearly a significant challenge for any individual. The Center recognized this challenge as a common one for members and wanted to highlight two individuals who have learned from a transitional phase firsthand in our most recent webinar, Preparing for organizational change: A professional development guide. Along with Cathy Glover, Rosemary Matzl, Director of Community Relations at Illinois Tool Works, also spoke candidly about her experiences and learning related to corporate change.
In an evolving economy, it is business as usual when you receive a memo announcing a merger, acquisition, or CEO change. While organizational change presents challenges to professionals in all areas of a company, these changes can be particularly challenging when you work in sustainability, corporate responsibility, and community involvement.
For corporate citizenship professionals, such changes can have direct impacts on your grantees, programs, and even philanthropic priorities. The field in general has gained stature, the social and business benefits of your programs are well-known and understood by the current leadership, but will the priorities remain the same? Will you have to off-ramp with a charity that you’ve worked with for years? When a CEO who supported your corporate citizenship efforts decides to take an opportunity elsewhere, or a merger forces two different priority lists to compete, what is a citizenship professional to do?
“There are those who see, those who see when shown, and those who cannot see.”
Much like DaVinci, professionals working in corporate citizenship must be able to see well beyond the possibilities in plain sight today. It is that kind of vision that inspired our 2013 International Corporate Citizenship Conference theme of Designing Opportunity. Leading companies today envision how their corporate citizenship efforts could benefit the business and society in exciting new ways just as DaVinci created so many things for a new world.
Vision for what is possible will fuel the continued evolution of corporate citizenship and its further integration in business. Moving corporate citizenship to the core of how business is conducted will allow companies to generate innovations that provide solutions to social problems that align with firm capabilities and values.
To fully leverage these opportunities requires hard work. The work is not only in the design phase, it is in the execution also. Getting those “who need to be shown” on board and compelling those “who cannot see” requires strategy, finesse, optimism, and unflagging persistence – attributes and skills that are reinforced and advanced in our professional community.
June 5, is World Environment Day, an annual event aimed at increasing worldwide awareness of positive environmental action. This year’s theme focuses on creating awareness of food waste and encourages people to Think-Eat-Save. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, every year 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted. This is equivalent to the amount of food produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has issued a call to action by people from around the globe to do something that will positively affect the environment, whether at home or in the office. World Environment Day is all about working together to take action in support of the Earth, and everyone can make a difference. If you are wondering how you can contribute to this effort here are 10 things you can do today to be a change agent for tomorrow: