Progress presupposes change. The ability to anticipate change, and thrive through it, is resilience. Corporate citizenship delivers resilience—the capability to prepare for challenges and opportunities in our operating contexts—to deliver the results that we seek for our companies and in our communities. As corporate citizenship leaders, we should cultivate four important behaviors to develop resilience: we should scan, analyze, experiment, and evolve—our programs, our contexts, and ourselves.
Last year, Dave Stangis—Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer for the Campbell Soup Company—and I released two books to help corporate citizenship professionals align environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives with business goals to create long-term success. One book, titled The Executive’s Guide to 21st Century Corporate Citizenship, offers a guide for the business executive who is working to build a more ethical, resilient, sustainable, and profitable company. The other—21stCentury Corporate Citizenship: A Practical Guide to Delivering Value to Society and Your Business—serves as a step-by-step handbook for CSR professionals who are developing and implementing effective corporate citizenship programs.
The Winter 2018 issue of the Corporate Citizen Magazine, “Resilience, Responsibility, Results,” is now available!
In this issue, you’ll learn about companies that have cultivated resilience, committed themselves to continued corporate responsibility efforts, and are—thanks to all of their hard work—seeing tremendous results in their bottom line, within their company culture, and in the communities where their employees live and work.
- Managing Corporate Citizenship through Organizational Change —a look into how corporate citizenship professionals assess giving strategies to ensure that programs maximize both social and business value.
- Cause Marketing and Corporate Citizenship—an issue brief on the difference between cause marketing campaigns and corporate citizenship programs.
- The Virtuous Cycle of Sustainability—insights from two leading companies about their transformative environmental sustainability contributions.
- Corporate Citizenship with a B2B Focus—a deep-dive with four corporate citizenship leaders of B2B companies exploring how they focus their efforts to champion corporate citizenship.
- Education & Innovation: A Win-Win—a closer look at how two prominent companies have designed STEM education initiatives that align with business priorities.
- From Start to Finish—an exploration of how Kimberly-Clark has worked to create and maintain sustainable a supply chain.
“Optimism is a force multiplier” ~ Colin Powell
As corporate citizenship professionals, our task is to create the world in which we want to do business and the world in which we want to live. This has never been an easy objective, but recently the challenges facing us have become even more apparent.
The past year has been a time of great change—and for many of us—those changes have at times been difficult to accept. However, while the past 12 months have been tumultuous, they have given me plenty of reasons to maintain, and even increase, my optimism.
2017 may have been full of events, both man-made and natural, that have caused all of us to pause and take stock of what it is that we value—withdrawal from the Paris Accord, exposure of pervasive sexual harassment, natural disasters of immense scale. It was gratifying to see that each of these and many other challenges elicited responses from corporate America as CEOs took action to affirm their companies’ core values.
Throughout the year, corporate leaders have acted decisively to commit to social and environmental progress like never before, advocating for immigration, LGBT rights, and environmental innovation. For example, following the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement—firms rallied to show that We are Still In, and solidified their pledges with strategic efforts—to such a great extent that the UN environmental chief announced recently that the United States will likely live up to the accord due to corporate efforts. Companies rallied around the victims of natural disasters around the globe, and are starting to send a decisive message that the workplace climate for women MUST change. It is these actions that give me cause to be optimistic.
To maximize results from corporate citizenship investments, CSR professionals must be sure to measure and evaluate the impacts created by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activities. By properly measuring impact, companies gain the data and insights necessary to communicate maximum business and social value to stakeholders, strengthen corporate citizenship programs, and demonstrate a strategic link between corporate citizenship and business success. However, strategically measuring corporate citizenship means moving beyond the reporting of activities and outputs, and instead emphasizing outcomes and long-term impacts.
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.