From water filters that serve the developing world, to banking products that encourage investments in energy efficiency, to action-focused mobile engagement platforms, companies across all industries are empowering their employees to apply their professional expertise to develop solutions to business and social challenges. Distinguished from employee team and skills-based volunteerism, employee-led product innovation is a powerful engagement tool that drives business, social, and environmental impact.
The following is excerpted from the most recent issue of The Corporate Citizen, the Center’s biannual magazine.
Setting audacious long-term goals and working toward them is the central challenge of every business. One of the challenges for high-performing companies is creating evolutionary goals that are based on a vision for a sustainable future.
Addressing Boston College’s CEO Club in May 2014, Mark Parker, president and chief executive officer of NIKE, Inc., shared the company’s evolutionary process: “We wanted a mission statement and a set of values and guiding principles that were really true to the spirit of the company—that were forward-looking, aspirational, and something that employees would actually reference and use in their work.”
West Africa grows about two-thirds of the world’s supply of cocoa beans. More than two million cocoa farmers in West Africa and more than 10 million West Africans depend on cocoa for a significant portion of their livelihoods. Both climate change and shifts in demand have gravely impacted the industry in this region, creating the need for companies with operations in the region to invest in the long-term sustainability of local cocoa farmers. According to Andy McCormick, Senior Director of Cocoa Sustainability at The Hershey Company, projects designed to improve farmer production and raise incomes need to be at sufficient scale.
At the 2014 International Corporate Citizenship Conference, volunteerism emerged as one of the major themes of discussion. To keep the conversation going, it also became the topic of our April webinar, titled “Innovations in Volunteering.” This one hour webinar highlighted two companies that have utilized volunteer programs to enhance their corporate citizenship programs at their companies and provided key takeaways.
Outside the rich discussions emerging from the general sessions, conference attendees and speakers alike were sharing, learning, and inspiring each other in the day’s many breakout sessions. Following are highlights from just a few of the sessions:
“Engaging All Employees: A Guide to an Inclusive Portfolio” featured corporate citizenship pros who have mastered the art and science of employee engagement. Mark Heintz, director of corporate responsibility at Deckers Outdoor Corporation, Patty Pannkuk, vice president of team member philanthropy at Wells Fargo, Kate Rubin, vice president of social responsibility and president of UnitedHealth Foundation, and Nicole Stein, vice president of community responsibility at Umpqua Bank, spoke about what has worked for them to develop effective engagement efforts.
Entrepreneurship has existed for as long as human commerce, and enjoys a place of prominence and even romance in cultures around the world. Entrepreneurs inject competition and innovation to existing markets, introduce new products and processes, and create jobs. The entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes startups is still highly valued in established companies, and many of the largest and most successful companies pride themselves on fostering such innovation, agility, and passion.
“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.
During our most recent webinar, Environmental impacts and innovation: Corporate practices with green intentions, we learned from three corporate professionals who lead successful sustainability programs within their companies. As demonstrated through this webinar and our recent signature research report, The State of Corporate Citizenship, environmental issues are top of mind for leading companies. Representatives from Waste Management, Brown-Forman, and TD Bank demonstrated that leadership support, employee engagement,and even revenue generation are possible when the company values environmental sustainability. Creative solutions and meaningful investments of time, resources, and employee ingenuity enable these companies to improve the environment and their bottom line.
The 2013 International Corporate Citizenship Conference kicked off in Boston with an opening reception hosted by UPS and buzzing with energy. Lynnette McIntire, UPS Director of Corporate Reputation Management and Jerald Barnes, Global Region/Districts Grant Manager of the UPS Foundation, welcomed everyone to the conference. McIntire encouraged first-time attendees especially to embrace the network building that takes place and to share their experiences with the challenges they all face in “a very safe place, a very honest place.”