By Mark Horoszowski
Earlier this month at the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference, CEOs from diverse organizations gathered for a Plenary Panel titled “Lessons From the Top”. The CEOs represented a variety of industries and include the YWCA (non-profit), United Nations Foundation, and two socially-minded for-profits: Starfish Media Group and Reserveage
These are their five lessons:
Earlier this week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center’s conference The Impact Equation: Stronger Business, Greater Results, Better World gathered business and non-profit leaders committed to sharing innovative solutions on how to achieve positive change in communities in the U.S. and around the world.
This year’s event focused on results. As the Corporate Citizenship Center’s Executive Director Marc DeCourcey put it, “In today’s world, companies must ensure that every dollar spent is meaningful, that every employee volunteer opportunity is worthwhile, and that every investment shows a return. Companies must ensure that their work is driving measurable, lasting impact.”
Great speakers – including Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, Stan Litow, President of the IBM Foundation, and Carolyn Berkowitz, President of the Capital One Foundation – emphasized that point throughout the conference. The focus on results was also reinforced by a study presented by Global Impact, Giving Beyond Borders: A Study of Global Giving by U.S. Corporations, showing that effectiveness in producing results is by far the most important factor influencing corporate partnerships with non-profits.
Here are a few other highlights from that report that I found particularly interested from the Center for International Private Enterprise’s perspective centered on international projects:
A recent CEO study on sustainability conducted by the UN Global Compact and Accenture – the third one of its kind – reached out to more than 1,000 executives from 27 industries in 103 countries around the world, asking for their views on the past, present and future of sustainable business. This largest-ever CEO study on sustainability offered a mixed picture of global movement in the positive direction juxtaposed with the frustration over slow progress.
In the previous edition of this study, conducted in 2010, CEOs were optimistic that sustainability – understood as the active management of social, environmental, and governance issues as a part of core business – would soon become a norm embedded into operations of companies worldwide, with leadership on sustainability incentivized and rewarded. In 2013, 63 percent of CEOs still expect sustainability to transform their industry within five years and 76 percent believe that embedding sustainability into core business will drive revenue growth and new opportunities. However, the predominant feeling is that global business efforts on sustainability may have plateaued, and despite deeper awareness and commitment levels many business leaders deem the pace of change and the scale of impact insufficient.
Participants on a panel at the BCLC event.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), or corporate citizenship, is not a new concept. The idea that businesses should be responsible and engaged members of their communities, both locally and globally, has been around for quite some time. However, the understanding of what that means in practice and what the larger significance of good corporate citizenship is has evolved over time. Today it is more important today than ever before.
Recently, I had a chance to participate in two great events that explored this topic in depth: CSR: Business Solutions for Emerging Markets conference organized by the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) and Corporate Strategic Responsibility: What’s Next for CSR? organized by Partners for Democratic Change, together with the GE Foundation and the International Finance Corporation CommDev Office. They both attracted excellent speakers and active participants, asking key questions about what makes corporate citizenship successful and why it should be a key element of a company’s strategy.
These are the themes and new concepts that I took away:
In a world where sustainability has become a global buzzword, companies are reassessing how their business impacts local, national, and international communities. Companies are also taking a proactive approach and thinking about what role they can play in a building better and more sustainable society.
While all that sounds nice, what does it really look like in practice? What does it mean to be a good corporate citizen?
Good corporate citizenship starts with good corporate governance. According to a guidebook recently published by CIPE partner the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia (ADFIAP), corporate governance “is an internal set of rules that ultimately focuses on accountability of the business to its investors and stakeholders.” In other words, an organization must ensure good business practices, sustained growth, and risk management before it can be accountable to its community.
Siemens is a leading supplier of technologies like wind turbines that help its customers reduce their environmental impact. (Photo: Wind Power Monthly)
As companies around the world strive to create sustainable value chains, they are paying increased attention to the operations and management practices of their suppliers, distributors, and partners. A recent joint research project of the American Society for Quality, the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association, and the Institute for Supply Management with Deloitte Consulting LLP took a closer look at what improves the effectiveness of sustainable value chains. The project gathered almost 1,000 responses from sustainable supply chain executives.
The responses measured how much a given management practice can increase an organization’s sustainable value chain effectiveness, as compared to respondents not adopting the practice. Not surprisingly, among the top 10 such management practices, the top five have to do with engagement, organizational culture, and incentives (percentages represent an increase in sustainable value chain effectiveness):
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting a corporate citizenship conference on October 10 and 11, 2012, in Washington, DC. The conference, sponsored by the Chamber’s Business Civic Leadership Center, will feature briefings on international development trends, regional development assessments, and U.S. government and multilateral initiatives and will provide many opportunities for companies, organizations, and individuals to network, share, and learn.
Literacy, nutrition, poverty, hygiene, corruption, violence, disease, pollution are not just social issues, they profoundly affect the business landscape. As companies increasingly cultivate business opportunities in emerging markets, they encounter these challenges and are developing strategies and innovations that are improving social, environmental, and governance conditions. Businesses are changing the way that they work with governments, development agencies, and key stakeholders; applying technology in new ways to old problems and re-framing problems to come up with new solutions.
The organizers are also accepting speaker proposals.
Find out more about the conference, register, and see video from last year’s conference here.