Conference closes with exploration of corporate citizenship evolutions and revolutions
The final day of the 2012 International Corporate Citizenship Conference provided perspectives on how companies and their employees can create positive change that was unimagined previously. And attendees learned about the importance of an ability to innovate and change in a world where the rules of communication and image are being rewritten at light speed daily.
In the opening session of the day, Trisa Thompson, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Dell, spoke on “Powering the Possible Through Innovation: Revolutionizing the Approach to Corporate Responsibility.” Thompson came to her current job from a legal background but said the position she has held for 18 months marries her avocation and vocation.
Asking for a show of hands, Thompson confirmed that most attendees, like her, came to their corporate citizenship roles through a combination of passion and luck. “Why is that important? Because passion and luck drive innovation and change,” Thompson said. “Everyone here is doing that.”
Thompson identified three trends behind innovation and change in corporate citizenship:
- Sustainable software that helps make everything else more sustainable
- Partnerships through which companies seek to extend their impact and make a difference, rather than keeping the focus on brand.
- Social media that democratizes the work being done by NGOs and companies.
New World for Business
After lunch, conference attendees enjoyed an interesting and illuminating presentation by David Jones, Global CEO of Havas and author of the best-selling new book, “Who Cares Wins: Why Good Business is Better Business”.
Jones joked that the title of his address could have been “Preaching to the Converted,” as the assembled professionals are well aware that business needs to do better to do well. Instead, he suggested that the audience “look at this as ammunition you can take back to your companies.”
Pointing to the global economic crisis sparked by a pursuit of profit for profit’s sake, Jones suggested that if business doesn’t change its behavior there will be another crisis. But he emphasized that since that time we have moved into an age when people are empowered through digital and social technology to hold business leaders accountable. With a new “radical transparency” making what was once private public, Jones warned, “if you behave in the wrong way today, you’ll get found out.”
Millennials are big drivers in this new world, Jones said. They have different standards and are experts at using a technology that gives individuals the ability to create mass movements. Jones identified a number of ways that, as a result of this evolution/revolution, business is changing and needs to change. He contends that social responsibility, or social irresponsibility, drives social media. “Social media has taken CSR out of the silo and put it in the P&L statement,” Jones said.
Breakouts, workshops explore varied terrains
Sandwiched between the pair of excellent speakers were almost two dozen breakout sessions and workshops where attendees gathered insights from leading practitioners who shared their experiences.
“I love hearing from those large companies about something that means something to them or what impacted them,” commented Christy Reeves from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. “Especially when they’re companies that I see as a real leader,” she added. “We’re guiding our programs toward what they do.”
Some of those leading companies included Wells Fargo, which presented a workshop on partnerships, and a Suncor Lead and Learn session on its experience bringing together two corporate citizenship programs after a merger.
“It has exceeded my expectations. I have been very impressed with every workshop,” said Garry Walters of Southwest Gas here in Phoenix, who was attending his first conference. Walters found the breakout session Adding Value to Community and Company Through Volunteerism particularly helpful. “It gave me some ideas on how you can get senior management to get more involved with our volunteer efforts,” he noted.
Other sessions touched on topics including: Investing in Girls and Women for a Better Future, Managing Corporate Citizenship as an Essential Part of Reputation, Taking Employees on the Environmental Journey, and a Lead and Learn session from FedEx on Creative and Innovative Approaches to Disaster Readiness, Relief and Recovery.
Join us in Boston next year
At the end of Tuesday’s session, Center for Corporate Citizenship Executive Director Katherine V. Smith expressed her thanks to Arizona Public Service for serving both as convening sponsor and gracious host to the Center and the 550 conference attendees. While we are sad to be leaving the Valley of the Sun and its marvelous weather, the Center staff already has plans under way for the 2013 conference. Before closing this year’s event, Smith announced that next year we will meet in Boston, April 21-23, with Travelers as convening sponsor.
But the conference experience doesn’t have to end in Phoenix or wait until next April to resume in Boston. Check out the Center blog for more highlights. If you don’t already receive the Center blog, click here to subscribe and get the latest news. Continue to follow us on Twitter at #BCConf12 and next week watch for expanded post-conference reports and a special Conference Edition of our e-newsletter with information on how to find more conference content.