Doing good and doing well; it’s great when both come together. And that’s just what happens when business embraces opportunities to become a good corporate citizen, integrates CSR with core capabilities, and creatively finds ways to sustain itself in service. But, doing good while doing well is easier in theory than in practice. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation works to provide a forum for much-needed discourse among those striving to implement effective citizenship strategies and programs.
The Chamber champions three specific initiatives that support good corporate citizenship. The Global Economic Empowerment Report provides important information on how to spur growth at the base of the pyramid, the importance of fostering entrepreneurship and diverse supply chains, and how skills and partnerships drive economic growth. The Annual Citizen Awards have commended the greatest achievements in CSR over the past 15 years, providing an important incentive for innovation in social responsibility. Lastly, the Corporate Citizenship Conference provides an important forum in which corporations can share achievements and best practices, while working to build a culture of collaboration within the sector.
What constitutes a good corporate citizen? There’s no one simple answer to this question. Varied approaches like Stuart Hart’s Sustainable Value Framework, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer’s shared value, and connected capitalism offer guideposts toward ethical corporate citizenship. These concepts aid corporate practitioners in thinking through the mechanics of this evolving field and how it applies to one’s corporate environment and priorities. Yet faced with internal pressures, colleagues need a place to learn from and share ideas with the relatively small number of field practitioners.
#1: The Global Economic Empowerment Report
Business builds a bridge between supply and demand. Where there is a great market need, business finds opportunity for profitable innovation. This month, the Chamber published its Global Economic Empowerment Report, which features organizations that have discovered this critical sweet spot for market innovation.
Dozens of examples from companies like Citi, HP, Kate Spade and Co., Microsoft, and a host of others show how companies with strong corporate citizenship practices not only support, but lead business opportunity. The report examines cases through the lens of four themes:
- Advancing beyond the base of the pyramid
- Fostering entrepreneurship and diverse supply chains, jobs, and life skills training for new markets
- Creating impact through innovative partnership
Qualcomm, a mobile technology company, is equipping lower income communities in Southeast Asia to move beyond the base of the pyramid through its Wireless Reach program. Qualcomm helps micro-entrepreneurs—local women who sell consumer goods out of their homes—develop financial literacy that can boost their income. These local women purchase a mobile phone with prepaid airtime from Qualcomm. In exchange, they receive both access to affordable communication and mobile financial literacy training. They are then well positioned to resell this airtime and offer financial services to their customers. The entrepreneurs become self-sufficient; the community receives much needed communication access and financial literacy; and Qualcomm has both the means and the incentive to continue doing good by doing well.
The report highlights nearly fifty examples of these efforts, ranging from fostering entrepreneurship and diverse supply chains as a core part of a company’s business to the innovative approach of sharing corporate expertise “pro bono” in order to strengthen local businesses, and by extension, the communities in which they reside.
#2: Corporate Changemakers: 15th Annual Citizens Awards
While doing good while doing well can be its own reward, a little recognition can go a long way toward encouraging innovative action. This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Annual Citizen Awards, in which the Chamber recognizes leading companies in eight categories.
These awards demonstrate and exemplify possibilities and inspire and inform new innovation in corporate citizenship. Award winners demonstrate their ability to discern, understand, and meet a fundamental community need with their company’s core capability.
For example, Cornerstone OnDemand, designs cloud-based applications to recruit, train, and connect employees. Cornerstone created disasterready.org, in collaboration with humanitarian aid experts from CARE, IRC, Oxfam, UNICEF, United Nations Refugee Agency, and World Vision to provide aid workers professional development training. Cornerstone drew on its expertise in mobile technology and online training to provide aid workers free instruction in topics vital to serving communities hit by disaster, including humanitarian principles, resilience, personal security, management, and leadership.
Another award recipient, The Walmart Foundation, launched “Fighting Hunger Together,” a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment to fight hunger in America recognized as the “Best Health and Wellness program.” This philanthropic giving strategy draws from existing goods and resources within Walmart. With $260 million in cash and $2.6 billion in-kind donations since 2010, the Walmart Foundation exceeded its initial goal, a significant achievement in the face of the daunting reality that 1 in 6 Americans suffer hunger.
Other Citizen Award winners include Capital One, recognized for its work to revitalize a New Orleans community through partnership with 29 local organizations, Siemens Foundation, who created the “Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge,” and UnitedHealth Group, where employees performed nearly half a billion hours of community volunteer service.
#3: The Annual Corporate Citizenship Conference
“Five Years Ago, We Couldn’t Have Had this Conversation on Partnership.”
These were the parting words of John McKernan Jr., President of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation at the conclusion of the 2014 Corporate Citizenship Conference. The conference, aptly titled “The Impact Equation” looked squarely at a question of impact, with panels on eliminating world hunger, “CEOs for Impact,” and cultivating local impact in communities.
The Corporate Citizenship Conference stressed cross-sector partnership, rather than simply writing checks, is emerging as the new generation of corporate citizenship.
Partnership can drive significant and sustainable impact within global issues such as the freshwater crisis, workforce development, and climate change if stakeholders are willing to collaborate across industries and borders.
Bo Miller, Global Director of Corporate Citizenship at the Dow Chemical Company, pointed to Dow’s partnership strategy to enabling community success. “Dow’s work in the community is about contributing to community success. It’s not about owning it,” he said. “Dow empowers local individuals and organizations to create community success. This approach is vitally important in securing a license to operate for a company like Dow.”
Good citizenship isn’t new, but there are many new ways to bring it to life, and do good, while doing well. Conversations like the U.S. Chamber’s Corporate Citizenship Conference that bring together businesses’ insights, skills, and manpower while encouraging partnership with public entities are vital to implementing effective citizenship strategies as well as growing support for corporate citizenship practices in the private sector.
Feature Photo Credit: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Katie is Director of Media Relations at PYXERA Global where she designs communications and press strategies to empower nonprofits and corporations that are impacting positive social change through their programming and their business. Before PYXERA Global, Katie founded the nonprofit communications consultancy, Wake Up for Good, where she worked with organizations including American Diabetes Association, Smithsonian Institution, Catchafire, and saveup.com.