By Laura Ferreiro
The inaugural Responsible Business Summit West took place in San Francisco November 14-15, bringing together top business leaders, nonprofits, think tanks and academics to discuss issues surrounding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ethical business practices.
Among the attendees were brands including Timberland, Google, HP, Levi Strauss, Facebook, Hanesbrands and Target, and nonprofits including United Way, World Vision, Project Wet Foundation, the UN Global Compact and more. The conference, which was organized by the UK-based organization Ethical Corp, tackled important issues including the business value of social impact, how to scale up social impact through partner collaborations, leveraging social purpose as a recruitment tool, and how to realign established businesses around social impact and making it an integral part of their missions.
On Day 1, a compelling panel on how to effectively educate colleagues about the value of CSR brought together reps from Google, Intuit, and Edelman public relations. Diane Wakeley Solinger, Director of Google.org, said that Google is investing $1 billion in three major social good areas: education, economic opportunity, and inclusion and social justice. Google is providing funding, volunteers and tools to innovative nonprofits to help them further their work, and this is a key pillar of Google’s business. Solinger admitted that it can be challenging to bring Google’s 80,000 employees along on this journey and to get everyone to feel a part of the social mission. She added that Google would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other tech companies on social good initiatives to broaden their impact. “We go insular too often,” she said.
John D. Edelman explained that Edelman is also “on a journey to embed corporate citizenship and sustainability into everything we do.” In order to do so most effectively, the global PR and marketing firm did a survey to find out which Sustainable Development Goals its employees cared about most, and is targeting its social good efforts to address those issues.
Another compelling panel examined the very important business value of social purpose. HP’s Director of Human Rights and Supply Chain Responsibility Annukka Dickens explained how HP is working across industry borders to make an impact, and showed a video about a program that HP implemented to buy recycled plastics from Haiti to make its printer cartridges while also helping local Haitians to earn money by collecting plastic bottles for recycling and transforming waste into useful products, making it a win-win for everyone involved. Watch the video below:
Zendesk’s VP of Social Impact Tiffany Apczynski said that she hopes CSR departments will be on par with other key operational departments like Human Resources at companies going forward, and mentioned that it has been proven that CSR is closely linked with employee contentment.
On the second day of the conference, an External Keynote discussion about the need for businesses to go beyond compliance was delivered by Michael Kobori, Vice President of Sustainability for Levi Strauss, and Marcel Jacobs, Director of Supplier Sustainability for Philips Group.