CSR Corporate Leadership Meeting 2010: What They Said

"What struck me most today was Geoffrey Canada's and others' emphasis on the importance of data," observed Matthew Bishop, U.S. Business Editor of The Economist, and author, Philanthrocapitalism, in reference to today's tenth annual corporate philanthropy summit, conducted by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP). Bishop commented to me that he sees the scarcity of philanthropic dollars driving the demand for measurement.

Patrick Corvington, CEO, Corporation for National & Community Service, also stressed outcome measurement, saying that "service has to be about solving problems," not simply counting volunteers. "If we can get volunteers invested in results, we can change the world. If you tutor a child, you want to see him graduate." Corvington's comments resonated, especially after Canada made a compelling case that the Harlem Children's Zone was on a path to ensuring that 10,000 children within 100 blocks in New York City will get a good education. Canada pointed out that investing in HCZ will yield a great result, especially considering that the alternative is for these same children to wind up in jail -- a human tragedy and an enormous cost to business and society.

In a conversation with Bishop and me, Alan Hassenfeld, Chairman of the Board, Hasbro, and board member of CECP, observed that just like anyone else, he and his company want to know what every charitable dollar is going to do. The Hasbro Foundation, an early investor in HCZ, focuses on children, while his family foundation focuses on empowering women to break the cycle of violence.  In my own experience in working with nonprofit boards and CEOs, a great value of establishing measurement "dashboards" is that the process forces the nonprofit leadership to articulate clearer organizational goals first.  Because once you start to measure something, then you will drive all activities towards those results.

Today's gathering was filled with corporate CEOs and a sprinkling of esteemed nonprofit CEOs. As Carol Cone of Edelman noted, "This is the only CEO group in the world that specifically focuses on corporate citizenship." Cone also pointed out that over the years, "CECP has shifted from focusing exclusively on philanthropy to becoming more strategic, recognizing the impact for society as well as business."

In addition to measurement, and the shift to becoming more strategic, a third theme that emerged was partnerships, especially at the local community level. An electronic audience poll revealed that 56% of the approximately 250 participants consider the "greatest area of focus for their company's giving in 2010" will be to be "anywhere my company does business," while only 31% said "domestic areas where my company does business," and only 14% said "areas that have the greatest need irrespective of whether my company does business there."

"I think that CSR will make the shift that human resources made after the 1980's," commented Catherine Patterson to me. Patterson is the Senior Manager, Foundation and Community Engagement, Pepsi Beverages Company. She elaborated that HR moved up the ladder, so that it now reports directly to the CEO, and the function is fully integrated throughout every aspect of operations. "CSR will shift from a nice-to-do to a need-to-do. That's why I like this work. You're giving the company a new layer of meaning. You're enhancing it."

Just five years ago, I sat next to the late Paul Newman, founding co-chair of CECP along with 40 guests at CECP's fifth annual awards ceremony. This evening, 250 guests gathered around while Christina Gold, President and CEO, Western Union, winner of last year's award, convened CECP's tenth annual awards ceremony. It's exciting to see how far philanthropy, CSR, and CEO leadership have developed. These are promising trends for business and society.

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