Conference breakouts provide valuable learning opportunities

Outside the rich discussions emerging from the general sessions, conference attendees and speakers alike were sharing, learning, and inspiring each other in the day’s many breakout sessions. Following are highlights from just a few of the sessions:

“Engaging All Employees: A Guide to an Inclusive Portfolio” featured corporate citizenship pros who have mastered the art and science of employee engagement. Mark Heintz, director of corporate responsibility at Deckers Outdoor Corporation, Patty Pannkuk, vice president of team member philanthropy at Wells Fargo, Kate Rubin, vice president of social responsibility and president of UnitedHealth Foundation, and Nicole Stein, vice president of community responsibility at Umpqua Bank, spoke about what has worked for them to develop effective engagement efforts.

Heintz pointed to competition as a hugely successful driver for engagement. He told how Decker’s volunteerism program grew seven-fold once team-based competition was introduced. Jackson echoed Heintz’s conviction that competition bolsters engagement at Wells Fargo. Rubin spoke about how a study UnitedHealth conducted demonstrated that doing good is good for you, and, in effect good for UnitedHealth employees.

Key pieces of advice from the session included:

  • From Umpqua’s Nicole Stein, “maintain a constant drumbeat through internal communications about your employee engagement efforts.”
  • Pankukk urged attendees to develop programs that gel with the company’s culture. “Cookie cutter programs don’t work,” she ended.

The “Adaptable Leadership” breakout, facilitated by the Center’s executive director Katherine Smith, included Suzanne Fallender, director of CSR strategy at Intel Corporation, Marlene Ibsen, CEO of Travelers Foundation and vice president of community relations at The Travelers Companies, Connie Lindsey, executive vice president from Northern Trust Corporation, Chris Lloyd, executive director in the Office of Global Corporate Citizenship at Verizon Communications, Bo Miller, global director of corporate responsibility at Dow Chemical, and Esra Ozer, Alcoa Foundation president.

Each of the panelists shared stories of their organization’s journeys of change and adaption as their industries and businesses evolved. “Before adaptability there has to be awareness,” Lindsey said. She remarked that companies wanting to be adaptable must be aware of external, global, internal and personal factors to be able to adapt successfully.

Ibsen noted that today business operates in a 24/7, constantly moving and changing universe and the ability to adapt is essential for success. She also stressed that learning and listening from the communities touched by the business is important, but that communicating with those communities, showing that you understand their concerns and demonstrating what your company is doing is key.

Fallender, who leads Intel’s groundbreaking work around women and girls’ empowerment, spoke about the change and evolution of the CSR space during her tenure at Intel. “I have seen such a change in the last seven years in how much corporate citizenship has become embedded in the business at Intel,” she noted.

“Innovation in Sustainability Practice” examined the latest trends and practices in sustainable business in the context of increasingly diminishing natural resources. The panel, facilitated by Stephen Donofrio, vice president of partnerships and innovation, North America for CDP, included Whitney Deal, director of corporate citizenship with Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and Jennifer Silberman, vice president of corporate responsibility at Hilton Worldwide.

Donofrio talked about partnerships as an innovative way to tackle sustainability issues. One example of partnering and collaboration in a pre-competitive manner can be seen in supply chain sustainability work.

Silberman noted that The Beverly Hilton, the conference venue and one of Hilton’s 4,000 properties worldwide, exemplifies some of the company’s most impactful sustainability efforts. The NGO communities and industry associations are key players—and partners—in Hilton’s sustainability and corporate responsibility strategy and execution.

Deal, representing small to mid-size companies that may not have the kinds of resources (or sustainability footprint) as the Hiltons of the world, opened by noting that despite its size, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, a law firm, has been long active and committed to corporate sustainability.

“One of the greatest challenges with innovation is that there are so many great ideas and so you have to ask how you can scale,” remarked Silberman. She stressed how essential it is in her organization to engage and include individuals from across company departments - from engineering or operations, or housekeeping to corporate HR - in order to be successful in creating a relevant, viable, and impactful contribution to sustainable leadership.

Deal spoke about the importance of partnerships in her firm’s work. “Partnering with sustainability issue experts who can advance our goals by doing what they do best while we in turn provide them with pro-bono service, those are the types of partnerships that work,” Deal said.

Visit our online Member Community to find general session videos, breakout session presentations, photos, and other resources from the 2014 Conference. And watch for our April newsletter, which will provide a comprehensive wrap-up of the entire conference.