Three examples from CSR professionals on how to secure executive buy-in

In any strong citizenship strategy, executive buy-in is not only desired, it is essential for success. In our May webinar, titled “Speaking the language – Gaining executive buy-in”, representatives from three companies elaborated on how they have created ardent advocates of corporate citizenship out of their senior executives.

Societal Impact Initiatives at Panera Bread

Our first speaker, Kate Antonacci, director of societal impact initiatives at Panera Bread, emphasized the company’s foundational belief in the idea that its societal impact drives its business. In her discussion, Antonacci explained the strategies of conscious living that Panera uses to accomplish its three main goals – fighting food insecurity, fixing a broken food system, and setting a strong example of corporate citizenship. Antonacci said that the company’s “Live Consciously” mantra epitomizes “the deliberate, conscious actions that Panera takes to elevate the lives of our key stakeholders and make a difference in the world.”

Antonacci stressed that Panera is not a philanthropic business, as doing good is the business. The company is strategically active in areas where it has expertise and can have the most impact.

The main takeaways that Antonacci left attendees with were:

  • Purpose of corporate citizenship efforts needs to connect with the entire business strategy
  • Actions should be focused on where the company has authenticity, scale, and expertise
  • It is nice to be generous in many areas, but more of an impact can be made if you determine where you can make the most/best impact.
  • The broad outcome for every member of the company must be the same. Everyone’s role may be different but the final desired result is constant.

Speaking the Language of Executives with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM)

Our next speaker was Bridget G. Hurd, director of community responsibility at Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan. Hurd was hired in BCBS as a change agent, in an effort to align the company’s portfolio of community responsibility efforts to support corporate objectives both directly and indirectly.

Hurd noted that structure can vary significantly between companies, although you may be doing the same kind of work in terms of corporate citizenship. Within BCBSM community responsibility, there are four main areas – education, engagement/activation, investment, and awareness. In all of these areas, Hurd explained that it is important to do things that make a difference in the community and support the different efforts within the company.

Hurd stressed five main points:

  • Clarify purpose by supporting corporate and business unit initiatives and differentiating the company in the community.
  • Align to corporate and business objectives by contributing to market position, using terminology consistent with the corporate objective.
  • Tell your story (outcomes and impact) to express who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
  • Engage executives as champions of internal events and programs, allowing them to experience and understand firsthand what you do and why.
  • Engage employees to foster participation and awareness within the organization.

Enriching Women’s Lives with Mary Kay Inc.

Our final speaker was Crayton Webb, director of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility at Mary Kay Inc. In his segment of the webinar, Webb discussed the Mary Kay outreach philosophy, which originally was to do good and give back, but not to promote the company’s philanthropic work publically. Webb and his team decided that the company needed to have a cultural shift and begin to explain strategically what the company does and how it gives back. Because of this, “Pink Changing Lives” was created with the mission of only engaging in causes that enrich the lives of women and children globally, which is consistent with the purpose of Mary Kay as a company.

Webb explained that the “Pink Changing Lives” initiative had three major points that would resonate with executives:

  • Reputation Protectionallow the company to build good will and bank of public trust
  • Missed Opportunitiesthe company had never before talked about its philanthropy
  • Domestic Violence – the company was not receiving credit in the space that it had pioneered, which was ending and preventing domestic violence

Since implementing “Pink Changing Lives”, Mary Kay has gone on to be involved in other corporate citizenship activities, such as “Pink Doing Green”, “Beauty that Counts”, and more. Now, at Mary Kay, the CSR department leverages what they already do, discusses how they give back in a consistent way, and involves key stakeholders.

How does your company engage executives in corporate citizenship? Let us know in the comments section below.