2016 Corporate Citizenship Conference Recap Day 1: The Power of Storytelling

BCConf16_crowd.jpgToday, more than 500 corporate citizenship professionals joined us in Atlanta with one purpose: to gather the knowledge and connections necessary to lead the fight against some of the most pressing global issues. The afternoon was filled with numerous networking opportunities and an illuminating dinner session—and was capped off by the annual Film Festival Award Ceremony—setting the stage for two more days of insights and connections.

Learning and sharing

One of the most valuable aspects of the International Corporate Citizenship Conference is the opportunity it affords for peer networking and collaboration. The event is open to CSR practitioners only, making it the perfect space to hold frank discussions and ask difficult questions. While this dialogue is encouraged at all times, it is especially prevalent during the many networking sessions and breaks.

Today, many attendees took advantage of at least one of the four specialized networking sessions afforded to them, focusing on industry-centered topics such as technology and professional services, or the more general professional development and newcomers groups.

In the evening, these separate groups gathered into a larger one for even more networking during the opening reception, hosted by Altria, as well as the Welcome Dinner, where participants were warmly received by the Center’s Executive Director Katherine V. Smith, and introduced to Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation and chief diversity & inclusion officer of UPS —the event’s convening sponsor. Martinez welcomed the room to Atlanta, and set the stage for an exciting 2.5 days.

“It is truly an honor and pleasure to welcome you to this year’s Conference and the vibrant city of Atlanta, the cradle of the civil rights movement and a city that has always been a beacon for social justice,” said Martinez.

During his remarks, Martinez touched on some of UPS’s impressive corporate citizenship achievements, which include more than $110 million contributed worldwide, support to more than 4,000 nonprofit and NGO organizations around the world, and more than 2.3 million hours of volunteer service. He also urged participants to engage with their peers while in Atlanta.

“No one company, no one institution, not even a country can go at it alone,” he said. “It takes more of us, it take organizations coming together, and that’s why a Conference like this, and an institution like the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, is so important—because it brings us together.”

Immanuel Sutherland, senior specialist of corporate citizenship and communications for Altria Client Services, also took to the stage to say a few words to the audience. He noted the impressive work that often small corporate citizenship teams accomplish, and encouraged attendees to make the best possible use of the resources available at the Conference.

“It is okay to shamelessly beg, borrow, and steal ideas from some of the smartest people in the world who are right here at your fingertips,” said Sutherland. “I encourage you to listen, learn and most importantly share, because we are all in this together.”

An audience engaged

The first General Session, hosted by Mary Kay, took a deep dive into the transformative power of storytelling to engage and activate an audience in a corporate citizenship issue. Kirsten Gappelberg, manager of corporate social responsibility at Mary Kay, took to the stage to share the company’s strategy for increasing engagement around their signature cause—domestic violence—through the use of video.

“Storytelling makes your business more human,” said Gappelberg. “We’re social creatures and are emotionally influenced by stories about other people.”

During her remarks, Gappelberg shared Mary Kay’s top five tips for engaging an audience through digital media, which included:

  • Show your personality
  • Transport your audience to the frontlines of your project
  • Be humble and get to the point
  • Give your audience a call to action
  • Have a distribution strategy

The session also featured video clips that made terrific use of humor, branding, distribution, and social experimentation to further social and environmental aims. She closed the session with a look at a new Mary Kay video, which examined what the phrase “man up” means to men, and what they’d like it to mean.

Had any members of the audience remained skeptical about the power of video following Mary Kay’s powerful session, they were silenced by the night’s conclusion: the eighth annual Film Festival Awards. The Center’s annual Film Festival is a unique event that highlights the corporate citizenship initiatives that are forging progress and changing lives across the globe—and applauds the creative and inspiring methods by which these efforts are communicated. Smith rejoined Gappelberg on stage to congratulate the top nine finalists of this year’s festival, and announce the winners.

Unlike prior years, the 2016 Film Festival offered a series of prize categories to recognize the wide range of initiatives. Categories included:

  • Fan Favorite (largest number of public votes)
  • Company size
    • Small company (employee size 1- 5,000)
    • Medium company (employee size 5,000 - 30,000)
    • Large company (employee size 30,000 +)
  • Best in Show

The festival’s Fan Favorite prize went to Thermo Fisher Scientific for their inspiring video “Give Us Hope.” The video showcased Thermo Fisher’s commitment to promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and depicted 60 Boston-area employees, who assembled and donated 400 “STEM-credible” lab safety kits to the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School. 

The award for small company went to athenahealth for their video “Connecting Care for the Uninsured.” The video highlighted the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in New Braunfels, Texas, which utilizes cloud-based healthcare IT donated through the athenaGives program. This leading software allows the clinic to provide quality care to uninsured Americans.

St. Jude Medical’s video, “St. Jude Medical and Children’s HeartLink,” took home the prize for medium company. The video illustrated their longstanding partnership with international nonprofit, Children’s HeartLink. Together, they strive to improve access and quality of pediatric heart condition treatment in select high-need hospitals around the world by offering medical expertise and life changing treatment to previously underserved families and pediatric congenital heart defect patients.

The large company prize went to Humana for their video “2015 National Senior Games: Inspiring Generations of Better Health.” As the presenting sponsor of the 2015 National Senior Games, Humana highlighted that staying fit and athletic after age 50 is not only possible, but achievableat all ages and abilities.

Film_Fest_Aethena_Health.jpgTo close out the evening, the night’s final honor—Best in Show—was awarded to athenahealth. The award was accepted by Jamie Mercurio, corporate social responsibility lead at athenahealth. 

Congratulations to all who participated this year! 


The videos of all nine finalists offered concrete support for the importance of corporate citizenship. Attendees witnessed firsthand the effects of CSR efforts on our environment, our society, and our businesses. Galvanized by this awareness, Conference participants dispersed for the evening, inspired to consider how their own efforts can help chart the path toward a more sustainable and prosperous future, and to ready themselves for tomorrow, a day packed full of general sessions, breakout sessions and workshops, and even more networking opportunities. 

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