Innovation for corporate citizenship: Creating a better business and a better world

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The following is excerpted from Issue 27 of The Corporate Citizen.

“Our future belongs to those who see the possibilities before those possibilities become obvious.”

–Mary Kay Ash

When Mary Kay Ash launched her business more than 50 years ago, she was not the typ­ical entrepreneur. As a woman start­ing a company that empowered other women to become entrepreneurs, she foresaw a business opportunity that would create also social change—and Mary Kay’s success still endures today. Just as Ash played a role in disrupting the traditional business landscape for women, so too must forward-thinking corporate citizenship professionals focus on the possibilities before us.

Corporate citizenship professionals must be constant innovators, nimble and quick to react to a constantly changing landscape. That’s how we have achieved—and will continue to achieve—growth and sustainable progress. Because most corporate citizenship teams are taking on huge environmental and social issues with limited resources, they have developed an evolutionary advantage. Innovation depends on the capacity to connect people—something that corporate citizenship professionals excel at.

You’re forging unlikely partnerships with suppliers, competitors, and nonprofit actors alike. You’re incorporating broadly inclusive stakeholder perspectives. You are challenging your organizations to consider the full footprint of your company’s corporate citizenship—challenging the traditional boundaries of giving and sustainability to include topics as varied as diversity and inclusion to consumer data literacy and personal information protection. It turns out that most innovations come from taking a piece of knowledge from one very specialized domain and applying it in another context. Having robust networks—a calling card of the effective corporate citizenship professional—is a prerequisite to innovation, which comes about more often from recombination than from invention.i

This month, we’re highlighting how the pioneering attitude of corporate citizenship drives innovation in the latest issue of The Corporate Citizen magazine. In this issue, you’ll find concrete examples of innovation that you can apply to your work.

As you know well, even the most efficient and successful corporate citizen­ship professionals didn’t achieve their goals alone. We benefited from personal and professional networks, united by one purpose: to create a better business context and a better world in which to live.

How do you find your connections? The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship provides many opportunities for you to network with expert colleagues in the field across a variety of in-person events held throughout the year, including our executive education courses and certificate programs in leadership, management, and practice.

Your next and best opportunity to engage with a dynamic community of corporate citizenship professionals is the 2019 Inter­national Corporate Citizenship Conference in Dallas, Texas on April 28-30. Join us with convening sponsor Mary Kay as we learn how to deepen engagement and unleash the full power of your teams by connecting them with your company’s unique purpose.

Atypical Combinations and Scientific Impact, Uzzi et al, Science  25 Oct 2013: Vol. 342, Issue 6157, pp. 468-472. DOI: 10.1126/science.1240474

Register for the 2019 International Corporate Citizenship Conference in Dallas, Texas on April 28-30.