2022 Virtual Conference Recap: Genuine human connections for a brighter future


Energized for a final day of lively content and conversation, today attendees powered on for Day 3 of the virtual International Corporate Citizenship Conference, hosted by Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and convening sponsor Liberty Mutual.

As they met new colleagues and connected with old friends, attendees looked forward to the final mainstage session on how to elevate their networking, which has been established in research as a key skill for corporate citizenship professionals to succeed in their careers.

Tickets to the in-person conference in Boston on April 24-26 are still available, and will include access to all the recordings from the virtual event—there’s still time to register!

How to build meaningful business relationships

Social media platforms make it easier for people to connect, but what are the quality of those connections? Online interactions can often be transactional, even dehumanizing. In this session, attendees learned about using technology as a tool to communicate and not a means to an end. In this session, Susan McPherson, coauthor of The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships, discussed best practices for connecting on a human level with special guest Dave Stangis, coauthor of 21st Century Corporate Citizenship: A Practical Guide to Delivering Value to Society and Your Business.

McPherson began by noting that with the rise of social media and social distancing measures during the pandemic, online interactions are surging--however, the relationships that result can often be more give-and-take. “A connection that ends after an ‘ask’ was not a connection.” said McPherson, who pressed CSR professionals to strive to connect, not network. 

“Networking is important, and we can continue to do it professionally, but connecting is something deeper, less transactional, and more meaningful.” In this mindset, professionals can strive to fill their contact list with relationships rather than mere contacts--people to not only tap for advice and help, but also support and advise.

To form deeper connections, McPherson suggests flipping the switch and leading conversations with new colleagues with “How can I be helpful?” rather than, “What can I get?” This follows her “gather, ask, do” methodology of building authentic relationships, which require real listening, honest sharing, and committed follow up: 

  1. Gather: Determine how your strengths help others, consider your goals, and break out of your bubble to connect with people who are not similar to you.
  2. Ask: Deepen relationships by asking meaningful questions of others. Learn what their hopes, dreams, and goals are, so you can support them. 
  3. Do: Follow-up and deepen connections. Become dependable and reliable!

McPherson welcomed one of her own connections and fellow serial connector, Dave Stangis, to discuss his networking process from years working on the corporate and consulting side of CSR. "I spend a lot of time just trying to help. That's what I enjoy and I get value out of it, but it's also a way to connect," said Stangis. "In the two years after I retired from Campbell, work showed up at the door because I had helped these people all along throughout my career."

McPherson also stressed the importance of what may seem to be minor details: Take opportunities to remind people of things you’ve learned about them. Try to minimize distractions and remove yourself from the conversation as much as possible so you can focus on listening. Most importantly, throw away preconceived notions of what makes a “good” connection. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” she said. “Every single person we meet is worthy of connection, compassion, depth, curiosity, and care. Each one is human and someone who can add breadth and depth to your community.”

Eager to apply lessons learned, attendees left the session and jumped into the virtual networking lounge. Here, they were encouraged to engage in a networking “treasure hunt” to apply one of McPherson’s networking tips for introverts: Meet three people, share three things, and learn three things about them for the chance to win a prize.

Learn to drive your ESG strategy

Moving on to afternoon breakout sessions, attendees had the choice between two important topics: human rights and corporate citizenship strategy. In the breakout session panel, “Human rights around the globe,” BCCCC Executive Advisor Mil Niepold led a discussion on how all companies can ensure their workforces, supply chain partners, and surrounding communities have all the benefits that come from basic human rights and dignities.

Attendees also had the option to join UPS for their Lead and Learn Case Study, “Behind the wheel: The dynamic force driving ESG.” The panel laid out the company’s comprehensive environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts and featured UPS sustainability and social impact leaders Patrick Browne, Esther Ndichu, Elba Pareja-Gallagher, and Joe Ruiz, highlighting ESG best practices that will engage today’s workforce and attract tomorrow’s top talent.

“UPS is actively engaging its employees across the world to join its environmental and social responsibility and corporate governance journey,” opened Ndichu, vice president of international community relations. “Research and data shows ESG employee engagement has become a key component for our company's overall success and overall profitability.”

UPS has a number of ambitious commitments and goals on all three dimensions of ESG, from achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 to improving the wellbeing of 1 billion lives by 2040. Pareja-Gallagher, who is sustainability director of stakeholder engagement at UPS, emphasized that these programs reflect the purpose of the corporation as set out by the Business Roundtable in 2019. "I look at ESG through a business lens and the notion that society is better off when companies listen to all their stakeholders,” said Pareja-Gallagher. “We do this work because we are listening to all our shareholders and they are telling us that ESG is important.”

UPS has laid out eight core stakeholder groups, which include the planet, and the company has established a sustainability council of cross-functional executives to ensure environmental concerns are integrated across the business. As UPS’ vice president of sustainability, Browne gave important insights. “One objective of the sustainability council is to ensure that our sustainability strategy aligns with our company’s strategic growth,” said Browne. “We want to make sure we are aligned with the business strategy.”

UPS’s expansive employee base is key to seeing these strategies through, as explained by Ruiz, vice president of social impact and The UPS Foundation. "Our goal is to empower our people to drive innovation across all aspects of our company and continue to move the world forward," said Ruiz, recognizing the role of employees in achieving ambitious goals such as delivering vaccines to 33 million people in lower middle income countries. "I can't think of a more impactful way to improve the wellbeing of people than accelerating vaccine equity by donating our expertise and leveraging our global network."

With these inspiring sessions, the virtual International Corporate Citizenship Conference came to a close. Attendees closed out the event with fresh perspectives on CSR trends, inspiration from colleagues, and new ideas to apply in their everyday work once returning to the office—looking forward to even more at the in-person conference in Boston in April.

There’s still time to register to attend the International Corporate Citizenship Conference in Boston on April 24-26. Register now for even more learning and networking with hundreds of other leaders in the field!