2022 Corporate Citizenship Conference Day 1: What the world needs now is innovation

Tonight, nearly 400 corporate citizenship professionals from all over the world gathered in Boston to kick off the International Corporate Citizenship Conference for the first time in three years. The Conference is an annual event that focuses on improving the strategy, practice, and leadership that drives corporate citizenship. A focus area known by many names—sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR); environmental, social, governance (ESG); and many more—the hundreds of attendees had at least one thing in common: They are all working on behalf of their companies and industries to promote both a better business and a better world.

As the Conference began, attendees at the Westin Copley Place welcomed each other warmly in a series of networking and social events. Corporate citizens eagerly anticipated the opening session and the first ever annual Corporate Citizenship Innovation Awards ceremony.

Together, once again

After three years of virtual events, Conference attendees arrived Sunday evening eager to forge new connections at the Newcomer Networking Session. Shortly after, all attendees convened just outside the Westin Copley’s America Ballroom for a Conference-wide opening reception hosted by Flex, featuring the aptly named Flex-a-rita signature cocktail.

When it was time for the event to officially begin, participants filed into the ballroom to share dinner and hear welcome remarks from Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s Executive Director Katherine V. Smith, who thanked convening sponsor, Liberty Mutual:

“Based here in Boston, Liberty Mutual is one of the largest global property and casualty insurers, providing security to individuals, families, and businesses," said Smith. "This extends to stewardship of the local community, with a special focus on accessibility for individuals of all abilities; security for people experiencing homelessness; and educational opportunities for children and youth."

Melissa MacDonnell, president of the Liberty Mutual Foundation and vice president at Liberty Mutual Insurance, next took the stage to give her welcome to the 2022 Conference attendees. Looking forward to her more extensive comments to come the following day, McDonnell brought words of encouragement to Conference attendees:

“It's really exciting to be with you,” said MacDonnell, kicking off an exciting agenda. “We look forward to learning alongside you, connecting, and being inspired to be brighter, bolder, better.”


Innovation at work for the greater good

With that the program turned to the inaugural Corporate Citizenship Innovation Awards, with first a thought-provoking session from their sponsor, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. One of the world’s largest law firms, social change is a key driver of Weil’s comprehensive social responsibility—which means innovation plays an important role in many of its programs. In the session, Lessons from a social impact program that pulls double duty: Developing talent and community relationships, attendees heard about Weil Legal Innovators (WLI) from several program stakeholders.

Hedieh Fakhriyazdi, director, social responsibility and Weil Foundation at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, took the stage to discuss the program. Fakhriyazdi explained that WLI is a multi-stakeholder philanthropic initiative which recruits a cohort of admitted law students to work at nonprofit organizations for a one-year paid fellowship program—funded by a $1 million investment from the firm—prior to beginning their law school careers. The Legal Innovators program not only amplifies Weil’s social impact with the community by bridging connections between nonprofit partners and law schools, but also helps prepare law students for the future of the legal profession with innovative problem solving and innovation skills.

"We set out to develop a program that leveraged the firm’s core competencies and values, including a deep-rooted commitment to social justice and public service," said Fakhriyazdi.

Fakhriyazdi was joined onstage by several speakers who represent a different critical stakeholder group in the Weil Legal Innovators program: Kristi Jobson, assistant dean for admissions, Harvard Law School, representing law school partners; Weil Legal Innovator Jonathan Chan serving as impact manager at Earthwatch; Dr. Adriana Alejandro Osorio, managing director, Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship, speaking as a nonprofit partner; and Barb Short, director, corporate social responsibility engagement at Sanofi, offering perspective from the Weil client base.

Chan offered the perspective of a student who completed the program. “WLI offers a rare opportunity for pre-law students to work at nonprofits, which don't often have the financial capabilities to take on someone like me—but the program fully funds my salary there,” he said, who applied to WLI to gain work experience in the environmental nonprofit sector. “Hopefully someone like me can bring some fresh innovative ideas to a nonprofit.”

The partners on the panel were also quick to point out the synergistic nature of a program that engages one of the most socially conscious generations to date. “Youth right now have such an energy, drive, and innovative ideas, and are well positioned to create change that is not only beneficial to them but society as a whole,” added Alejandro Osorio. “Having this fully funded position at Weil has been such an amazing opportunity to help inform best practices that are youth-led and take risks that we otherwise would not do, helping us inform the future.”

“I see thousands of law school applications, and have noticed more prospective students interested in social justice,” said Jobson. “I hope programs like WLI will allow future legal professionals to see social justice work as part of a larger ecosystem of actors working to larger purpose. Sometimes your role as a lawyer is not necessarily to be the hero but to be part of a larger network to make change.”

“Personally, when I first heard about this program, I thought, ‘This is model, this is replicable!’” exclaimed Short, whose firm Sanofi is a client of Weil’s. “From a business perspective, the alignment is incredible—not only from a strategy perspective but also for developing the next generation of leaders,” she added. “What we all gain from this is huge—we're listening and learning from this next generation, and they give me hope for the future.”

Recognizing leaders in creative CSR problem solving

With the closing of these remarks, the first annual Corporate Citizenship Innovation Awards were underway. Awards in four categories honor and celebrate the achievements of forward-thinking companies and individuals that have applied the assets of their business to create positive social and/or environmental impacts. BCCCC recognizes with these awards the individuals and companies that create the world in which we want to live in and do business.

Smith joined Fakhriyazdi on the stage once again to announce the winners by category, which follow:

Social-Impact Changemaker | WINNER: DOW CHEMICAL

Recognizes companies that have developed unique and differentiated approaches employing multiple company assets to create positive social, environmental, and/or economic impact.

Launched in 2016, the Business Impact Fund is a competitive accelerator grant program, where Dow is using its science, size, and global relationships across our value chains to seek and create shared opportunity for Dow and society. It provides opportunities to explore new, innovative ways to expand markets and address important social problems defined by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Transformative Partnership | WINNER: DTE ENERGY

Recognizes dynamic partnerships with nonprofit and community organizations, going above and beyond to develop problem-solving and operational capacity.

To address DTE’s business need for more than 300 tree trimmers and a community need for stable, well-paying jobs, DTE partnered with City government and Detroit-based nonprofits versed in engaging historically disadvantaged and communities of color to recruit students to our Tree Trim Academy program.

Eco-Innovator | WINNER: FEDEX

Recognizes a company that has marshalled the financial and human resources at its disposal to address an environmental issue affecting or relating to that company’s core competencies.

Third Derivative (D3) is an ecosystem of researchers, investors, corporations, and innovators. This climate accelerator aims to find, fund, hone, and scale low-carbon climate solutions. In addition, D3 focuses on creating markets and entirely new categories of solutions to achieve a net-zero future.

Innovation Amplifier | WINNER: POPULAR

Recognizes a company that has elevated a social and/or environmental program or issue to ensure greater understanding by way of advocacy, communication, and other efforts.

Popular served as a catalyst for a new collective-impact movement and seed-funds the ECHAR PA’LANTE (EPL) / Move Forward Multisector Alliance’s development including dedicated staff. The collaborative decided to act as a “Think and Do Tank” to identify solutions, develop, and oversee their implementation.

Congratulations to the winners and all companies who submitted from around the world!

We’ll be blogging throughout the 2021 International Corporate Citizenship Conference to give you daily recaps and deep dives into the event’s unique content. Visit the Corporate Citizenship Perspectives blog to follow along and recap the event.