Sustainability and Economic Justice: Wrapping Up Day Three at #BCConf23


To kick off the final day of the 2023 International Corporate Citizenship Conference, attendees were invited to partake in a Corporate “Fitizens” walk around downtown Minneapolis for an energized start to the day. Over another Idea Exchange Breakfast, colleagues traded ideas and strategies for dealing with a variety of CSR dimensions.

After breakfast, General Motors led the day’s first general session. GM’s Vice President of Corporate Giving, Terry Rhadigan, described GM’s corporate philanthropy journey.

“We no longer have a foundation,” said Rhadigan. “We really did that in preparation for the all-electric future. We’re looking forward and talking about how we align our philanthropy with our business goals.”

Later in the session, Terry was joined by Hina Baloch, Executive Director of Sustainability Strategy and Communications at GM, for a conversation about how the organization’s sustainability strategy is intertwined with its current corporate giving strategy.

“Corporate giving is not all of social impact,” Baloch said. “We wanted to bring in a structure that is strong enough and simple enough for everybody across the company to understand because we know what people understand is what they advocate for. We also wanted it to be broad and simple so we could bring in a number of different things from within the organization so that when we’re talking about social impact, we’re talking about philanthropy and corporate giving, but that’s not all we’re talking about. Right now, our social impact has three broad areas: people, communities, and environments.” 

GM’s presentation gave way to two more rounds of breakout sessions and wellness workshops. For the rest of the morning, participants engaged in a case study hosted by TIAA about making the best use of the limited resources dedicated to CSR programs.


Breakouts included discussions on the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and ESG; expanding access to technology and STEM education in rural and urban settings; and how many companies are monitoring their water use in their operations and making strategic efforts to curb overuse.

After a short break, the final round of breakouts began. Through a case study presented by The Travelers Companies, participants learned about developing and maintaining a diverse talent pipeline. The Travelers EDGE® utilizes partnerships with colleges, universities, and community-based organizations to facilitate college and career readiness programs for underrepresented students. The program focuses on providing mentorship, internships, scholarships, and other support for those students interested in the insurance and financial services industries with the ultimate goal of placing them in jobs within the company after graduation.

“These resources that are given to us aren’t loaned; they’re given. As an [alumnus], you leverage those relationships and know that you have people on your team,” said Samantha Lopez, a Travelers EDGE® alumnus and current account manager at Travelers.

Other breakouts featured presentations on leveraging your company’s business focus to create transformative social impact programs; what new environmental trends can be expected to factor into science-based program frameworks; how to design CSR initiatives that appeal across a range of countries and cultures; and determining what impacts can and should be measured and shared with different stakeholders.

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Then, it was time for one more opportunity to network over lunch before the closing keynote session hosted by next year’s convening sponsor, FedEx. FedEx’s Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Communications, Jenny Robertson, shared insights from FedEx Cares’ 50 by 50–the philanthropic goal FedEx set to positively impact 50 million individuals to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary.

“When we looked at our philanthropic programs, and we looked at our citizenship efforts, and we said we need to ensure that what we're doing actually affects people's lives for the better,” Robertson said. “As we're looking ahead, we're challenging ourselves to do what we’ve been talking about this conference for the last few days: Rethinking resilience and how can we continue to grow as a company and prepare for new challenges while still strengthening and uplifting our communities where we operate.”

Robertson joyfully announced Memphis, TN, as the location for next year’s Conference before introducing the closing keynote speaker.


To officially close the 2023 Conference, Valley Water CEO and sustainability and diversity advocate Rick Callender shared remarks on the intersection of racial justice and economics. Callender, an NAACP board member and President of California/Hawaii NAACP State Conferences is Valley Water’s first African American CEO and the only African American CEO of a public water and flood protection agency in the United States.

“I get curious looks when I say that environmental justice is a civil rights issue,” said Callender. “Each and every single one of us in this room depends on the physical environment. But not all people are equally impacted by [climate change]. Race, even more so than class, is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in this country.”

As attendees learned, Callender stands firmly against the misappropriation of traditionally Black and African American phrases, concepts, and terminology to further oppressive legislation, including the anti-ESG bills emerging across the country.

“Being woke is not a negative thing,” he said. “It is an everyday positive Black history thing. Don’t let those who are trying use the racially baiting undertones and terms take away our lexicon, our cultural sayings, and try to make them salacious. I believe each and every one of us has a responsibility to know the history and call them out.”

With that, the 2023 International Corporate Citizenship Conference came to a powerful end.

Thank you to all our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making the 2023 International Corporate Citizenship Conference one of the best yet! Save the date for next year’s Conference: April 28-30 in Memphis, TN!