Closing Thoughts from #BCConf24

Insights from Monday Afternoon at #BCConf24 


For those looking to start their day with some mindfulness practice, Tuesday morning at #BCConf24 opened with a yoga session on the roof deck overlooking the Memphis skyline. Attendees convened in the ballroom for a networking breakfast—one more chance to catch up with colleagues from other companies before next year—and a general session brought to us by PNC Bank.

Rey Ocañas, Executive Vice President, Director of Community Development Banking Corporate Responsibility Group, PNC Bank opened the session with an overview of their four-year, $88B Community Benefits Plan. 

“Part of our commitment includes listening to stakeholders and working with community partners in our neighborhoods and institutions,” said Ocañas. ”This emphasis on innovative partnerships for launching economic opportunities continues to show that this collaboration is our moment.”
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After the introduction, Sally McCrady, Chair and President, PNC Foundation was joined by panelists Erin Horne McKinney, Executive Director, Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship; Dr. Johnny Graham, Associate and Regional Director, Howard University; and Robert Dunlap, Regional Director, Texas Southern University for a discussion about PNC’s efforts toward lessening the racial wealth gap by partnering with Howard University and a regional network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“Many of our [HBCUs] are under-resourced as it is,” said Horne McKinney. “After George Floyd, there were a number of commitments made by companies. A lot of those commitments never actually came to fruition. What's important about this partnership is that it’s very authentic, it's not performative. It’s a model for creating innovative national entrepreneurial opportunities.”

The session gave way to another opportunity for tailored learning, with breakouts about keeping your DEI goals on track despite increasing negative attention; staying committed to the true purpose of ESG reporting; and strategies for motivating employees to engage in volunteer efforts now that many workers have returned to the office.


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The Tuesday morning breakout, Back at the Office, But Are They Engaged? How to Boost Post-Pandemic Employee Giving & Volunteering, shed light on key issues in employee engagement, giving, and volunteer participation. Moderator Michael Tipton, President, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, kicked off the session by reminding attendees of the many benefits research has shown employee volunteerism can produce—improved business reputation, increased employee satisfaction, reduced turnover, and even boosts in health and wellbeing. 

“If you do this work well, it can be mutually reinforcing. It can lead to really positive outcomes for us as businesses, for employees, and also for community partners,” said Tipton.




BCCCC Executive Advisor and Teaching Fellow, Rob Vallentine led a session on empowering industry professionals with practical tools and insights for tackling mental health challenges in a Charles Schwab-sponsored workshop. A MassMutual case study focused on place-based grantmaking broke down the power of this approach, including elements necessary for success and potential pitfalls. 

After a networking break and a final chance to witness the famous Peabody Ducks stroll to their fountain, it was time for one final round of breakout sessions. Topics included “greenhushing” and navigating the anti-ESG agenda; environmental justice in particularly vulnerable communities; tailoring community involvement strategies to be hyper-local; and understanding and communicating with the next generation of CSR stakeholders.

The conference’s final general session was opened by Justin Schmitt, President, The USAA Foundation and AVP, USAA Corporate Responsibility, who introduced USAA as next year’s convening sponsor and discussed one of USAA’s primary initiatives, Face the Fight, a program working to break the stigma surrounding suicide in the military community. Face the Fight raises awareness by fostering real, open conversations around support and hope.

“One is the theme for the conference this year, and I'd like to just put a different spin on that. So one is also the percentage of people in our country that voluntarily serve our country. Actually, a little less than 1% of Americans voluntarily serve the United States in the armed forces,” said Schmitt. “I believe that all companies have the ability to think about citizenship in the broader context of looking intentionally at how they can orient support for the military community as part of their citizenship strategy. And in so doing, expressing citizenship at the highest level, which speaks to the democracy that we all enjoy in the United States."

Then BCCCC’s Katherine V. Smith opened up the final discussion, led by advocate, community leader, and governmental activist Wade Henderson, who spoke on the critical nature of bipartisanship and looking for common ground, especially when discussing polarizing issues.

“Even before the pandemic, civil dialogue was becoming a lost art,” said Henderson. “I know that many of you are familiar with this problem. Those of you who are social impact and sustainability professionals are most familiar because you work to address issues that are often highly politicized. No matter which aspect of a sustainable future you’re working toward, you’re likely experiencing a workplace full of differing opinions and maybe even conflict. What’s happening within your company may very well reflect these challenges.”

To illustrate his point, Henderson was joined on stage by L. Joy Williams, Political Strategist, Brooklyn NAACP President, Creator and Host of #SundayCivics, and Sonnie Johnson, Conservative Commentator and Radio Host—two contemporaries with different political ideologies who spoke about the similarities that bind them.

“[Sonnie and I] shared a lot of common interests, common ground, and, most importantly, common goals about people's political engagement and about our overall values,” said Williams. “I saw her as a person who could help me think about things in a different way.”

Johnston offered similar advice to those fighting to be heard in new spaces.

“If you can have a kinship with one person, it will give you the ability to continue your fight and continue your passion,” she said. “Value that, respect that, honor that. If you want to be understood, you first have to understand. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. It doesn’t mean you have to accept. It just means you have to be willing to understand.”

And with that, the International Corporate Citizenship Conference came to a successful close. We can’t wait to see you next year in Washington D.C.!