Corporate Social Responsibility


Corporate Voices for Working Families’ 2013 Annual Partners Meeting put the spotlight last week  on corporate leadership beyond the workplace, providing presentations rich in content, lively discussions and opportunities for attendees to network with other business leaders and policymakers.

The meeting provided a forum to examine and discuss a host of critical workforce readiness and work/life issues that are critically important to Corporate Voices’ partner companies. These included how employment pathways for younger workers just entering the world of work can benefit employees and employers; the opportunities and challenges in employer engagement in higher education; how demographic changes are reshaping the economic and political landscapes; new thinking in workplace diversity and corporate wellness; and how responsible corporate leaders can – and must – engage in national efforts to foster job creation and stronger economic growth.

ImageJim Quigley, CEO Emeritus of Deloitte, gave one of the keynote presentations, demonstrating how critical it is for business leaders to lead by example and foster a culture of values and respect. Quigley, co-author of As One: Individual Action, Collective Power, led the audience on a “conversation on leadership.”

“As leaders I would challenge you to consider whether the conditions for success are in place,” he said. “Have we created clarity about our key goals? Can we communicate these ideas in a way that we can be successful?”

Dr. Michael Dimock, Director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, led the second keynote presentation. He engaged the audience with a discussion of values, demographics, generations and technology, highlighting how policymakers need to forge Imagesolutions to the significant problems facing our nation and working families – while spotlighting the importance for business leaders, and the businesses they represent, to engage in a manner that fosters job creation and stronger economic growth.

Among the takeaways from Dimock’s presentation was a point relevant to public policy work: Pew research indicates that American public opinion on values hasn’t changed over the years, but the extent of political partisanship has changed significantly.

One of the many highlights of the Annual Meeting was a 90-minute briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building that was organized exclusively for Corporate Voices by the White House staff. During the briefing, members of the Obama Administration shared their insights and perspectives on current and planned initiatives involving the jobs, training, education, economic and health and wellness issues of interest to our partner companies.

During the briefing, Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, said, “From the start of this Administration, Corporate Voices for Working Families has been a great partner on important issues.”

Corporate Voices’ Annual Partners Meeting – with generous sponsorship provided by Baxter International, KPMG, The TJX Companies, Johnson & Johnson, Ryan and SelectPlus — was held March 20-22, at the Loews Madison Hotel, Washington, D.C.

To view all presentations from this year’s Annual Meeting, please click here.

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Across corporate America, workplace wellness efforts are increasingly recognized as smart business investments.  And for some companies, health and wellness includes helping employees nurture healthy family relationships at home.

Is your company among them?  Corporate Voices is leading a research project on the role businesses can play in promoting healthy relationships and the potential benefits associated with these efforts in the workplace.  We would love to know more about your company’s practices.  Please assist us by answering a few brief questions by clicking the link below.

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e6x8e1iehc10swk2/start

Your responses are strictly confidential, and will help advance new research in this field. Thank you for your valuable input.

In the United States, there are 6.7 million young adults ages 16-24 who are out of school and out of work, and the employment rate for 18-24 year olds is the lowest ever recorded since the government began to keep track in 1948. But this challenge of youth underemployment is not just a domestic issue.  According to The McKinsey Company, there are 75 million unemployed young adults in the world today.  Despite this enormous pool of untapped talent, McKinsey also states that 34 percent of employers report that they cannot fill job vacancies due to a lack of both soft and hard skills in applicants.

Last week global youth underemployment was spotlighted at Business Civic Leadership Center’s (BCLC) 2012 Global Corporate Citizenship Conference.  At the event, best-practice companies like The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Hilton Worldwide and Microsoft discussed how youth underemployment continues to plague communities and businesses across the globe, and how companies can work and scale solutions to social barriers and job creation in markets outside the United States.  As Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs, at Microsoft stated, “we see the potential, see the challenge and see where we [Microsoft] can make a difference.”

Also last week in the Huffington Post, Bobbi Silten, President, Gap Foundation and Senior Vice President, Global Responsibility for Gap Inc. published a blog emphasizing the importance of a young adults’ first work experience.  She encouraged companies across the United States to learn how to create work experiences for the young adults in their communities by accessing a toolkit for employers at www.opportunitynation.org/youthandbusiness.

Want to learn more about solutions in talent development and the young unemployment crisis? Visit www.corporatevoices.org.

Donna Klein, president and founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families, is featured in a special report in the April issue of Smart Business titled “Debunking Diversity.” Here’s from the article, written by Jessica Tremayne:

The million-dollar question about making an investment in diversity is: Will it pay back?

While experts say diversity in the work force is a business imperative, defining diversity by employees’ physical attributes won’t foster a functional or profitable environment. 

The article continues:

Since the country’s demographics are continually changing, a failure to branch out and move past your comfort zone when hiring and communicating with employees will ultimately result in financial punishment for the business.

“It can be difficult for a 50-year-old to be managed by a 30-year-old boss,” says Donna M. Klein, president and founder, Corporate Voices for Working Families, a national business membership organization representing the private sector on public policy issues. “Training to maximize the benefits of these differences instead of allowing them to divide workers is essential. Business benefits are the same as mixing age, race and gender outside of business. It makes for a more interesting conversation at a dinner party.”

U.S. Census Bureau reports show Hispanics are the fastest-growing population, with an increase of 121 percent since 1999. The Asian population nearly doubled since 1990 and the African-American population is predicted to increase to 65.7 million strong by 2050, an increase of 15 percent since 2008.

“Any homogenous group will provide predictable results in problem-solving,” Klein says. “But a diverse group comes up with ideas and problem-solving techniques that would otherwise have never been thought of. Allowing knee-jerk reactions of stereotypes to get in the way of hiring and working with a diverse group is really limiting your potential.” 

The article also looks at a February 2009 Groundbreakers report by Ernst & Young, a Corporate Voices partner company.

The Senate approved a bill yesterday — the Senator Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act — that promises to benefit working families and our communities by enlisting volunteers focused on education, clean energy, health care and veterans. 

The bill now goes to the House, which approved a different version last week. Here’s from an article in The New York Times:

The legislation, which had broad bipartisan support, would expand the ranks of AmeriCorps, which was created by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to bring federal volunteer programs under a single umbrella.

In addition to adding positions to AmeriCorps, the bill would create four new service corps. The expansion would cost about $6 billion over five years. The bill would raise the education stipend paid to volunteers to $5,350, the same amount as a Pell Grant college scholarship.

The more than tripling of the number of federal service positions, at a time when the recession is expected to vastly increase the demand for volunteer work among college graduates, amounts to the boldest expansion of service opportunities since President John F. Kennedy called for a national service corps in 1963.

The bill also seeks to encourage volunteer work among retirees and would offer them a $1,000 educational award that they could transfer to a child or grandchild. 

Senators Kennedy and Orrin Hatch helped put this call for national service into perspective in an article they wrote for Time, “21 Ways to Serve America.”

We want to make it feasible for many to devote a year or more to service. We’ve already seen lives change as Americans give their time and talents to service organizations. But we know much more could be done. It’s time to encourage many more Americans to roll up their sleeves and volunteer in communities at home and abroad. Americans across the nation are beginning to answer this call, devoting one year or more to volunteer service and, in the process, changing the world.

They are weatherizing homes and increasing energy conservation. They are improving health care in low-income communities. They are enabling people throughout the world to have cleaner water and lifesaving vaccines. They are helping communities rebuild after the devastation of hurricanes and floods. Some of the most remarkable efforts are taking place in our schools. Citizen Schools enables people to spend time leading after-school programs to extend the school day, so students have more time to learn and can interact with professionals who will help them connect their learning to a future profession. City Year brings talented, motivated young AmeriCorps members into schools to tutor and mentor at-risk students and show them that someone cares. There are other examples but not nearly enough. It’s time to do more.

For those who can’t give a year to service, we should create incentives for part-time or short-term service in their communities. We should support states and communities and social entrepreneurs who are developing innovative approaches to help those in need.

And for those who can give a year or more, the time has come to help them do so. The challenges we face are too great. We’ve already waited too long to tap their amazing energy, ingenuity and commitment.

Our policy paper — “Strengthening America’s Economic Competitiveness: Public Policy Strategies to Improve Workforce Readiness” — examines the need to promote community service and service learning. It also spotlights the work of partner company Goldman Sachs and Citizen Schools.

IBM, one of our corporate partners, is featured in a businessweek.com article that spotlights corporate social responsibility. George Pohle, IBM’s vice president and global leader for business strategy consulting, talks about a recent IBM study that “shows a hefty percentage of top officers don’t quite connect with customer concerns.”

The article, in a question-and-answer format by William J. Holstein, opens with the following:

Top managements of companies around the world are confronting a growing chorus of demands to articulate their corporate social responsibility strategies, yet 76 % of top executives polled by IBM acknowledge they don’t truly understand their customers’ concerns.

Pohle provides interesting insights about corporate social responsibility issues — and links CSR clearly with corporate business strategies. Here’s a sample:

Q: For years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was an add-on to businesses and was basically a kind of marketing. But now it seems customers want companies to embed social responsibility into their strategies, right?

A: That’s right. In the past, when many of us were going to business school, the focus was on shareholder value. Now with the influence  these other stakeholders have, it is really about a broader definition of “who are the folks you’re trying to please while running your business?” It’s about shareholders and other stakeholders, as opposed to focusing only on shareholder value.

Important issue. Interesting perspective.

by Rob Jewell