Annual Corporate Citizenship Conference & Awards Showcase Variety of Ways Businesses Drive Impact
On November 13-14, over 600 diverse business, government and civil society leaders convened in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2019 Corporate Citizenship Conference: Solve Together, the nation’s leading convening for corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners. Throughout this two-day event, speakers discussed strategies on how businesses can take the lead in solving complex issues confronting society today—and proved that we can be more sustainable, efficient, inclusive, forward-thinking, and simply better when working together across sectors, build on each other’s strengths, and coalesce around a shared vision.
DAY 1: SOLVING FOR TODAY
The conference began the morning of November 13 with opening remarks from the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Senior Vice President, Marc DeCourcey. Throughout the day, attendees were able to hear from business leaders on the main stage, and join a variety of different working sessions and panel-style breakouts each designed to address key topics concerning CSR practitioners. At each session, speakers shared best practices related to innovation, leadership, community-engagement, and technology, all the while emphasizing the importance of collaboration with regard to societal improvement.
Keynote speaker Afdhel Aziz, Founder and Chief Purpose Officer, Conspiracy of Love, and Author, Good is the New Cool kicked the program off with an inspiring talk on the power of purpose, and how CSR can lead the social impact revolution.
“We are moving beyond corporate social responsibility, into corporate social opportunity.” -Afdhel Aziz
Additionally, we heard from a panel featuring DSM North America’s Hugh Welsh, Cisco’s Tae Yoo, and The UPS Foundation’s Joe Ruiz. Panelists described how corporate social responsibility has, and continues to, evolve within each of their companies, how they are integrating social impact throughout operations, and what the future holds. The impact that DSM North America, Cisco, and UPS have made in communities has been recognized through the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s prestigious Citizens Awards, either as past winners or finalists. For 20 years, the Citizens Awards has honored excellence in corporate citizenship, and this panel showcased some of the best examples.
Midway through day one, attendees enjoyed lunch while hearing from César Vargas, U.S. Chief External Affairs Officer at Anheuser-Busch. Vargas detailed his experience with customers demanding more today from the brands they support. He also shared how the country’s leading brewer is finding authentic and meaningful ways to leverage its brands and drive action that benefits the environment, communities, and its bottom line.
The afternoon concluded with a series of inspiring main stage sessions, covering topics of inclusion in the workplace, building resilience within communities, and more. CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp, Joey Gonzalez sat down with Rufus Gifford, former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark and Senior Advisor for Out Leadership, to discuss how businesses can advance more inclusive workplaces and communities. Later on, The Honorable Martin Walsh, Mayor of Boston, and Tom Crohan, Vice President and Counsel for Corporate Responsibility & Government Relations for John Hancock, spoke about the impact the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing had on the city and the role companies like John Hancock played in response and recovery, and how private-public partnerships like this continue to help create a healthier, more equitable Boston.
The first day of the conference concluded with interactive working sessions that provided greater insight into key topics, such as disaster mitigation, inclusive technology, mental health in the workplace, international giving, and more.
One such session was “Digital Empowers: Power and Pitfalls of Revolutionary Technology with Inclusion at the Core.” During this session, attendees heard from leaders in the space to better understand how organizations are leveraging emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, deep learning, and virtual reality to build more inclusive workplaces, markets, and products.
As part of this conversation, speakers addressed the responsible leadership measures taken to combat for bias, as it relates to putting inclusion and ethics at the forefront of design and development of products and services. They also had the opportunity to experience some of these technologies in person through Mursion’s virtual training simulators where professionals practice and master essential skills they need to be effective in high-stakes careers. These topics and more are covered throughout the year as part of the Digital Empowers campaign—a partnership between the U.S. Chamber Foundation and Tata Consultancy Services—which explores the ways in which technology can be leveraged to bring greater access and equity to individuals and communities.
DAY 2: SOLVING FOR TOMORROW
The second day of Solve Together began with Alex Amouyel, Executive Director of MIT Solve sharing how the organization is helping entrepreneurs scale their work to create lasting change.
The program also featured an insightful fireside chat between U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Rick Wade, TV Producer and Media Executive Kim Bondy, and AT&T’s Tanya Lombard. During this session, speakers discussed the underrepresentation of diverse populations in media and technology, and explored how to grow diversity in these sectors to make them more inclusive and representative of American society.
The fireside chat was followed by a session called “Future Forward: Collaborative Solutions to Global Challenges.” This session featured leaders from Dow, Tupperware, Keurig Dr. Pepper, Chevron Technology Ventures, and Caterpillar Foundation on how they are innovating to change lives and create a more sustainable planet.
In the afternoon, attendees had the opportunity to participate in hands-on field trips and gain insights directly from some of the most innovative companies in the DMV area. Field trips included The America Recycles Innovation Fair and the Union Kitchen Food Accelerator. At The America Recycles Innovation Fair, attendees learned about the most innovative and entrepreneurial advances in recycling technology, product development, education and outreach, and materials usage. The Fair was a great opportunity for potential investors to connect with recycling innovators to discuss market development and the adoption of new recycling technologies in businesses today.
At the Union Kitchen Food Accelerator, Founder Cullen Gilchrist led a delicious food tour and tasting, while engaging in conversation about this unique, D.C.-based business accelerator. Gilchrist explained to attendees how established companies can successfully utilize their resources and social platforms to support expansion of local and community-based businesses.
20th ANNUAL CITIZENS AWARDS
On the evening of November 14, the U.S. Chamber Foundation hosted its 20th Annual Citizens Awards, which recognizes the most innovative and impactful corporate citizenship initiatives. The U.S. Chamber Foundation presented the Citizens Awards to Stanley Black & Decker, Berkshire Bank, The Kroger Company, FedEx Corporation, Kellogg Company, Tata Consultancy Services, The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, and Merck.
For the 20th anniversary, the Citizens Awards introduced the Corporate Citizenship Hall of Fame to commemorate companies that have made extraordinary contributions to the betterment of society. Cisco, DSM North America, Entergy Corporation, GSK, Merck, and UPS were inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame for their continued social and environmental impact.
This year, the event also featured a special recognition inspired by the theme of the Annual Conference, “solving together.” WarnerMedia received the Solve Together award for its television series Chasing the Cure. Chasing the Cure’s anchor and executive producer Ann Curry accepted the award on behalf of the company.
Learn more about the 20th Annual Citizens Awards here.