The 25th annual Business Solves Conference and Corporate Citizenship Awards highlighted the impact of private-public collaboration in addressing emerging and persistent global issues through innovative business-led solutions. The conference was held alongside the Citizens Awards, shining a spotlight on businesses that are leading the charge in tackling societal challenges, expanding opportunities for all, and driving progress.
Key Takeaways from the 25th Annual Business Solves:
- Business continues to be a beacon of trust and force for social change. From engaging the next generation on the power of civics to ensuring mental health is a priority for all, businesses are leading the charge on the issues that matter the most to society.
- There is no better time than now for businesses to become more engaged with the communities they serve – with purpose at the core. Insights highlight the role of business in driving solutions on current issues, from supporting employee volunteerism and engaging with education systems to preparing future generations for success.
- There is power in collaboration and business partnerships in times of crisis. Breakout sessions emphasized the importance of collaboration, innovation, and coordination among the private sector, non-profits, and government, to effectively respond to international humanitarian crises.
Continue reading to explore the insights and impact driving conversations at this year’s Business Solves.
Purpose Talks: Ten Minutes of Inspiration
This year, a new format of ten-minute “Purpose Talks” keynotes set the tone for the conference, where business experts shared their ideas, career journeys, and how they have leveraged the power of business to drive innovative solutions. The conference kicked off with Hugh Welsh, President of dsm-firmenich North America, a health and nutrition company. Hugh discussed his career journey and highlighted the importance of aligning passion with work to make a positive impact on the world.
After graduating from law school, Welsh discovered his career as an attorney was not fulfilling and began to assume that’s what being an adult was all about – in one part of your life, you focus on your job and in the other part of your life, you focus on your passions – until he heard a speech from Steve Jobs that inspired him to think differently.
“From that day forward, I started thinking about how can I take my rather modest legal skills and apply them in a different way that can not just do well in business, but do well for the world.”
Next on stage was Kim Roxie, founder and CEO of Lamik Beauty, who shared her journey from being a high school dropout to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Roxie emphasized the power of communities to support small businesses and make a positive impact through conscious purchasing decisions. She encouraged the audience to pledge to be conscious consumers and support small business owners, saying, "We're not waiting for someone else to solve problems; we are the solution."
Kim is a grantee of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Coalition to Back Black Businesses program, an initiative designed to uplift small Black-owned businesses in response to the pandemic. Read more about her story here.
Shannon Schuyler, Chief Purpose and Inclusion Officer at PwC concluded the conference with a Purpose Talk oriented on how finding one's purpose can help spark passion and dedication in the workplace.
Schuyler talked about the purpose of finding the next step to ensure that people open themselves up to truly make sure they are making a difference. She encouraged attendees to discover their passions, assess their strengths, and advance their goals for themselves and their teams.
Schuyler concluded, “Without all of you, this world would be very different. And sometimes that is hard to stop and reflect on, but I hope that you take today and what you have gone through over the last day and a half in connecting with your peers and colleagues as a time to take a deep breath and be able to realize how special you are and how much you changed the world.”
Panel Perspectives: Defining the Role of Business in Society
Doing Good as a Business Differentiator
This panel discussion explored how business can drive positive societal change and meet the needs of the communities they serve and the world at large. The conversation, led by U.S. Chamber Foundation SVP Marc DeCourcey, brought together three industry leaders to discuss the role of business in addressing societal challenges and setting organizational priorities to make an impact.
“At the end of the day, we all have the same objective; it is a healthy workforce, it is a secure community, it is a place where our employees can thrive based on the support they feel from those institutions that are important to them locally,” said Randy Bumps, VP of Public Relations and Global Affairs at RTX.
In the Business of Democracy
A shocking number of Americans cannot name a single branch of government. Couple this with alarmingly low national civics scores for eighth graders, and there is a real problem at hand. This discussion focused on how businesses can play a role in educating people about current issues and how they can provide their employees with opportunities to volunteer and give back to their communities. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, business continues to be the most trusted institution, ranking higher than any other institution in the country.
“The actions that we choose to take today — [whether that’s] investment, what we encourage our employees to do, the opportunities we provide — will either pay dividends or consequences for the future. And we can’t be passive; we’ve got to dig in and go deep on this,” stated Betsy Martin, Boeing’s southeastern region director of global engagement.
Connecting Pre-K and K-12 Education to Careers
The students of today are the employees of tomorrow, positioning both education and workforce issues as impacting two generations. This conversation, led by U.S. Chamber Foundation VP of Policy Caitlin Codella Low, examined how businesses can and must try to engage with education systems, either by supporting their local government or offering career-connected learning opportunities and internships to prepare future generations for success. Business plays a crucial role in shaping the education system, from employers supporting working parents through childcare to setting the course for the career paths of the next generation.
When children receive high-quality education, they are more positioned on a path toward success. PNC Grow Up Great is a $500 million multi-year bilingual initiative focused on producing high-quality early childhood education outcomes. The PNC Foundation launched this initiative in response to employee interest and applied its capabilities as a bank to expand economic opportunity for future generations.
“Think about how we in this room can collaborate and work together and put our resources together to come up with innovative solutions that will benefit our communities,” remarked Sally McCrady, chair, and president of the PNC Foundation.
Fireside Chat Examining Today’s Work Trends with One of the Best Places to Work
Sally Schiff, VP of internal, executive and owner communications at Hilton, joined a fireside chat with Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, on the importance of ensuring individuals feel welcome and comfortable, regardless of their background or circumstances, to build a strong, engaged, and empowered workforce. Hilton has been named one of the Best 100 Companies to Work for by Fortune for five years in a row, earning a number one ranking in workplaces supporting women in the U.S. Hilton has mastered the formula of recruiting and retaining employees, with a remarkable retention rate—with some employees representing multiple generations of service within the company. Schiff emphasized the role of listening to employees and collecting data to inform decisions that impact employees.
“We take all of the information, and we aggregate all that data, we pour through all the comments, and then we determine what programs ought to be born out of that listening,” said Schiff. “When we communicate that back to our teams, we stamp those messages with a little emblem that says, ‘fueled by your feedback,’ so that people understand you heard me, and you acted on my insight. And now I feel like you've listened. So many programs have come from this.”
Standardizing Effective International Coordination in Humanitarian Crises
This breakout session centered on the role of business in maximizing efficiency in international crisis and disaster coordination with a panel of experts from the private sector, non-profits, and government.
The session featured cross-sector perspectives including Kathy Younker, USAID’s private sector engagement team lead; Joe Ruiz, VP of Social Impact at The UPS Foundation; Stephanie Steege, Director of Humanitarian Programs at Airlink; and Josh Dozer, Program Manager of Humanitarian Affairs at SOS International. The conversation focused on how each organization uses its expertise and resources to enhance efforts in responding to humanitarian crises worldwide.
The UPS Foundation, winner of the 2023 Citizens Award for Best Community Resilience and Disaster Response program, mobilizes health and humanitarian relief support in response to disasters in over 200 countries.
“For us, for our people, for our customers, every disaster is local. So that's why this is such an important program for us, and a really important mission to really make sure that all communities are protected and become more resilient. We respond because in every case it's impacting a key stakeholder of our organization,” Ruiz said.
The conversation offered a unique perspective on the importance of collaboration and coordination among different organizations to ensure effective and efficient responses to crises.
Insights and Highlights
Watch recordings of the conference on our YouTube channel.
Dig deeper on our specific session recaps:
- Corporate Leaders Discuss the Strategies for Economic Mobility and Community Partnerships
- How Hilton Upholds Its Legacy Through Employee-Centric Practices
- The Evolving Role of Corporations in Addressing Societal Needs
- In the Business of Democracy: How Workplaces Can Promote Civic Engagement
- Investing in Today’s U.S. Students for Tomorrow’s Workforce
Up Next at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Save the Date: International Women’s Day Forum 2024
Join the 14th annual International Women’s Day Forum on February 28, 2024, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. More information to come.
If you have any questions, please email us.
About the authors
Foundation Communications Intern