November 1, 2023
Head, Community Investing and Development, Citi
Financial Inclusion Leader, Purpose & DEI Office Principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Vice President, Public Relations and Global Affairs, RTX
Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
In the wake of societal changes and ongoing crises, the role of corporations in addressing societal challenges has evolved tremendously. However, navigating the interplay between business priorities and societal needs can be complicated.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2023 Business Solves event, three industry leaders — Courtney Davis, financial inclusion leader of purpose & DEI office principal at Deloitte & Touche LLP; Brandee McHale, head of community investing and development at Citi; and Randy Bumps, the vice president of public relations and global affairs at RTX — discussed the role businesses play in creating a positive societal impact.
Reprioritization May Be Necessary to Make a Positive Impact
From mom-and-pop shops to large enterprises, organizations of all sizes are deeply intertwined with societal challenges and need to address these issues to make a real impact in communities.
“If families and students are unable to feed themselves, their ability to achieve in school, …thrive in society, … [and] do what they need to do every day in the workplace is in jeopardy,” Bumps said.
However, to support the right areas to make the greatest social impact, businesses may need to reprioritize and shift company roles.
“We see our social impact work as an all-in across the company,” said McHale. “But we also know that we've got to have a specialized function that [not only] delivers resources, but also can influence the broader way that we can drive positive impact.”
To make the most impact, McHale emphasized the need for businesses to build “on-ramps” for people to move up the economic ladder and shut down existing “off-ramps.” To do so, she recommends businesses develop strategies and teams that can simultaneously advance strategic priorities while adapting and responding effectively in times of crisis.
Measure an Organization's Social Impact by Taking a Broader Approach
Irrespective of industry, most businesses share common goals: build a thriving workforce, secure communities, and support local populations. However, measuring social impact is multifaceted.
To measure an organization’s impact, Bumps emphasized the importance of reshaping partnerships to address root issues, while Davis advocated for adopting a wider view of a company's portfolio to ensure efforts are strategically aligned with meaningful progress.
“Two things we ground ourselves in [to track] progress and reporting [are] our annual impact report, which shares… the progress that we're making against our 1.5 billion, 10-year commitment,” said Davis. “And separately, our DEI transparency report, which… [details] the talent lifecycle in terms of where we are [with] our DEI metrics and goals.”
In taking a broader approach, Davis sees an opportunity to integrate transparent reporting and align company metrics with overarching social and DEI objectives, fostering accountability and continuous improvement toward social betterment.