A few weeks ago at B:CIVIC Summit I had the fortunate opportunity to connect with civically-minded companies in Colorado to hear the latest trends, learn from CSR experts, and share best practices. Occurring at the same time as Denver Startup Week, this conference was embedded in conversations about business and purpose.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was observing a shift towards collective consciousness in the corporate community. What began a few decades ago, where companies took first steps into being good neighbors in their communities, has evolved into a sophisticated framework that is rooted in the concept that businesses can – and should – be change agents and forces for good. 

I like to think that Tides works beyond traditional “Corporate Social Responsibility” to “Corporate Social Impact”—that is, enabling companies to work towards social change by leveraging every asset, from philanthropic funds to investment capital, and from employee talent to brand power. Many sessions at B:CIVIC Summit provided crucial reminders and useful lessons for anyone applying this approach to their social impact. Here are a few things I learned:

Business On Purpose: Trends and Challenges

  • Companies doing good is no longer just about philanthropy. It’s about business strategy.
  • Business Roundtable’s latest statement is an indicator that companies will no longer sit on the sidelines when it comes to solving societal issues.
  • Three biggest challenges faced by companies (per top HR): company culture, societal purpose, and technology.

Brands Taking Stands: A Closer Look

  • What’s driving this trend?
    • Reality of a need for sustainability continues to intensify; it’s harder to turn a blind eye.
    • All of the social issues are hitting closer to home, and not taking a stand is complicit.
    • There is a growing need for business resilience.
  • Who exerts influence?
    • Customers, employees, supply chain, etc.
    • There is interdependence of different constituents
    • The call does not just come from corner office; employees voices matter, too.
  • Is “Brands Taking Stands” green-washing and just another attempt to sell more stuff?
    • It is critical to be authentic in order to dispel that notion; otherwise people stop paying attention
    • It is critical to bridge and find common ground
  • Important to keep in mind: don’t let perfection get in the way of progress

A Few Useful Resources:

I leave you with my favorite quote from this trip:

 

“Organizations without purpose manage people. Organizations with purpose mobilize people.”