Today, February 23, is International Corporate Philanthropy Day, as promoted by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. Through this day, according to a CECP fact sheet, the organization seeks to celebrate corporate philanthropy while raising awareness of the "benefits of corporate community investment" and encouraging the business community to invest further in philanthropy. The day's events include the annual Board of Boards conference, which brings together CEOs from major companies to discuss corporate philanthropy and an event with the UN on the role of companies in furthering the Millennium Development Goals.
I am particularly interested in today's fourth annual Board of Boards event, which is aimed specifically at CEOs and Chairpersons. This year, Tom Brokaw was scheduled moderate a discussion with Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan, and Jeffery Immelt, CEO of GE, and the event was to conclude with lunch with Bill Clinton. Top executives from over 50 companies were expected to participate, including Dan Doctoroff, President of Bloomberg; E. Neville Isdell, Chairman of Coca-Cola; Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman, President &CEO of Macy's; and Ivan G. Seidenberg, Chairman & CEO of Verizon.
I don't know of any similar events that engage CEOs to address not just corporate philanthropy, but CSR more broadly. Is there in fact such an event or initiative? If not, should there be? I tend to think that engaging top leaders in CSR initiatives (including corporate philanthropy) is a critical way to infuse CSR throughout the organization. A mid-level executive charged exclusively with addressing CSR may have a hard time convincing the manufacturing department of the need to reduce its environmental footprint or the purchasing group of the importance of sourcing from ethically responsible suppliers; in such an organization, CSR is too easily corralled into its own little world. When the CEO is engaged, however, he or she has influence over all of these groups and can ensure that CSR goes from "nice to have" to part of how the company does business. In addition, an event like the Board of Boards conference provides an opportunity not just to influence the assembled CEOs, but to use their collective influence and insight to influence the field of CSR.
If you were to design an event or initiative to engage CEOs in CSR, what would it look like? What benefits would such an event bring? (For instance, I imagine that the CECP event helps raise the visibility of corporate philanthropy on the participating CEOs' agendas, creates a bit of peer pressure to keep up with all of the well-known companies that participate, provides an opportunity to demonstrate to these CEOs directly the positive impact that corporate philanthropy can have on a company, and energizes the participants to increase the impact of their own community engagement.) What other ways would you seek to engage CEOs, and how might you use the collective influence of the participating CEOs to further the field of CSR?