Weber Shandwick is the agency partner for the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, part of Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. Several members of our Social Impact team supported their Sustainability Solutions Festival, which took place from February 17-22, 2014.
Those of us that work in the sustainability space have our own shared language — we talk about climate resiliency, decoupling growth and environmental footprints. It’s no wonder, then, that we sometimes get confused looks and furrowed eyebrows when we take our work, and our vernacular, beyond our “bubble” to try and influence priorities, encourage action and accelerate impact.
How do we break down this barrier, then? Well, it’s an issue that the sustainability community is grappling with on a regular basis — in companies, communities and academic settings. And we’ve certainly seen it play out at our inaugural Sustainability Solutions Festival, which took place last week.
For more of this blog and to view other insights from the Festival, visit http://sustainabilitysolutions.asu.edu/2014/02/sustainability-for-all/.
Corporations are uniquely positioned to drive innovations that solve global challenges while making a profit. This was the key message we heard from Alice Korngold, author of A Better World, Inc. - How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot, during the launch party for her new book that was hosted by the Social Impact team in Washington, DC on January 30.
Korngold highlighted case studies of global companies that are successfully addressing global challenges, including cases from Nike, Hewlett-Packard, GlaxoSmithKline and Vodafone while advancing their business growth.
A common theme she found in her research is that companies that are most successful in this space take a long-term, strategic view and align their mission, goals and resources to address global challenges, such as poverty, climate change, education, or human rights.
She also spoke to the business case for doing so. Beyond having a positive impact on the world, companies can also gain new customers, retain employees and forge strategic partnerships with nonprofits, governments and other important stakeholders – all important bottom line concerns for businesses.
CEOs and company leadership are essential for championing the importance of solving global challenges, Korngold emphasized. She advised on having diverse corporate boards that bring new perspectives, instead of homogenous ones that can prevent innovative thinking.
These kinds of insights have attracted Korngold’s loyal following of C-suite fans. The event gathered more than 45 CSR leaders, public affairs and corporate communications executives in the DC area. The conversation also continued online with live tweets and discussion using the #ABetterWorldInc hashtag. Paul Massey, the global head of Social Impact, interviewed Alice and facilitated the in-person and online conversation.
Beginning next week Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci, the co-founders of our pro bono client Living on One, in partnership with 1001 MEDIA, will spend four weeks living alongside displaced Syrian refugees in the Za’atari camp and surrounding refugee communities in Jordan. Joined by Ibraheem Shaheen, a young Jordanian translator, they will be fully immersed by living in the same conditions as refugees, eating the same food and sharing the same facilities. They will be filming their journey and upon return producing a documentary that will provide a new view into the lives of Syrian refugees and connect a global audience to the urgent humanitarian crisis.
Living on One and 1001 Media have also partnered with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee (ICR) to develop a social action campaign. This includes engaging with viewers and answering questions through social media, live video feeds and weekly blog posts throughout their stay in the refugee camp.
Chris and Zach just landed in Jordan yesterday, but before they left they created a video to introduce the project Salam Neighbor. The video was just released today and you can view it here or on their website at www.SalamNeighbor.org. Additionally, with every share of the video from Living on One’s Facebook page, $1 will be donated to the refugee cause.
#GivingTuesday is underway across the world today. #GivingTuesday is a global day that empowers people to connect to great causes at a time of the year when many are looking for ways to give to charity. Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday encourages families, communities and companies to come together to give something more, establishing traditions of generosity.
Now in its second year, Giving Tuesday is inspiring over 8,000 companies, nonprofits and countless individuals to give during the holiday season. The movement has garnered participation and partnership from a number of Weber Shandwick clients ranging from Join My Village and QVC to Unilever and Bank of America.
Weber Shandwick is partnering with the United Nations Foundation to spread the word about organizations doing great work, making 2013 the year of the #UNselfie, and all things #GivingTuesday! We created the digital tool kit and much of the social content for the campaign.
This post was authored by Mbessin Sonko.
Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.
Our third-annual BSR conference came to a close last week, bringing an end to three energizing days of networking, plenary sessions and workshops. What came through loud and clear at this year’s conference was the degree to which BSR’s network has developed over the past 21 years, and how this network has served as a powerful catalyst for inspiring solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues.
From expanding efforts to promote worker safety in global supply chains, to understanding how businesses can best operate in a climate-constrained world, it’s that promise of collaboration and impact that keeps BSR members coming back year after year.
As we leave the annual BSR conference to again focus on our own challenges with a renewed sense of purpose, here are a few additional key insights and takeaways.
- Numbers matter. Innovation and new ideas are important, but to make true impact, we must scale solutions. In one session, Seth Goldman – co-founder, President and “TeaEO” of Honest Tea – discussed his decision to accept a major investment from Coca-Cola in order to “democratize” a lower-calorie drink option. In another, a speaker referenced Thomas Edison as a powerful example of the importance of scaling solution. Although Edison wasn’t the first person to come up with the light bulb concept, he was the first to be able to take it to scale.
- Anyone can be a leader. During our working lunch with Arizona State University and Triple Pundit, the Weber Shandwick team participated in a great dialogue about what it means to be a leader in sustainability. The consensus was that there is no shortage of ways to be a leader. They key is to choose an issue you want to lead and an issue you are best equipped to lead. Once you’ve discovered that issue, push for innovation, drive engagement among employees, consumers and other key stakeholders and communicate the impact of your programs.
- Solutions to our most critical challenges can come from unexpected places. We heard from the CEO of Participant Media, Jim Burke, who demonstrated how movies and documentaries are drivers of social change. Who would have thought we could develop a framework for inspiring social change using the movie industry as our guide? To drive understanding and inspire action, people need to relate to an issue area.And storytelling, whether through cinema or otherwise, is the method to make it happen.
- The time is now. Perhaps the most powerful moment at BSR 2013 was Mary Robinson’s plenary discussion. Mary is the president of the Mary Robinson Foundation and former President of Ireland. As a self-declared “elder” in the social change movement, Mary spoke through the lens of her decades of experience. She recalled hearing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I Have a Dream Speech,” and being motivated by his powerful call to action: ”the fierce urgency of now.” While the issue may be different, Robinson pointed to this same sense of urgency in calling upon businesses to work with stakeholders to lead on climate justice.
Thank you to everyone who played a role in this year’s conference – we look forward to seeing you next year at #BSR14 in New York City!
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