Saturday, September 11, 2010

Our CSR Summit

Earlier this week, we hosted a CSR brainstorming session to help three of our C-level executives understand some possibilities of infusing our brand with a more "socially conscious" angle. We invited in several CSR experts and a few CSR practitioners from other consumer-facing companies.

Prior to the event, I spent several weeks trying to convince people from my network to spend a few hours on the Tuesday morning after Labor Day with us in New York City. Understandably, people didn't commit to flying across the country for our meeting, but we did manage to get some strong representation from the New York area.

I also spent time in healthy debate with a marketing VP, whose role is to ensure that we project the appropriate brand image to external guests, including the type of food we have catered, the vases of white hydrangeas placed throughout the room and the color of the foam core (silver or white) we were allowed to use behind flip charts! She wanted bottled water, I insisted we get pitchers. She wanted to use a beautiful trash receptacle, I suggested recycling bins. In the end, since I'm not based in the New York office, she got her way. Despite saying she'd honor some of my sustainability requests, our meeting had bottled water and no recycling (among other things). As expected, several of our CSR guests commented on the "opportunities" to host a more sustainable meeting.

But the meeting itself went better than expected. We had a very robust dialogue, surfaced some exciting possibilities and I think everyone in attendance felt inspired by our brand and its potential connections to the planet and to communities.

The problem we have now is how do we take these ideas and this momentum and bring it to life? My job is to continue to push this work forward, but we don't have the appropriate resources to accomplish everything we discussed. Our Chief Supply Chain Officer pledged that he would debrief with his executive peers and our CEO to get a better sense of priority and I hope we'll then be able to work on a strategic plan to put some of this work into action!

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