Over 80 Corporate Responsibility leaders at NYSE CR Forum

Wed, Mar 2 was an exciting first CR event for NYSE Euronext.  (We have done many great related programs, but this was the first one explicitly focused on the broad field of CR.)  We had a crowd of about 80 CR leaders, including many of the corporations named to the 2011 100 Best Corporate Citizens list.  The substantive program provided lots of food for thought.  Michael Hopkins from MIT and Martin Reeves from BCG presented an overview of their study “Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize the Advantage” - a fascinating study and is worth reading in full.  One key take-away for me was the illustration of how companies that are “Embracers” of CR (you will have to check out the study for the full definition) are much more likely to report that they are significantly outperforming their peers.  There is much more to be mined from their findings, and I highly recommend reading the report. 

Then we had 2 fascinating panels of corporate responsibility officers from among the 100 Best Corporate Citizen companies.  Interestingly, while we had originally suggested which panel each company should appear on, some participants felt strongly about being on one vs. the other, so although the overall group of panelists remained the same, the composition of the individual panels changed a bit from our original conception.  The first panel, with: Lisa Neuberger, Director, Corporate Citizenship Program at Accenture; Dave Stangis, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at Campbell Soup; Suzanne Fallender, Director of CSR Strategy and Communications at Intel; and Frank O’Brien-Bernini, Chief Sustainability Officer at  Owens Corning, examined the question of whether the CFO “gets it” with corporate responsibility.  While some felt that their CFO was perhaps their biggest skeptic, basically for all of these companies, the overall answer was “yes” (but that’s probably why they made the Top 100!)  Indeed in one company, the CEO, who clearly gets it and helps to drive their success in this field, used to be the CFO.  Later in the day, Michael Porter offered a view of how the CFO role could be viewed quite differently in some companies, asserting that in some instances, the CFO may be damaging the future of the company by taking too short-sighted a view in strictly revenue-based terms.

The second panel, “CR as Competitive Advantage: Case Studies and Real Life Examples”, gave some examples of how leading companies are using CR efforts to their competitive advantage. It featured: Chris Kircher, VP of Sustainability & Foundation President at ConAgra;   Dawn Rittenhouse, Director of Sustainable Development at DuPont; Pat Molino, VP of Public Affairs & Corporate Citizenship at Johnson & Johnson; Kathy Brown, SVP of Public Policy Development and Corporate Responsibility at Verizon; and Suhas Apte, VP of Global Sustainability at Kimberly Clark. This group was filled with fascinating stories about the importance of CR to everything from brand image, to product design to opening new markets.  Whether it was ConAgra fighting hunger while simultaneously raising brand awareness and improving its reputation, or Dupont driving innovation in their business by focusing on solving major world issues, these illustrations really made the discussion concrete and tangible. 

Then we had our own very small version of an Oscar ceremony (not quite!), but Rich Crespin from Shared Xpertise did manage to impart a great deal of information and drama in his 10 minute unveiling of this year’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens (of which 88 are listed with NYSE Euronext).  He managed to recognize almost every corporate representative in the room, and to share a bit about the areas in which each company excelled.  The highest ranked company present was Campbell’s Soup, represented by Dave Stangis, their Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility.  Then came the ringing of the Closing Bell. One representative from each company that ranked in the top 25 was invited to stand on the Bell Podium (including one rep from a company listed on another exchange, but we’re hopeful the event convinced them they should be joining us!) Dave, as the rep of the highest-ranked company, rang the Closing Bell. Meanwhile, the remainder of the attendees proceeded down to the NYSE trading floor, where they got a brief overview of how things work and watched the Bell Ringing live.  Afterward, everyone returned to the room where the event was being held for one of the day’s highlights, our keynote address from Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School.