The CEO Perspective: Blending Commercial and Societal Goals

Guest Writer: Courtney King

Note: CECP’s annual Board of Boards CEO Conference. which took place in late February, is a highlight the organization’s International Corporate Philanthropy Day activities, and is considered on the top gatherings of executives in the world — and certainly on the topic of philanthropy. In June, CECP will release a full report on findings from the Board of Boards CEO Conference, but in the meantime we’ve offered CECP’s Courtney King a chance to share the day here.

By Courtney King, CECP

On February 28, 2011 CECP convened our 6th annual Board of Boards CEO Conference in New York, focused on the theme Business at its Best: Maximizing Long-Term Profitability and Societal Impact.

This event, which takes place on International Corporate Philanthropy Day each year, provides a unique opportunity for leading global CEOs to come together to discuss practical ways of doing well and doing good at the same time by integrating business operations and societal impact. The event is closed-door to allow for frank discussion among these decision-makers, but we share the key findings and resulting opportunities through an Executive Report and video highlights, which are both now available online.

The Executive Report and video highlights provide a firsthand account of the conversation, which was led by Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, and Bill Green, chairman of Accenture.

Panelists emphasized that corporate philanthropy has to be integrated into every part of the business. As Nooyi said, “We can’t sustainably give enough money away to be viewed as a responsible company in the 200 countries in which we operate. Instead we must weave responsibility into the core of the company.”

Moderator and acclaimed interviewer Charlie Rose probed the panelists on his assumption that CEO leadership is essential in demonstrating the commitment of the company to societal issues. Green concurred, saying, “If you’re not passionate about this, then don’t bother. And being passionate isn’t about memos and speeches; it’s about asking questions and being part of what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s what sets it into your company’s character and inspires people.”

At this event, CECP and Accenture, our research partner for 2011, shared the concept of Sustainable Value Creation: a core business strategy focused on addressing fundamental societal issues by identifying new, scalable sources of competitive advantage that generate measurable long-term profit and community benefit.

CECP's Board of Boards CEO Conference featured panelists Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, and Bill Green, chairman of Accenture, moderated by Charlie Rose.

Attendees examined internal and external forces – such as increasingly global markets, greater community needs, and the intensifying war for talent – bringing longstanding societal issues including poverty and education to the forefront of the corporate agenda.

The Executive Report provides results of real-time polling questions from attending CEOs in response to questions about how strategies that blend societal and business goals differ from a business-as-usual approach (differences included new measurement models and longer-term investment horizon), and which methods of scaling a Sustainable Value Creation strategy are most effective (suggested methods included linking employee incentives and rewards to the goals of the strategy and creating supporting governance structures).

Stay tuned! In June 2011, CECP and Accenture will release a report on the themes of the CEO Conference, providing clear guidance on how to implement a Sustainable Value Creation strategy.

Courtney King is Manager of Communications for the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.

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