Weber Shandwick Seattle is launching a new series highlighting CSR thought leaders—including many of our own WS colleagues—in our local and global community. Our first post features Kim Vu, Bank of America Vice President, Seattle Market Manager, Enterprise Business and Community Engagement, who is moderating a panel on Telling Your Story: Beyond the CSR Report and New Media at an upcoming CSR Business Conference.

Kim Vu, Bank of America Vice President, Seattle Market Manager, Enterprise Business and Community

Kim Vu Bank of America Vice President,
Seattle Market Manager,
Enterprise Business and Community

As Corporate Social Responsibility moves into popular consciousness, what do you think about the evolution of CSR from recycling in the workplace to companies working hard every day to make a positive impact?

Corporate Social Responsibility is ever changing but one thing we know for sure is that CSR has definitely become a mainstay in the corporate environment. It’s evolved from being something nice to do to becoming an essential part of doing good business. What was once just a segment of human resources or marketing, CSR has now found its place throughout the organization; in supply chain management to product development to employee recruitment and client relationship management. From the executive suite to the front line employee, every level of the business is now in some way either impacting or being impacted by CSR.

With stakeholders (customers/employees/investors) not only expecting organizations to be responsible corporate citizens but also communicating about their commitment, do you think this will transform how companies incorporate CSR?

What I’ve been more interested in keeping my eye on these days isn’t so much how CSR is impacting the way we do things within in the business; it’s what going on in the community at a civic level because I believe this will dictate CSR’s next iteration:

1)     Power to the People: It’s not difficult to find stories upon stories, through social media, the news, friends, and family about the challenges we’re currently facing with the rapidly changing dynamics of our communities. Conversations are happening all around the greater Puget Sound community in neighborhoods, churches, schools, local governments, and philanthropic communities about equity, access, and opportunity and how that is driven by factors we are all familiar with related to structural and institutional biases based on gender, religion, race, etc. Employees are engaging in these conversations and corporations have a huge opportunity to take the lead to create spaces for these conversations to be had. Here at Bank of America, for example, we not only match employee charitable contributions up to $5,000 annually, but we also offer up to two paid hours a week for volunteering.  By putting that power in the hands of our employees, we’re allowing them to set the course on social impact in the communities where they live and work. Last year, Seattle’s Gender Equity in Pay Taskforce released a report documenting pay inequality in our region.  By taking a deeper look at the causes and manifestations of gender (and race) disparity across various sectors, companies can begin to create roadmaps to level the “paying field”. These are just two local examples of how corporations and governmenet are recognizing the interests and needs of the communities of employees and individuals they serve and creating the space for conversations to happen.

2)     Making the Deeper Connection between Diversity, Equity and Philanthropy: Within our companies, we have made incredible strides to support and celebrate diversity and inclusion through employee affinity networks and communities. And many of us have corporate foundations that make grants to our local nonprofits. And generally, that’s where the connection ends, if there is any. To take our grantmaking and our commitment to celebrating diversity and inclusion to the next level, we need to ask ourselves, how does equity and inclusion play a role in our grantmaking? Are our grantmaking employee councils diverse? Is our grant application process inadvertently leaving out marginalized segments of our communities that may not be familiar with what grant funding is? These types of questions are being addressed by local leading organizations like Social Venture Partners and Philanthropy Northwest to help us dig deep and rethink how we align our efforts around diversity and grantmaking.

3)     Increased Regional Corporate Collaboration: With the economic complexities our region and state are facing, no one sector, public or private, will be able to resolve any one issue on its own. Corporations have significant influence independently however; there is even greater opportunity for transformational change when corporations across industry sectors collaborate on major issues impacting our communities.  And all of that starts with creating a strong regional CSR community that supports each other’s work through partnership and collaboration to address the most pressing community needs. Whether it be accessing the environmental impacts of manufacturing locally or globally, or working together with our state to identify more efficient means for transportation, or addressing the STEM workforce gap; a strong CSR community creates the foundation for these major issues to be resolved.

Weber Shandwick is a case study for this—from corporate values to a strong code of conduct, giving back to communities and providing an earth-conscious work environment. As companies further engage as global citizens, what do you predict for the future of CSR?

Well, Weber is a great company. There isn’t a better time to be part of the CSR community – the role of social responsibility has been set into the core of our businesses and communities. And now, CSR plays a deeper and even more meaningful role in the lives of our employees as they become more socially and civically engaged.

Disclaimer: Bank of America is a Weber Shandwick client.

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