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12+ Insights on Embedding & Activating Purpose in Your Organization

Leaders from Biogen, Bissell, Tata Consultancy Services shared their advice at the Conference Board Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy Toolbox

By: Carol Cone

With a potential recession looming, many businesses are reining in spending by cutting non-essential corporate initiatives. Surprisingly, ESG is not among them, according to recent research from Honeywell. Even essential initiatives – which purpose has proven to be – require thoughtful execution in order to resonate across stakeholder groups.

With this grounding, I was delighted to lead an enlightening conversation with fellow purpose leaders as part of The Conference Board’s Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy Toolbox event last week. Joining me were Balaji Ganapathy, Global Head of CSR at Tata Consultancy Services, Johanna Jobin, Global Head of Corporate Reputation & Responsibility at Biogen and Executive Director of the Biogen Foundation, and James Sandora, Vice President of Integrated Marketing at Bissell. Together, we explored the state of purpose and ESG today, how to embed it authentically via stakeholders, and the most innovative ways to scale and share impact.

Below, I’ve clustered their collective insights into a few leading themes. I hope they inspire you and your colleagues to continue to activate your organization’s purpose for business and societal impact.

On igniting stakeholders:

  • Engage your ecosystem to activate purpose, from employees, supply chain, and business partners to NGOs, thought leaders, and government officials.

  • …but “always start with employees," said Sandora. First, by engaging them through active listening, then ideation, and then opportunities to provide on-the-ground support.

  • Make a concerted effort to connect an employee’s personal purpose to organizational purpose.

  • Bring in outside experts to educate and inspire internal partners.

On developing solutions to social issues:

  • Co-creating initiatives with internal and external stakeholders can result in inspiring, impactful, and sometimes unusual ideas.

  • Employees can supercharge ideation: Biogen gathered more than 100 new innovation concepts from employees as part of their Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives challenge.

  • Build credibility by tying issue-related efforts to public affairs and government.

  • Engage in "co-opetition": Collaborate with peers to scale awareness and secure additional funding for initiatives.

On conveying impact:

  • Storytelling is the ultimate means of engagement, said Jobin. Search for emotional stories and tell them liberally.

  • Advance purpose through empathy and localization. Meet beneficiaries in their communities to truly understand and convey their stories.

On looking to the future:

  • The future of organizations is “carbon negative and socially positive,” said Ganapathy. Socially positive means reporting on ultimate outcomes of social impact, going beyond reach and individuals included.

  • Remember that bold action requires a long-term view.

Watch the full session here.


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