By Devika Narayan, Account Supervisor
Last week, more than 500 corporate, nonprofit and agency professionals working at the intersection of profit and Purpose convened in Chicago to share insights and best practices at the 16th annual Engage for Good conference.
With a theme of ‘Creating Change in Changing Times,’ discussion focused on how companies and nonprofits can generate compelling brand Purpose in today’s environment of rising consumer and employee expectations. With notable speakers like The Obama Foundation’s Michael Strautmanis, REI’s Laura Swapp and Save the Children’s Carolyn Miles and a series of educational breakout sessions, #EFG18 combined inspirational conversations with actionable insights for practitioners.
This year’s conference left me with a few key takeaways:
- Preach what you practice. A recurring theme throughout the conference, brand activism emerged as the new breed of Purpose marketing. While more companies are advocating for social justice issues like gun control and immigration, Bank of America’s Sue Burton reminded the audience to be thoughtful and deliberate when deciding what issues to have an authentic voice on. To minimize backlash and foster trust with customers, employees and other stakeholders, a brand should only take a stand that reflects its Purpose, values and, most importantly, its operational practices. Saying no can be hard, but it’s sometimes the right thing to do.
- Tech continues to amplify good. From traceable supply chains to permanent identity for refugees, Accenture’s Stef Milczarek shared how the world’s latest technology is helping organizations pioneer more efficient processes that are both sustainable and scalable. A powerful example comes from Akshaya Patra, a nonprofit supplier of cooked meals for schoolchildren in India. The organization explored how technology could help them do more with less in a pilot project with Accenture’s Tech4Good program. Using a combination of artificial intelligence, connected IoT devices and blockchain technology, Akshaya Patra realized significant efficiency improvements in its meal preparation and distribution. In fact, estimates suggest that if these technologies were implemented across all its kitchens, the nonprofit would save nearly $500,000 annually – translating to over 30 million additional meals every year.
- When it comes to employee engagement, companies should think globally and act locally. Gary Levante, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, shared that while Halo Award winner Berkshire Bank’s overall engagement strategy is set at the corporate level, its regional employee volunteer committees ultimately ensure the program’s success. These regional committees are established in each of the company’s major geographic markets and are comprised of members from various offices and departments. This approach allows for local decision-making that empowers employees to identify, select, plan and execute projects that resonate the most in their own areas within the context of the Bank’s overall strategy.
- Don't give and run after disaster strikes. Just because a disaster is no longer in the headlines, it doesn't mean recovery is over. JetBlue’s Director of Business Continuity and Emergency Response, Penny Neferis explained that although immediate relief needs are real and pressing, long-term rebuilding is a critical component of disaster efforts. Companies should be prepared to be involved for the long-haul, working closely with disaster partners to identify the most pressing needs and offering essential support for reconstruction.
This year’s Engage for Good continued its legacy of creating an inspiring space to connect with other like-minded socially responsible organizations, celebrate creative campaigns, share and combine collective expertise and forge new partnerships. I am hopeful that the ideas shared during the two-day event will fuel the world’s leading social impact practitioners for months – and years – to come.