The Holmes Report’s Global PR Summit 2015: True Shared Value & CSR

October 28, 2015

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True. It defines FleishmanHillard and our commitment as public relations professionals to serve our clients with the highest level of integrity. And for the past three days, FleishmanHillard, along with leading global communications agencies, have explored “Culture and Character: The Keys to Authentic Brand-Building” as a sponsor of the fourth-annual Global PR Summit, hosted by The Holmes Report. Given all of the critical issues facing our profession today, I enjoyed discovering, with my colleagues, the unique role we play in helping our clients build their culture and articulate their character in authentic ways.

Yesterday, FleishmanHillard’s Kris Balderston, Kelly McGinnis from Levi Strauss & Co. (a FleishmanHillard client) and Mary O’Connell from Clorox took to the stage to discuss the topic of shared value and how each has helped their organizations live their brand in purpose-driven ways – all while positively connecting with their stakeholders and improving their bottom line.

Holmes Global Summit

From left to right: Kris Balderston, Kelly McGinnis and Mary O’Connell

Here are a few key takeaways from the session, which can also be found in FleishmanHillard’s new guide to Creating True Shared Value.

  1. Expectations of corporations have changed dramatically – both internally and externally. Being a socially responsible, ethical organization is now demanded. The strongest, most successful brands go beyond “mission, vision and values” to the impact they seek to have on the world. This higher purpose requires that a company know the type of organization it is and what drives them emotionally, before selling any product. Steeped in old world tradition, Clorox did good work as part of their brand promise, but without a single front page story. Clorox found Katrina to be a turning point. For the first time, Mary shared that Clorox employees wanted to talk about the ways they were helping communities and people rebuild their lives. The company listened and for the first time Clorox began to tell its shared value story. As communicators, we have a responsibility to help our clients evolve their corporate social responsibility initiatives into shared value strategies that help drive their innovation and growth and their relationships with internal and external customers.
  1. Purpose meets profit. Progressive organizations deliver both social benefit and economic value as an intrinsic part of their business model. “Doing well by doing good,” requires organizations to move beyond traditional corporate social responsibility and recognize that initiatives benefiting the community can directly drive business results. Levi Strauss calls this concept the Profits through Principles Philosophy. Kelly shared that the company gives between 2 and 2.5 percent of earnings back to the community – primarily through the Levi Strauss Foundation. The more successful they are as a company, the more earnings on profits they deliver, and the more the communities where they live and work benefit. In hard times, Mary said Clorox made the decision to keep their products affordable and high quality, and to continue their efforts on corporate social responsibility, focusing on five pillars: Performance, Planet, People, Products and Purpose. They adopted lean and agile methodologies to drive efficiencies, and made their profit and performance inextricably linked by integrating their financial and shared value report: 2015 Integrated Annual Report, “Good Growth: Growing Profitably and Responsibly.” This report highlights the intersection of their business and social commitments by combining their financial, environmental, social and governance performance.
  1. Convene and communicate. Today’s 21st Century Diplomacy, a phrase coined by the Clinton State Department, and echoed by Kris Balderston today, requires companies to look for shared value in unfamiliar places. Kelly said it best on the panel, To do any of this alone is unsustainable.” This is where FleishmanHillard can be such a valuable partner. In addition to helping our clients communicate their shared value strategy, we provide a safe place for powerful cross-sector partnerships – where private sector companies, NGOs, government, civil society and even competitors can come together to discuss ways to effect change – generating economic value and social benefit through shared value initiatives. In May 2015, FleishmanHillard’s Washington, D.C. office, together with the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, convened a cross-sector group of business and non-profit leaders to explore the role that the private sector can play in driving the post-2015 Development Agenda and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition to learning from Kris, Kelly and Mary, the global audience discussed their experiences about how the shared value movement is evolving and growing. Over a beautiful, oceanfront sunset in Miami, I could see a new business landscape where competitive edge and consumer engagement favor companies that find new ways to generate both economic value and social benefit as part of their core business. It makes me proud to be part of a company that is not only part of the conversation, but driving social change and doing it with integrity every day.