IABC meeting rewind: Panelists share insights from the changing world of corporate social responsibility. Watch the video below.

By Ayanna Anderson

Excitement was in the crisp autumn air on Oct. 5, as 91 members from SF IABC, PRSA, and sfBIG gathered at the Oakland Zoo for a first-ever panel discussion on the changing world of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Attendees enjoyed breathtaking views as they ascended 1,800 feet in the zoo’s new Alpine-style gondolas. The zoo’s gorgeous new glass-walled restaurant, The Landing Café, served as the perfect backdrop for lively conversation, delicious fare and networking. Outside on the observation deck, there was no shortage of smiles, selfies and sunset appreciation.

Event organizer, Barbara Leavitt launched the panel portion of the evening with a warm welcome and introduction of Neill Duffy, CEO and founder of Purpose + Sport, who served as the moderator.

Panelists included:

Linda McNair, Adobe

Jordan Medina, Uber

Steve Mnich, IBM

Bari Saltman, LinkedIn

The four featured panelists shared perspectives as to why Bay Area corporations need to stand for more than just profits in order to soar to higher heights as a brand. Panelists agreed that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is proving to be vital not only for the corporate brand but also the bottom line.

Meeting Highlights
Steve Mnich, head of West Coast communications for IBM, described how corporate citizenship at IBM has been a century in the making. As standard-bearers for CSR, IBM has a proud legacy of fostering best practices with key stakeholders, including employees, clients and suppliers.

“If you have a good product plus a strong corporate social responsibility program, you have an irrefutable brand,” Mnich said.

Jordan Medina, community outreach and engagement program manager, revealed Uber’s CSR strategy of piloting social impact campaigns that are highly localized, despite being a global brand in 600 cities.

Uber’s Charitable Efforts
In the Bay Area alone, Jordan said 65 companies have benefitted from Uber’s charitable giving efforts.  Medina offered a snapshot of Uber’s CSR initiatives, including a program to reduce the number of missed doctor’s appointments for disabled, elderly or low-income patients. Providing free rides to families for prison visits with incarcerated loved ones is another CSR-driven innovation that Uber recently launched.

“We have been asking ourselves, ‘who are we?’, and ‘what do we stand for’?” he asked.

Why CSR is Important
Building sustainable CSR-centric workplaces is not only good for the corporate brand, but also employee engagement.

“There is compelling evidence to support this,” said panelist Linda McNair, sustainability and social impact campaign strategist for Adobe. “We conduct quarterly surveys, and employees consistently confirm there are no lines differentiating their personal and professional lives. Loyalty, brand affinity, CSR and product are symbiotic . . . when you amplify this, you strengthen the brand.”

Data-Driven CSR

Bari Saltman, social impact manager for LinkedIn, echoed McNair’s sentiment about data-driven CSR insights.

“We conducted an employee survey, and the results confirm that purpose-oriented work that matters is key. Millennials value purpose-driven relationships, and they are attracted to organizations that align with purpose.”

To underscore this point, Bari shared an anecdote about a recent purpose-driven collaboration that LinkedIn staffers are still buzzing about.

“We hosted a special day-long workshop at Lewis-McChord Air Force Base, near Seattle, during which our team conducted one-on-one profile coaching with veterans. This was a transformative experience — not only for this special group of job seekers but also our staff.”

Watch the video above for more meeting highlights.

Learn why October is a great month to join or rejoin IABC.

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Ayanna N.S. Anderson is an SF IABC board member and communications professional with 20 years of experience in community relations, marketing, public relations and program administration. Ayanna evangelizes the gift of life made possible through organ and tissue donation in her current role as the East Bay regional senior community development liaison for Donor Network West, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and healing lives.