The Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at Leeds (CESR), and B:CIVIC, have a long history of collaboration focused on advancing sustainability in business. B:CIVIC has been instrumental in launching and supporting Leeds' Certificate in CSR (CCSR) executive education program, and generously made it possible for Leeds students to attend this year’s Summit. We are thrilled to continue to work together to develop new opportunities to equip the next generation with the skills they need to make positive social and environmental impacts through business leadership.
The 2022 B:CIVIC Summit, Turning Point: CSR at a Crossroads presented by Delta Dental of Colorado and VF Corporation was a full day event exploring the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business success.
Participants explored how to advance the work of CSR and impact “with purpose,” as Chair Liz Gardner, Area Manager, Community & Local Government Affairs, Xcel Energy, put it. Sessions talked about the importance of collaboration across industries, functions and sectors, about how ESG can help build trust which is essential to long term value creation, and how to catalyze radical change by creating work environments in which it is safe to try new things.
Leeds was able to participate in this year’s Summit in a number of ways. The CESR team, together with five MBA students, two undergraduate Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) students, and three alumni, all attended the event. Jennifer Forman, one of the two Instructors of our Certificate in CSR (CCSR) program and SRS faculty member Joshua Nunziato, both presented on panels.
Pete Dignan, Instructor for CCSR and the newly launched Climate Action for Business executive education programs at Leeds commented that it was “exciting to also see the large number of past and current participants in CESR's Certificate in CSR attending the Summit. Several were directly involved in planning the event, and/or moderating panels during the day. It's clear from this that the longstanding collaboration between B:CIVIC and CESR continues to create ripples of positive impact throughout the Denver-Boulder community."
Below we have collected some of the Leeds’ team’s takeaways and reflections from the event.
Staff and Faculty Reflections
Joshua Nunziato, Assistant Teaching Professor, Social Responsibility and Sustainability, Leeds
As a first time participant in the B:CIVIC event, Joshua was impressed by the quality and insight delivered by the panelists and other contributors. He noted topics and conversations ranging from “carbon accounting and DEI to the accelerating transition from traditional 'Corporate Social Responsibility' toward ESG: sustainability framed around Environmental, Social, and Governance management, which is an organic expression of companies' core purpose.”
Joshua appreciated "that so many from the Leeds community were able to show up and represent our institution at a regional event with national draw!"
Kathryn Wendell, Executive Director, CESR
For Kathryn, a major theme of the conference was the idea of purpose as the keystone of any sustainability strategy.
Rich Maiore, CEO of Rocket Social Impact, which is one of the corporate supporters of CESR’s Diversity in CSR initiative, talked about this in his presentation on how to identify when a business should take a public stand on a political issue. Rich noted that taking a political position will make some folks mad, no matter what you do. So it is crucial to have a point of view and articulate clear values in advance so that your response to issues that arise can be consistent and relevant to your core business.
“I appreciated that way Rich laid out a process which involves having good screening questions to figure out if you have to take a stand in an issue including: Is it important to your business? Does it involve any key stakeholders? Geographic location? Do you have credibility in this space? Does it relate to your company’s values? And can you make a significant impact?” Kathryn noted.
Kathryn also appreciated a key takeaway that Joshua Nunziato shared in his session, that “sustainability is not maintaining the status quo. It’s about evolving into the world where we want our children to thrive.”
The key question, Kathryn said is “why is the world a better place because we are in it? And then business leaders need to make sure that all their ESG strategies are aligned with that.”
Justine Roberts, Program Manager, CESR
Justine noted an important discussion about integrating ESG and CSR horizontally across a company so that there is an organic commitment to impact and it is woven into effective governance and policies. “For example,” Joshua Nunziato said in his session, “tie executive compensation to the environmental and social goals you want to advance.”
Along with that is the recognition that no company is perfect and so how you evaluate a company’s ESG needs to be nuanced. As Garvin Jabusch, founder and CEO of Green Alpha Advisors said, the question needs to be “is a company doing more to solve big system-level risks than to cause them?” In an environment in which the meaning of ESG and CSR, and the relationship between the two, is evolving, there are also no standardized tools to measure a company's ESG.
A number of speakers agreed that leading with an ESG focus means thinking about long term value creation, which is a shift from the way that many businesses are organized. “The answer to the culture war, and to convincing investors that a green economy is the future, is to be undeniable,” said Garvin. “Figure out what is going to fuel the future, because that is the tailwind economically.” For Garvin, that "tailwind" is impact and sustainability.
Taylor Dewitt, Program Coordinator, CESR
Taylor resonated with the idea that “the future of ESG is undeniable, meaning the economy is directly related to the “health” of the planet.” She noted that a number of panelists made the case that as emissions continue to rise we are seeing large corporations take into consideration their impact on the planet, and more importantly, their responsibility to make sustainable and ethical changes to the way their business operates.
Taylor also noted that many speakers talked about the importance of diversity and inclusion in business. Panelists such as Yontae Johnson talked about how diverse teams are demonstrably more productive and profitable because they are able to provide more perspectives and ways of thinking about business problems that lead to deeper and more comprehensive conversations about proposed solutions. “I took away from the Summit that to combat climate change we need to consider environmental justice first and foremost. To do that we need inclusive teams that can consider problems from many different angles,” Taylor said.
Leeds Students’ Takeaways
Joelle Trubowit (MBA’24)
I really enjoyed the B:CIVIC Summit and am thankful for CESR giving students the opportunity to join. One theme I noticed was a conversation about how their companies make decisions on what they are able to do and what is within their realm, rather than trying to tackle ALL of the problems we face. Related to that, speakers talked about how they are educating their consumers on their decisions, and relaying their areas of focus to stakeholders.
Gale Chareancholwanich (MBA’24)
One of the sessions that I like the most is how nudge theory can be applied to the ESG world and volunteering programs. The speaker also provided real and successful and practical examples of how to get people to respond via email by using the behavioral science of our brain system.
On top of that, the Ernst and Young ripple session was really interesting. I heard from the leaders who were involved from planning to launching the process.
I also got an opportunity to connect with other attendees from various fields like the energy industry and education non-profit companies. This event really motivates me and, question myself about how I will make an impact globally.
Mary Boling (MBA’24)
It was great to hear what people are talking about at the B:CIVIC Summit. I learned a lot, and two of my biggest takeaways are:
Kiera Josephine Hurley (BSMrkt'23)
I really enjoyed the B:CIVIC event and am grateful I had the opportunity to go. The Summit was inspirational and impactful, and filled with professionals in all types of industries working to make a difference in their organization. I was able to hear from incredible speakers representing companies such as Southwest Airlines, Xcel Energy, Delta Dental, Ernst & Young, and many others.
One of the most resonating statements I heard came from Aaron Dignan, founder of the Ready and Murmur who said: "Continuous participatory change is making small changes in an adaptive environment wherein you change through people, not to people."
I think this encompasses a lot of what is happening in the sustainability world and a common theme of the Summit; which is that change is happening and is necessary but we must invite everyone to play if we want it to be seamlessly integrated into an organization.
At the highest level, the conference raised the profile of ESG and CSR efforts within the Colorado business community and beyond, and brought together a community of people working on sustainable and ethical business to explore best practices, share successes and challenges, and build networks that support the work of driving change day-to-day, including the Leeds School of Business.