The following is a guest post by Bjorn von Euler, director of corporate philanthropy for ITT Corporation
A corporate commitment to philanthropic efforts or preserving our environment must span beyond a desire to position a company as a good corporate citizen. As the triple bottom line philosophy emphasizes, a commitment to the environment and corporate citizenship as a whole should be fully integrated into business goals and strategies.
Last month, I attended the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s annual International Corporate Citizenship Conference, which focused on “winning a seat at the table” and how to remain competitive in the corporate citizenship space. It strikes me that in order to do so effectively companies must focus on one key component: alignment.
First and foremost, corporate citizenship efforts must be aligned with business goals. These efforts should not be viewed as a “nice to do” but rather as a long-term investment that will ultimately help the company succeed. This alignment and the ability to measure the return on investment for these efforts is crucial to engage senior leadership to lead these corporate citizenship efforts actively.
In addition to aligning corporate citizenship efforts with business goals, companies must place emphasis on strategically selecting partners that share similar goals and interests as they do. This message was reinforced during one of the most engaging conference sessions I attended featuring a keynote by John Hoffman, vice president of HBO Documentary Films, and Jennifer Brown, executive vice president of corporate services and sponsorship at Fidelity Investments. Hoffman and Brown discussed HBO and Fidelity’s partnership on “The Alzheimer’s Project,” a four-part series that won two Emmy awards. This documentary allowed HBO to engage its subscribers around a significant public health concern in America—a cause that also aligns with Fidelity’s role in securing the retirement of Americans. By also involving several Alzheimer’s related non-profits in this partnership, the companies were able to expand the public health campaign beyond the documentary.
This partnership is a good example of how members of the private sector can come together to promote a cause. But it is the last element—engaging non-profits—that is particularly relevant to most corporate citizenship programs. Establishing strong aligned partnerships with non-profits can serve as the vital foundation for a program and enhance a company’s impact in the space. When my company, ITT Corporation, was working to establish ITT Watermark two years ago, we spent a long time carefully considering partners that shared our values, mission and approach and outlining plans for multi-year relationships. One of the main reasons we chose to establish relationships with three non-profits—Water For People, Mercy Corps, and the China Women’s Development Foundation—is that we all believe the best way to create sustainable water and sanitation results is to empower local communities. There is no doubt in my mind that these effective partnerships, coupled with the commitment of our leadership and employees, are largely responsible for our program’s success.
Overall, it seems clear that alignment is one of the key ways to ensure that your company “wins a seat at the table”—and keeps it as corporate citizenship continues to become more essential in the marketplace.
Bjorn von Euler was named ITT’s first director of corporate philanthropy in 2008 and is responsible for the company’s signature philanthropy program, ITT Watermark. Prior to this assignment, he was the director of corporate communications for ITT’s Fluid Technology and Motion & Flow Control groups. He has spent more than 35 successful years in the marketing and communications field, with the last half of them serving ITT in various positions of increasing responsibility in Sweden and in the United States.