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Four Need-to-Know Insights From the 2018 3BL Forum

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3BL Forum 2018
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Last week, business executives, nonprofit leaders, government officials and issue advocates met in National Harbor, Maryland, for the annual 3BL Forum (formerly Commit!Forum). The theme of the conference was again “Brands Taking Stands.” Yet this year, companies unpacked if, when and how they take stands, so others in the audience could learn from leaders in the field. CEO Shana Deane kicked off this year’s conference by commending the nerve and grit of brands willing to speak up on divisive issues and discussing how this movement has reached new levels.

Didn’t make it to this year’s Forum? Here are the four need-to-know insights from the event:

1. Leaders must encourage other leaders.

A highlight from the conference was a CEO-centric session featuring Mariano Lozano, CEO of Danone North America, and Steve Rendle, chairman and CEO of VF Corp. The leaders shared insights into how they are guiding their organizations with purpose, but they also called on others to join the movement. Lozano drove this point home when describing the company’s huge achievement of becoming the world’s largest B Corp. Lozano simply stated, “We are the biggest B Corp worldwide, for the time being. Soon we hope to become second to another company.”

2. Profitable sustainability sells.

Legacy companies representing more than 400 years of business took the stage for the session, “Perspective from Legacy Companies: Innovations in Corporate Thinking.” Michael Okoroafor, vice president of global sustainability and packaging innovation at McCormick & Co., shared the company’s approach, including a concept it calls Purpose-led Performance—which means the brand is equally dedicated to strengthening its business and improving the world around it. This has allowed the heritage brand to remain competitive over the years, while also focusing on the betterment of the planet and society.

3. Go big, then adapt.

When describing “The Ready Commitment,” TD Bank’s $1 billion commitment to open doors for a more inclusive tomorrow, Andrea Barrack, the company's vice president of global corporate citizenship, drove home an important takeaway for the audience on how TD will reach its goal by 2030. “We have agreed on the vision and the goals and we’re going to hold people accountable. The details on how we get there need to be adaptable.” This means customizing the program to different regions, as well as reporting out customized progress metrics based on audiences.

4. Civic engagement is transforming employee engagement.

In a session entitled “Brands and Their Employees on the Front Lines of Social Change,” Natalye Paquin, president and CEO of Points of Light, and Jenny Lawson, chief civic innovation officer at Points of Light, shared insights into the changing landscape of employee engagement. Lawson called out how engagement is spreading beyond the office, noting that although only 24 percent of employees reported they volunteer. More than 60 percent are “giving back” in other ways. She gave examples such as purchasing from companies employees believe in and choosing to work at companies with values that align with their own. Businesses must understand this new dynamic and encourage myriad types of engagement that inspire employees to contribute to issues they are passionate about in the ways they want to get involved.

The bottom line

As the conference neared a close last Thursday, a Town Hall session explored the concept of brands taking stands as either a moment or a movement. Most experts agreed it was a movement—and one continuing to gain traction. And until we reconvene at 3BL Forum 2019, we’ll be sure to track the evolution of this movement, because as Sherrie Deans, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association Foundation, put it: “Few of us have the option to stay on the sideline.”

This story was originally published at "Insights,” Cone Communications.

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PR and marketing agency Cone Communications has helped organizations make a difference on critical social and environmental issues for nearly four decades.

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