Golden Nuggets: CSR Meets Social Purpose

The Social Purpose in Business movement is growing. More and more, business leaders are pivoting towards social purpose and evolving their CSR strategies to align with their social purpose to keep them at the forefront of this conversation about business for good. 

As part of leading that conversation, Social Purpose Institute holds events, panels, and discussions to talk about Social Purpose in Business, and what it looks and feels like in the real world. We get perspectives from experts in the field, and pioneering business leaders who are walking the talk, figuring it out as they go. Our goal is to use what we learn from those who have already done it – to make it easier for the newer social purpose companies to do it themselves. We are building the field of knowledge!  

The CSR Meets Social Purpose panel, held at TELUS Garden and moderated by Coro Strandberg, brought together three inspirational leaders who have already embarked on their social purpose journey: 

Their insights provided value to a room full of social purpose businesses, and leaders hoping to make their own pivot towards purpose. We can’t give you everything, but here are some of the golden nuggets from an evening full of thought leadership. 

Insights from our latest Panel: CSR Meets Social Purpose

CSR Meets Social Purpose

“We started to embark on our new social purpose and our new vision. We went through our list [of priorities, programs and activities] and we started to challenge which ones shouldn’t be there anymore, which ones just didn’t apply anymore.”

“We’re exploring some new ideas […], we think they will have potentially more impact. Some of them are Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and some are our [Purpose] initiatives. Now we have to pick the things that have the biggest impact; it’s not necessarily about the biggest dollar. In fact, sometimes it might be the biggest social impact, or it might be the biggest combination of social and dollar impacts. If you can do both, that’s the best outcome.” 

— Drew Collier, President and CEO at LGM Financial Services

CSR Meets Social Purpose

“I think over time, whether it’s been on the environment or community impact, we have really been evolving our focus. We’ve been looking at our operations, at our strategic planning, at our decision making. We really want to focus in on making sure that we were walking the talk.”

“We actually have something called our social capitalism index formula or Sustainability Index. That’s in our corporate scorecard; every team member, as part of the variable component of their compensation, has targets based on performance regarding our corporate scorecard, where there’s both social and environmental metrics”.

— Geoffrey Pegg, Sustainability Director at TELUS

CSR Meets Social Purpose

“It was around a dozen years or so ago that we really started to pull CSR back into the broader strategy, and the reasoning is pretty simple: that our balance sheet is much more powerful than CSR strategies and grants. It’s a much more powerful tool. If we think about all of those assets, as much as we can evolve them towards our purpose, we take all of our operating footprint, we take everything that we influence and try to think about it that way [through the social purpose lens]. So that’s been the evolution and it continues across our own operations and with the partners that we work with”.

“For us, it’s not about maximizing profit — it’s always really been about finding the balance and confidence in service of a Purpose. And when you think of that frame, then you think differently about all your operational elements.” 

— Christine Bergeron, Chief Member Services at Vancity


Is Social Purpose just another trend?

After some initial discussion, an interesting question popped up from the audience: Is Social Purpose just another trend?

Here’s what the panel had to say:

“In order for Social Purpose to be successful, it has to be baked into the strategy. I think if we can do that, then it’s different than what it’s been in the past. CSR sort of came up from a grassroots movement and moved up in the organization; moved up into strategy. And as it evolves, if we can understand that social purpose is the reason the business exists, and part of the core strategy, then I think it’s the ultimate evolution of CSR: where businesses are doing good and it’s just part of what they see as being a good business.”

— Drew Collier

“I don’t think it’s a new trendy thing it’s a different way of thinking. If you think about the concepts of Shared Value, for example: how can we grow our business, increasing the benefit to society holistically — that’s a bit different than risk management, which is sort of the impetus of CSR strategies and sustainability strategies. There’s a different driver there. I think this is really just an evolution of the concept, it’s just an evolution to a different way of thinking.

Social Purpose is a broader mindset across a different set of stakeholders, and it’s not looking at how you are doing as an organization.. It’s about how do we continue to grow our business, while creating benefiting society.”

— Geoffrey Pegg

“I think more and more people understand that our current systems aren’t working and more people realize that our current frames of reference have not helped us with our environment; they’re not helping with inequality; they’re not helping with all these outcomes. I think what people are understanding that individuals and governments can all do certain things. But there’s this big piece in the middle, all of us as business owners who work in businesses are part of these systems that are creating the current outcomes. 

[Authentic Social Purpose] will become more and more important. The demand is changing that conversation.”

— Christine Bergeron

If you want to be part of this meaningful discussion, join us at our next event. CSR Meets Social Purpose was just the beginning. We’re looking forward to seeing you at a future event!

CSR Meets Social Purpose

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