Achieving Social Impact Through Business

I was at a panel discussion at Rotman (UofT) this week focused on how to combine a professional career with a “desire to achieve societal impact.”

The room was packed, at full capacity, and it seemed filled with more corporate and non-profit folks than actual students. The panelist names were big and it’s not surprising that folks want to hear what the top organizations are doing.

  • Kaz Flinn, VP – Corporate Social Responsibility, Scotiabank (Kaz has a government relations background)
  • John Smiciklas, Senior Manager – Corporate Responsibility, Research in Motion (John was a manager in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Sustainability practice)
  • Andrew Heintzman, CEO, InvestEco (Andrew is a former publisher)
  • Gerald Butts, CEO, World Wildlife Fund Canada (Gerald was Principal Secretary in the Office of the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty)

After the end of the hour, I was thinking the answer was – not as much as they could be. The banks, of course, are well underway with CSR and make that information publically available. RIM, on the other hand, is just starting and may be more reflective of the average company in Canada – their clients are now demanding it so they’re starting to pay attention.

The big focus: Sustainable and ethical supply chains

The panelists were united on the direction of CSR and the current hot focus of sustainable and ethical supply chains. Corporations are now making this strategic, non-profits like WWF are being asked to consult on these issues, and there’s agreement that this is a growth area with room for a lot more experts and expertise.

My fav phrase of the evening, “You get the behaviour you compensate on” so if CSR is important, it needs to be part of your evaluation and compensation structure.

This session was sponsored by Rotman Net Impact, a chapter of the international organization Net Impact, promoting leadership in corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, international development, and environmental sustainability.

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