Purposeful Action: Four Key Takeaways from the Corporate Philanthropy Institute

Monday, February 26, 2018

By Renee Farris, Manager, Corporate Philanthropy, The Silicon Valley Community Foundation

CPI Conference

The way companies do good in the world is shifting, and this movement was perfectly captured by many of the stories shared at our annual Corporate Philanthropy Institute(CPI), held Feb. 12 at San Francisco’s Mission Bay Conference Center, and co-presented with Northern California Grantmakers.

Bringing together over 200 corporate responsibility and philanthropy professionals, the fourth year in partnership with NCG ignited rich discussions around business’ responsibility to take purposeful action in our changing world.

Here are four key highlights that demonstrate the newest trends in the industry.

  1. Companies are increasingly taking a stand on political issues. For example, Google is blazing a new trail by focusing on challenging racial injustice, ending mass incarceration, and using data to change the narrative on race in America. This is bold stance should encourage other companies to take similar action and speak up on important issues that are politically sensitive. That’s valuable because many companies don’t want to be singled out for taking a stand on a political issue – in this case, safety and strength are found in numbers.
  2. A new business model for nonprofits enables them to self-fund by launching an affiliated for-profit business. The business’ profits are then used to fund the nonprofit, reducing or eliminating the need for the nonprofit to fundraise. One example is the nonprofit Samasource and the for-profit business LXMI, a line of cosmetics that employs low-income African women to grow, harvest and process ingredients. Leila Janah, CEO of both Samasource and LXMI, told the companies’ story at CPI.
  3. Conscientious companies are veering from traditional philanthropy; instead of donating, they’re investing in social and environmental aspects of their businesses. During their CPI keynote, Method's co-founders Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan opined that saying one’s company uses 1 percent of profits for good is another way of saying 99 percent of profits are not used for good. The best thing a company can do is to prove that a business can be profitable and still be good for people and the planet, they advised: “Don’t start a business, start a cause.”
  4. Companies are redesigning business operations to maximize their impact. If all companies moved just 1 percent of their supply chain to purchase from social enterprises, the impact would be enormous, according to Leila Janah of Samasource in her discussion at CPI. One way for procurement officers to find suppliers that offer positive social impact is through directories such as Find a B Corp or the Give Work Guide.

SVCF and Northern California Grantmakers are grateful to the many speakers and CSR professionals that helped make CPI a success in 2018.

Special thanks go to all the event sponsors: Verizon, Gilead, PG&E, Wells Fargo, Genentech, Workday, eBay, Google, Target, Equinix, Kaiser Permanente, Singularity University, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation, Hotel Via and the San Francisco Business Times.

More information about the speakers and sessions at CPI 2018.


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