Laura Palantone is a project consultant based in APCO’s New York office.
The final two days of the BSR Conference continued to have engaging speakers and thought-provoking discussions. I would like to pick up where Andrea left off and add two more themes that I noticed from the session I attended.
Fast Forward, but Be Smart and Deliberate: Aligned with this year’s conference theme, speakers and attendees were eager to discuss how we should strive to “fast forward.” However, many of the speakers in the sessions I attended added a warning, asking organizations to fast forward in smart and deliberate ways that take into account both short- and long-term consequences. In discussing environmental sustainability initiatives, Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund and Mindy Lubber of Ceres provided some examples of when it is imperative that organizations consider short-term gains at the same time as long-term consequences. Coca-Cola’s Charlotte Oades also warned about the need to move quickly but not so much so as to comprise the impact of socially responsible initiatives. In the context of Coca-Cola’s “5by20” initiative, Oades explained that the depth of the impact is more important than reaching 5 million women and having limited and unsustainable results.
Consumer Buy-In is Key: The sessions I attended spoke loudly and clearly about the impact of consumers. Speakers at these sessions explained that consumer demand will guide the actions that organizations take to integrate and communicate about CSR/sustainability. One example of consumer-driven initiatives is the newly launched Ekocycle, which Will.i.am and Coca-Cola developed on the premise that consumers will want to buy fashionable and “hip” products made from recycled materials by their favorite brands. Coca-Cola is eager to spread the word about this initiative and hopes that with consumer support other brands will see the value and will join in. Also interesting to note was a discussion between two leading sustainability reporters about the influence of consumers on the news. They explained that consumer demand for information on sustainability initiatives shapes the way news organizations cover them both in print and online.
These are my highlights, and we’d love to hear yours. Are there other themes that were particularly interesting to you this year?