By Allie Williams
Corporate responsibility is moving prominently into the mainstream of business and can now be measured and tied to ROI, or return-on-investment. Attendees at CR Magazine’s COMMIT!Forum on October 21, 2015 were treated to a Project ROI report presentation, which was spearheaded by IO Sustainability, a research and advisory services firm, and the Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College. They make the case for the ROI of corporate responsibility (CR), both anecdotally and quantitatively.
The Project ROI report is a true partnership between these entities and its sponsors, Verizon and the Campbell Soup Company. Each sponsor is also included in the analysis.
The authors gathered the data and demonstrated a framework about what it really means for a business to be “responsible” while delivering both “value” and relevancy by integrating a connection between CR (also called corporate social responsibility and sustainability) and ROI.
CR Magazine recently asked Patsy Doerr, global head of corporate responsibility and inclusion for Thomson Reuters, questions on corporate responsibility and sustainability at the company.
Doerr is responsible for overseeing Thomson Reuters’ corporate social responsibility, diversity and inclusion and sustainability functions. She has more than 20 years of experience in talent, learning, organizational development, diversity and inclusion, employee recognition and customer engagement mainly in investment banking. She has held a number of global leadership roles at JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, in New York, London and most recently, Hong Kong.
Doerr sits on the Board of Trustees for Marymount School for Girls, where she is also the president of the Alumni Association. She is a member of the YMCA Leadership Committee, the 30% Club Steering Committee, the Business Advisory Board for PFLAG and a member of the Steering Committee for All in Together. Doerr has a BS in Biology (pre-medicine) from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and a Master of Science (summa cum laude) in Adult Learning and Organizational Development from Fordham University in New York, N.Y.
CR: What is your current position at Thomson Reuters and what is the focus of your core responsibilities?
Patsy Doerr: I’m currently head of global corporate responsibility and inclusion at Thomson Reuters. In my role, I oversee all aspects of corporate responsibility, philanthropy, employee volunteerism, diversity and inclusion initiatives. I also oversee our sustainability initiatives, platforms and thought-leadership programs.
CR: Can you help me to understand how these roles work within the company?
Doerr: Corporate responsibility and philanthropy, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability are each led by a member of my team who oversees the strategy and day-to-day program management of their respective area.
We then work very closely with our global business partners to activate meaningful regional programs that inspire employees to get involved locally. Additionally, we work with our customer-facing employees to engage with clients, advising them on best practices for their programs and partnering on meaningful initiatives.
CR: At Thomson Reuters, you’ve combined D&I, CSR and Sustainability into one global umbrella. How has this strategy strengthened the function and what does it mean to the stakeholders? How do you see this evolving over time?
Doerr: As a company, we believe we all have a shared responsibility to do business in ways that respect, protect and benefit our customers, employees, communities, suppliers and environment. This responsibility informs everything we do. The overarching goal of our CR&I strategy is to make a positive impact on our people, our markets and our world.
• Our People
Our strength as a business is derived from the talents, ideas and experiences of our people. We know that an inclusive workplace is one where all employees are valued regardless of difference, have access to the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential, and invest in their local communities.
• Our Markets
We support thriving and open financial markets, the rule of law, open and prospering governments, informed individuals and a future made better through scientific discovery and sustainable practices.
• Our World
We know that supporting the communities in which we live and work is fundamental to our business; as is managing our environmental impacts through our own sustainable business practices and by working with suppliers who share our values.
Working with both employees and customers on these opportunities is vital to execution. Bringing our core function areas into one global team allowed us to share perspective and best practices and really move the needle to drive business growth.
CR: It seems to me that diversity, which is both a Human Resources and Corporate Responsibility initiative, is extremely important in recruiting and retaining talent – how does diversity affect a company’s bottom line?
Doerr: Diversity is no longer an HR or Corporate Responsibility initiative. Studies increasingly show that strong financial performance and a healthy outlook for long-term growth are intrinsically linked to diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion lead to more innovation, better access to talent, and ultimately better business performance.
To put it simply, the more diverse your workforce is (not just of gender, race and sexual orientation, but of style, thought, dress etc.), the more likely you are to innovate, problem solve, attract and retain top talent and succeed in the new global economy. Companies that don’t embrace this will ultimately lag behind because they are missing out on new ideas and opportunities.
CR: Speaking of that, does a robust CR&I platform help attract millennials to a company? Why is this important for long-term growth?
Doerr: Millennials are one of the largest generations in history. They are tomorrow’s leaders, and will become our main customer base. They are the first generation to grow up with the idea of corporate social responsibility and expect that corporations will work as partners with government, regulatory agencies and not-for-profits to make the world a better place.
It’s nothing new to note that people want to work for and work with companies that they trust as partners. As you know, we are the “Answer Company” and trust is a core value of everything we do since we are trusted for the information, technology and expertise we provide. A large part of that trust for millennials is conducting business in a socially responsible way for the betterment of the world. Millennials want to work for a company they respect and they want to do business with companies they trust.
For long-term growth, building this trust to retain top talent and attract new customers is vital to success. This is one of the core reasons that a robust CR&I platform is integral to business growth.
CR: A sizzling topic right now is socially responsible investing. Why should being socially responsible matter to investors, leadership, customers, and employees?
Doerr: Sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI) is an investment discipline that considers environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria to generate long-term competitive financial returns and positive societal impact1. Much like my answer to the above, (like millennials) investors understand that companies which behave in a socially responsible manner are more likely to attract the top talent, innovate and retain new customers around the world. These are the companies that are poised for long-term growth and success in the new decision economy. Short-term gains are not as important as the long term view. Connecting clients with companies that will be successful over the long haul is at the core of what investors do. We continue to hear from our partners and clients about the importance of focusing on ESG criteria as more and more research demonstrates the financial success and increasing investor favor of companies that ‘get it.’
CR: How do you define and drive sustainability internally at TR?
Doerr: At Thomson Reuters we address the global field of sustainability across climate, energy, health, law and corporate governance. Sustainability is part of our larger Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion initiative. It’s about operating responsibly, and ensuring sustainable growth for our business and for our world.
We know that our employees are passionate about all of these issues, and through our site, stakeholder insights and commentary, we provide a platform to highlight the latest trends and developments across this area.
Environmental sustainability is an area where our employees can and do play an active role both in the office and at home. We also know that we need to think locally when it comes to these global issues and so with a network of “Green Teams” local engagement is key to making a difference in partnership with our Real Estate & Facilities function, senior site leaders and of course with our green ambassadors on the ground.
Last year we launched the “Steps to a Smaller Footprint” campaign, offering our employees across the globe “Five Little Things” they could do to reduce their carbon footprint, from switching off lights to more considered commuting options. A huge success which showed the appetite of our colleagues around the world, we are re-launching our network of dedicated “Green Teams” this year to further engage in this agenda and drive change.
CR: And finally, how has sustainability changed over the years at Thomson Reuters?
Doerr: The sustainability agenda internally has changed and developed as much as the external agenda has over the years. Grasping what we mean by sustainability and its impacts, both positive and negative, for the business has been key to educating, engaging, and satisfying our key stakeholders. These stakeholders include our shareholders of course, but also our employees, regulators, investors and communities in which we and our supply chains operate.
Additionally, understanding the opportunities across our full stakeholder network to empower sustainable growth is crucial to our role as a global provider of answers to questions which matter most. For example, we are currently working on a project to define what we mean by “sustainable growth” using proprietary ESG performance data for thousands of companies. Coming out of this research will be a first of its kind ranking of how the private sector is achieve sustainable growth. We know that as a business, if we want to continue to evolve and do business, we need to be sustainable in our approach, but also make an increasing and meaningful, positive impact on the world, markets and people around us.