Top communicators: Solving social problems is good business

Finding ways to solve the world's biggest social issues is a business opportunity, communications leaders said Tuesday morning at the PRWeek Conference in New York.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is an example of a public-private partnership that tackles a social problem.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is an example of a public-private partnership that tackles a social problem.

Finding ways to solve the world’s biggest social issues is a business opportunity, communications leaders said Tuesday morning at the PRWeek Conference in New York.

Speakers including Audrey Choi, CEO of the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing; Mark Kramer, senior fellow of the CSR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and MD of FSG; and Aaron Sherinian, VP of comms and PR for the UN Foundation, shared their insight on how global brands can partner with governments and foundations to tackle social problems while achieving business results.

Kris Balderston, GM of the Washington, DC, office at FleishmanHillard, which sponsored the session, moderated the panel. Below are some of their key takeaways.

Kramer:
"Businesses around the world have been operating with blinders on – thinking about conventional markets, issues, and strategies in ways that avoid social issues. Solving many of the world’s biggest problems are immense business opportunities, and companies are missing that.

"It’s not just about being nice; it’s about bottom-line returns."

Choi:
"The problems we’re facing around the globe today are far too massive for philanthropy to take on alone… [philanthropy] still is a drop in the bucket."

"You cannot build successful public-private partnerships if you go around with a big pot and say, ‘C’mon everyone, throw something in.’"

"Partnerships should resemble a layer cake. You’re not mixing it up. It’s about finding ways where you can layer the philanthropic layer, the government layer, the private sector layer."

Sherinian:
?"[Doing good as a business requires someone willing to be a missionary with clients or within your firm."

"The customer expects [responsible business]. Your liability is the customer has gotten smarter and has a broadcast station in his or her hand. They will bring the company down if it’s not meeting their expectations."

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