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Call it what you will — ESG, CSR, sustainability, purposeful business and branding — the umbrella topic for tonight’s awards event has never been more in the spotlight among the stakeholders that enterprises and organizations must embrace.
The Business Roundtable redefined its mission four years ago and around 180 CEOs formally signed up to the concept that the purpose of a corporation is to serve all stakeholders, not just shareholder primacy.
That concept has encountered increased resistance, especially post-COVID-19, with a number of well-funded activist groups and politicians pushing back on the concept of purposeful business being good business and aggressively poisoning the well in terms of public awareness and engagement.
However, away from the visceral and unpleasant grandstanding, the activations honored in tonight’s awards demonstrate the true value of purposeful communication and marketing and the creative thinking that is improving people’s lives while also benefiting the business performance behind the brands.
Thanks so much to Kristen Campos, VP of corporate affairs at Mars Food North America, who was a tremendous chair of jury and really engaged with the work and the awards recognition process.
“It’s been my privilege to be the jury chair for the 2023 PRWeek Purpose Awards and to help recognize brands and organizations for making a positive impact on people and society,” Campos says. “I’m excited to celebrate the exceptional work of all of these purpose-led organizations.”
Chicago has been a great location for our Purpose Awards and PRDecoded events, and we continue to enjoy interacting with the comms and business community in the area.
See you next year!
— Steve Barrett, editorial director, PRWeek
Ajinomoto and Edelman
Dinner with Goop
Ajinomoto is the leading manufacturer of MSG. As a beloved ingredient enjoyed by people around the world, monosodium glutamate has been recognized by the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization as safe to eat. Despite this, only 7% of Americans think favorably of it.
Although scientific research has debunked decades of misperception about MSG, the ever-growing “clean eating” community has incorrectly deemed it “unclean.” The source? One of the world’s most influential clean eaters: actress and Goop founder, Gwyneth Paltrow, whose empire published misinformation about the ingredient for years.
As a brand that’s endured 50-plus years of xenophobia, Ajinomoto couldn’t let this misinformation and cultural whitewashing continue. Rather than making a case to consumers, it appealed directly to Goop with a video featuring comedienne and MSG
super-fan Jenny Yang inviting Paltrow to an informed dinner conversation about MSG. It wasn’t just about facts, but also the harmful impact of labeling certain global dishes as “unclean.” The video debuted on social media, calling on fans to mention @Goop in the comments and encouraging them to accept the invitation.
Despite no initial response from Goop, the dinner was held just steps away from Goop HQ, resulting in headline after headline calling out Goop’s misinformation. By the campaign’s end, Ajinomoto changed the minds of about 24 million Americans, who now see MSG as a safe-to-eat seasoning they can feel good about.
Flowers Communications Group
Famous Amos Ingredients for Success
Accenture Song (The Monkeys)
The First Digital Nation
Tuvalu, a low-lying Pacific island-nation, faces an impossible challenge. At the current rate of global sea level rise, the country will be submerged by 2050. As the ocean rises, Tuvalu must ask: What happens to a country without land?
For years, Tuvalu petitioned global leaders to take meaningful climate action, without results. As a small island-country without a large PR or tourism budget, Tuvalu understood that an event such as the COP27 U.S. Climate Change Conference is one opportunity to appeal to world leaders en masse.
The First Digital Nation was launched at COP27 with a recorded address from Tuvaluan Minister Simon Kofe, in which he appears to address delegates from the part of the country that will first be submerged by rising sea levels. Halfway through the speech, the island around him began to glitch, revealing that it was actually a digital recreation. It was then that Kofe announced Tuvalu’s plan to become a “digital nation” by gradually migrating Tuvalu’s government services, culture and history to the cloud.
The film reached billions of people around the world, and days after the announcement, a historic loss-and-damage fund for nations including Tuvalu was established at COP27. Most importantly, 10 different nations have agreed to officially recognize Tuvalu’s digital statehood, creating a legal pathway to protect its maritime boundaries, international voting rights and place on the world stage.
Tazo and Edelman
The World’s First Regenerative Ad
Genentech and Syneos Health
More than a quarter of the U.S. population lives with a disability. Yet, despite a push for diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry, it remains challenging for disabled people to find fashion-forward yet accessible clothing that expresses their individuality.
This is an untapped opportunity that Genentech and the spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) community took on with Double Take, a first-of-its-kind fashion show with start-to-finish SMA community involvement that aimed to break down disability stereotypes and champion adaptive and inclusive design.
Genentech engaged 15 diverse and creative members of the SMA community through its SMA My Way program to bring Double Take to life, culminating with the group walking and rolling the runway ahead of New York Fashion Week, wearing stylish, adaptive fashion. Attracting looks not because of their disabilities but rather their style and individuality, the SMA community encouraged the fashion industry to examine the need for accessible clothing that is stylish.
Double Take drew an in-person audience of over 200 people extending into standing room, including more than 30 members of the media from industry giants such as Vogue, The New York Times and Rolling Stone. Vogue ran two unique articles about the show, writing that “fashion has much to learn from initiatives like Double Take,” and Elle listed Double Take as one of its top five Fashion Week moments.
Adidas and Current Global
Citizen Relations for Elimin8Hate
Adopting an anglicized name is a common practice for Asian Canadians. Bias toward anglicized names is pervasive and applicants with white-sounding names are twice as likely to get a job interview. Those with ethnic identities cite racism and hate as the top reason for adopting an English name.
Microsoft Word is the world’s most popular word processor, but its programming still identifies non-English names as mistakes. Seeing a jarring red line under one’s name says in the language of software something Asians hear all too often: You don’t belong. Seeing an opportunity to change this, ReclaimYourName.dic was developed to show support for Asian Canadians by normalizing their names, one dictionary at a time.
Using a little-known function of MS Word, Citizen Relations created the world’s first custom dictionary of more than 8,000 Asian names and made it freely available for Canadians to download. ReclaimYourName.dic normalized Asian identity for more than a billion users — without rewriting a single line of code. It has since been adopted by Microsoft in a global update.
ReclaimYourName.dic succeeded in generating mass awareness of a microaggression that many encounter but few fully understand. Given how widely used MS Word is, this marks a fundamental shift in how Asianness is viewed and welcomed around the world.
Coming Together at the Nation’s Capitol for the First-Ever Trans Youth Prom
Adidas and Current Global
As a global sportswear manufacturer, Adidas sits in a unique position to bring about historic change for neurodivergent athletes. With a fundamental belief that sport has the power to change lives, the brand found itself perfectly suited to remove barriers for athletes with Down syndrome.
Neurodivergent athletes are often relegated to separate competitions. These separate events signal that neurodivergent athletes are incapable of participating in mainstream competitions, which is far from the truth. As part of its goal to partner with the best athletes in the world from diverse backgrounds, Adidas created the first global sponsorship for an athlete with Down syndrome: Chris Nikic. The first Down syndrome athlete to complete the Ironman, Nikic is an ESPY winner, a Special Olympics Ambassador, public speaker, published author and an inspiration to the global neurodivergent community.
Drawing on the history of iconic jersey numbers as symbols of athletes who have achieved the seemingly impossible, Adidas created Runner 321, a movement inviting the world’s largest marathons to dedicate bib 321 to a Down syndrome athlete who qualifies. The number references trisomy 21, the chromosome distinction of individuals with Down syndrome.
With live activations at the New York and Boston Marathons, the effort has gone global — all six of the world’s major marathons now reserve bib 321 for a neurodivergent athlete, and additional races are continuing to join the movement.
Abbott, Brain Injury Association of America and GCI Health
Concussion Awareness Now
The Concussion Awareness Now coalition was formed by Abbott and the nonprofit Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) to change how society views concussions. While many people are taught to just “walk it off,” the challenge was to create awareness that concussions are serious injuries worthy of diagnosis and care.
Aiming to create a unified brand that would become iconic and synonymous with concussion awareness, the coalition launched CheckYourMelon.com with a myth-busting PSA featuring actress and comedienne Rebel Wilson, who sustained a concussion walking to a movie set in 2017. Her lighthearted video resonated with millions on TV with segments on NBC’s Today as well as with tens of millions of views and engagements on social media.
Launched during Brain Injury Awareness Month in March, a second phase of the campaign introduced The Melon Family with a series of animated PSA videos that demonstrated the everyday ways concussions happen and the importance of getting them checked.
Since December of 2022, the program delivered an 8% engagement rate on social media and a 25% video view rate, exceeding industry benchmarks. Video engagement was above the norm as a quarter of those who started the videos watched at least 50%
Fresh Step, Current Global, FCB Chicago and Best Friends Animal Society
Shepherd Center and Jackson Spalding
When Shepherd Center engaged Jackson Spalding for strategic direction in developing a $285 million capital campaign — the most ambitious in the hospital’s nearly 50-year history — the need had become critical. The funds would help upgrade decades-old infrastructure, expand access to crucial care and lead to game-changing innovations in treatment for individuals and families across the U.S.
Although the hospital is frequently ranked among the top 10 rehabilitation centers in the U.S., Shepherd faced limited brand awareness and a significant cash-ask. Shepherd Center set out to turn this tide with a three-year, multiservice campaign dubbed Pursuing Possible that identified and brought to life patient stories that would connect on a human-to-human level with new and existing stakeholders.
The activation achieved stunning results that raised the bar for fundraising. An integrated strategy included a speakers circuit, a digital experience and leave-behind book, as well as a new website intended to education audiences about Shepherd’s donor-funded programs and which boldly asked audiences to join the campaign.
Shepherd Center surpassed its $286 million campaign goal early in phase one, accomplishing its goal years ahead of schedule, with leading national foundations such as The Marcus Foundation and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation making some of their largest healthcare gifts to date.
Xbox, 215 McCann, Sound Off Films and Press Kitchen
Rooted Together: A Mangrove Restoration Project
Adidas and Current Global
When people with Down syndrome don’t see themselves represented in sports, they aren’t able to see what’s possible. With a mission to break down barriers for marginalized communities and demonstrate to the world that “impossible is nothing,” Adidas sponsored Chris Nikic — the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman — making him the first globally sponsored athlete with the condition.
Iconic jersey numbers have been revered as a symbol of the best athletes of all time. With Runner 321, Adidas set out to create the first number to represent an entire community of neurodivergent athletes in one of the world’s most accessible sports: running. Adidas asked the world’s largest marathons to reserve bib 321, representing trisomy 21 for people with Down syndrome, for a neurodivergent athlete who qualifies.
Runner 321 launched on World Down Syndrome Day weeks before the Boston Marathon, with an inspirational video about Nikic and a landing page encouraging other racers to get involved, offering a Runner 321 toolkit, social posts and more.
At the Boston Marathon, Nikic debuted as the first Runner 321, and at the finish line he handed his bib to the next Runner 321, Kayleigh Williamson. Nikic shared with CBS Boston, “This is not about me. It’s about everyone who needs to be included — because if Chris Nikic does the Boston Marathon, I can do it too!”
Procter & Gamble and MSL
Always 50 Period Heroes in 50 States
Patagonia with Bully Pulpit Interactive and Invisible Collective
Driving Youth Voter Turnout to Keep Political Extremism at Bay
As an outdoor apparel brand, Patagonia is used to blazing trails. But the brand hasn’t limited itself to just selling products. Patagonia’s unflinching support of social progress and civic engagement has included more than $100 million in donations to progressive causes since 1985.
In early 2022, Patagonia saw an opportunity to double down on its political activism and make an outsized impact in the midterm elections with a unifying goal: stopping political extremism in all forms. Message testing showed how credible reminders of their respective generation’s power to influence national policy made 35% of viewers more likely to vote. Choosing to run with an optimistic message of hope and empowerment set this ad apart in a midterm advertising field rife with sharp attack ads and political extremist rhetoric.
The campaign’s signature spot, You Scare Them, was filmed at Morris Brown College, an Atlanta HBCU, and featured local young voting rights activists and organizers in the ad and voiceover. Running on high-impact platforms, non-skippable video and channels such as Snapchat in the Atlanta, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Reno, Nevada, markets, You Scare Them brought Patagonia’s message to 4.4 million potential voters. With a unifying message, the campaign fired up young voters of color, a population crucial to defeating the candidates espousing extreme rhetoric up and down the ballot.
Frito-Lay and Ketchum
Ancestry, Weber Shandwick, The Content Collective and Paramount Brand Studio
A Dream Delivered: The Lost Letters of Hawkins Wilson
Due to the generational and systemic history of slavery and racial injustices in the U.S., family history research can be challenging for the African-American community. But everybody wants to learn about their past, and Ancestry aims to make that possible.
Those who were enslaved were typically subjected to forced name changes and family separation. Consequently, many African Americans believe the hurdles are too great to make meaningful family history discoveries. Recently, Ancestry digitized — and made accessible and free — more than 3.5 million documents from the Freedmen’s Bureau, the Civil War-era federal agency established to help the formerly enslaved in the transition to citizenship. These records allow people to easily research their ancestors’ lives before 1870.
While digitizing Freedmen’s Bureau records, Ancestry discovered the letters of Hawkins Wilson, a man born into slavery and torn from his family. After his emancipation, Wilson wrote letters to the newly formed Freedmen’s Bureau trying to reunite with his loved ones, but they were never delivered, until now.
Using Ancestry, it was possible to find his modern-day descendants and rekindle those lost connections. This homecoming was celebrated with the documentary film, A Dream Delivered. Hosted by Anthony Anderson, actor and lead of the popular TV show Black-ish, and featuring Hawkins Wilson’s descendants, the film inspired and encouraged others to reconnect their lineage.
Ford Motor Company, WPP and Artemis Strategies
Ford Explorer Men’s Only Edition
Intel and Ketchum
Saving Lives, Together with Federated Learning
For more than 50 years, Intel has pursued a brand mission to improve the life of every person through radical innovation. When Intel recognized a huge barrier to life-saving healthcare, the company set out to meet the challenge.
Data accessibility has long been an issue in healthcare. However, due to data-privacy laws, medical research and data-sharing at scale have been almost impossible to achieve without compromising patient health information, significantly delaying the major medical breakthroughs promised by technologies such as AI. A promising solution is federated learning (FL).
With FL-powered hardware and software from Intel, researchers were able to collaborate to advance the detection of brain tumors without sharing sensitive patient data. The solution was not a singular branded technology, but a massive shared-data ecosystem. Launching an ambitious collaboration with Penn Medicine, Intel delivered the world’s largest medical federated learning study to date. The project demonstrated the ability to improve brain tumor detection by 33%.
By targeting decision-makers with a clear and vetted real-world solution, Intel is now being approached by the institutions that will help drive the paradigm shift. The benefits of privacy-protected data-sharing will be far-reaching, applying not only to other cancers, but also for conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s among them) and extend to industries well beyond healthcare.
Intel and WE
Real-Time Deepfake Detector
Citizen Relations for Elimin8Hate
Despite having over 1 billion users worldwide, Microsoft Office still identifies Asian names as misspellings. With a bright red underline denoting an error, the largest word-processing platform has been delivering microagressions across the globe to anyone with a non-English name.
ReclaimYourName.dic is the world’s first custom dictionary of 8,000-plus Asian names to normalize Asian identity in the world’s most-popular word processor. To create it, Citizen Relations parsed online name registries, national and regional census data and cultural associations. It cost nothing to make but time and patience, and required only a few clicks to implement.
Designed as a living dictionary, ReclaimYourName.dic can be expanded by anyone who wants to upload their name. With a media campaign led by illustrator and Pulitzer Prize finalist Zoe Si, actor Hiro Kanagawa of Star Trek: Discovery and others, Canadians were directed to NameReclaim.ca where they could watch a campaign film, learn more about the issue and take action by downloading the free plug-in. Between July and August alone, the site tracked 26,000 visitors.
But the biggest impact? Microsoft is adopting the plug-in in its next global update, allowing even more people around the world to see themselves, and their names, as correct.
PepsiCo, MGM and Acceleration Community of Companies (ACC)
Pepsi Dig In x MGM Restaurant Royalty Residency
Fresh Step, Current Global, FCB Chicago and Best Friends Animal Society
More than 3 million cats are in shelters in the U.S. and roughly 40% of adult cats up for adoption never find a home. Inspired by a commitment to help cats find clean, welcoming forever homes, Fresh Step created Adopt-a-Stray — a groundbreaking video game adoption event featuring Twitch streamers playing as real-life long-term shelter cats.
With 47% of gaming live-streamers already owning a cat and 46% considering adoption, the gaming space was the perfect place for Fresh Step to extend its reach outside the litter box.
Created in partnership with the Best Friends Animal Society, the event took place within the game of the year, Stray, in which gamers experience a futuristic world through the eyes of a cat.
Adopt-a-Stray put exact replicas of 35 real, adoptable cats into Stray and tapped popular Twitch streamers to play as them. Viewers could type a cat’s name into the Twitch chat to find out more about the cat’s personality, medical history and see real photos.
Adopt-a-Stray drove a 124% increase in adoption applications by serving applications within the Twitch platform in real-time. Influencer streams were viewed by close to 500,000 unique users for over 2 million hours of streaming in the first 48 hours, generating overwhelmingly positive sentiment from consumers, including positive mentions of Fresh Step.
Haleon, Excedrin and Weber Shandwick
H&R Block and Ogilvy
A Fair Shot
Launched on International Women’s Day, A Fair Shot underscored H&R Block’s purpose to provide financial expertise to help female college athletes get the most out of any given situation. Driven by 50 female college athletes from across the country, the initiative was developed to raise awareness of the name, image, likeness (NIL) pay disparity between female college athletes and their male counterparts.
No one was better suited to educate audiences on the NIL disparity than the impacted female athletes themselves. The brand’s national spokeswomen took to their combined 435,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram, joined by other partner athletes across 13 sports. Broadcasting their support, the athletes promoted the new TikTok Challenge, #AFairShotWithBlock, to both advocate NIL changes and simultaneously
educate the female athlete content creators about the tax implications of NIL sponsorships.
H&R Block’s partner athletes leveraged the power of their voices to illuminate a national conversation of NIL deals, which made it relatable for extended audiences and built awareness around H&R Block’s brand. The company’s TikTok challenge secured more than 140 million video views of 8,089 individual videos about women’s equality in sports. The program’s spokeswomen reported that A Fair Shot amplified the athletes’ digital profiles and provided them a platform to broadcast their personal agendas to make an impact for their communities and women around the world.
GAF and Ruder Finn
M&M’s and Weber Shandwick
In January 2022, building on more than 80 years of bringing people together, M&M’s announced a renewed global commitment to creating a world where everyone feels they belong. With the creation of the M&M’s FUNd, the brand can now track its impact on that commitment, offering resources, mentorship, opportunities and financial support in arts and entertainment to foster positive experiences for all funkind.
To introduce its new purpose, M&M’s announced the expansion of the iconic character lineup with the introduction of Purple — the first addition in a decade — and M&M’s first all-female pack designed to celebrate women everywhere who are flipping the status quo. M&M’s used music to showcase Purple’s individuality, releasing a single and music video titled “I’m Just Gonna Be Me.” The brand donated $1 per stream of the song to Sing For Hope, a global nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of the arts to create a better world.
The M&M’s campaigns nearly broke the internet, driving traditional and social media buzz that helped the brand secure its place in pop culture. Through proceeds from sales — up 32% year over year after the campaigns — and additional donations, M&M’s provided nearly $1 million in support for organizations committed to uplifting and empowering women.
Colgate Women’s Games
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
The Big Draft
There’s an urgent need for mentorship — one in three kids in the U.S. is growing up without an adult to support them as they navigate their future. During the pandemic, 20% of youths served by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America lost contact with an important adult in their lives, and there are now over 30,000 kids on the waitlist for a mentor, the majority being boys of color.
In response, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America created The Big Draft, a national volunteer recruitment and awareness campaign encouraging volunteers, particularly men of color, to sign up as Bigs. In collaboration with Inspire Change, the organization accessed the NFL's powerful platform to inspire their large, diverse football fan base to act and personally connect with the need for youth mentorship.
While the NFL drafted its next class of players, Big Brothers Big Sisters drafted mentors to be matched with youth who need it the most. More than 20 NFL players recorded videos, local PSAs and social media messages, and top draft prospects posted videos of their personal mentorship stories during the week of the NFL Draft.
The campaign exceeded its initial recruitment goal of recruiting 6,000 Bigs in 60 days with a total of 8,135 Bigs. The campaign gained substantial media impressions, secured influencer support and established cultural relevance at key NFL events, increasing the partners’ visibility among diverse and new audiences.
Hormel Foods, USDA, Food for the Poor and Caritas
Crenshaw Coffee Co. and PRSC
Crenshaw Coffee Co.
Crenshaw Coffee Co. was founded by Tony Jolly with the mission of sharing quality coffee with the Crenshaw community of Los Angeles while returning the coffee narrative, developed from a crop originated in Ethiopia, back to the Black diaspora. After developing a new clothing line and getting an opportunity to expand its roasteries to New York City, Crenshaw Coffee was in need of publicity efforts to make these important projects known. The company enlisted the help of the student-run agency within USC PRSSA, the PRSC, for the campaign.
Crenshaw Coffee has been a pioneer in Los Angeles with a focus on community and “fueling the creative,” realized through collaborations with local artists. To embody the values of the company and resonate with current and future audiences in Los Angeles and New York City, the campaign heavily incorporated the spirit of the company and its founder in all media materials.
In order to find the most cost-effective way to obtain publicity for a small and growing business, team members used their connections as college students to find other students looking to gain work experience for lower rates, opening doors for smaller creators to obtain valuable and meaningful work experience. The campaign consisted of a video and photoshoot promoting Jolly and highlighted the authenticity of Crenshaw Coffee’s values as a Black-owned business in Los Angeles. The student-run agency pulled this all off with $640.
Citizen Relations for Elimin8Hate
Investigating the Asian experience in Canada, Citizen Relations made an illuminating discovery: Asian names were being marked as misspellings in Microsoft Word, the world’s largest word processor. It also learned these sorts of microagressions take a real toll. In 2022, posts with negative sentiment about MS Word’s red underline surpassed 752,000, and conversations about changing “ethnic” names reached 133 million.
To tackle this issue, the firm drew on a little-known function of Microsoft Word — custom dictionaries. This tool allows anyone to create and add a list of terms that are outside of the program’s native lexicon. Used widely by the medical community, custom dictionaries had until now never been created in the name of societal change.
With a PR campaign driving Canadians to NameReclaim.ca, users could download the .dic file and add their own names to the dictionary. Cultural icons, including Hiro Kanagawa (Star Trek: Discovery), Tiana Shern (TikTok) and Mijune Pak (Top Chef), bolstered the cause, with paid media further extending the reach.
“That red squiggly line under misspelled words in Microsoft Word is a glaring signal to people that something’s not right — and when that ‘something’ is your name, it could add insult to injury,” says Purpose Awards chair of jury Kristen Campos. “This campaign is driving positive change by bringing awareness to this challenge faced by the millions of Asians whose names aren’t recognized by Anglo society.”
Adidas and Current Global
With the world growing more complex and divisive, Zeno Group has planted itself at the intersection of ambition and humanity with a commitment to fully live its purpose for good and growth.
In 2023, Zeno issued its inaugural ESG Report — Toward Something Better — transparently sharing progress and identifying areas to do more.
Two years into Zeno’s partnership and strategic investment in minority-owned Egami Group, the firms are inviting others to adapt a new model for change known as “agency allyship,” defined as “agencies aligned in their unwavering and selfless advocacy, fueling one another to push through and eliminate systemic barriers.” As a result, in 2022 Egami doubled headcount and revenue, advanced talent in meaningful ways and, together with Zeno, delivered multicultural at scale for Procter & Gamble, the CDC Foundation and Kraft Heinz.
Over the past year, Zeno’s social impact strategy evolved to focus on helping advance people who are often marginalized, discriminated against and denied equal opportunities. The agency invested $1.8 million in pro bono time to support organizations including the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center and the Auschwitz Pledge Foundation.
Zeno’s commitment to its own diversity continues with 23% more leaders (VP or higher) identifying as Black and 55% of summer interns identifying as racially or ethnically diverse. More than words on a page, Zeno remains committed to elevating the role of business as a force for change.
Hilton Grand Vacations
Hilton Grand Vacations’ passion for service is reflected through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, HGV Serves, which creates meaningful impact throughout the world via four philanthropic pillars: disaster relief, homelessness, veterans and youth development.
HGV Serves has conducted several campaigns and established partnerships with five national nonprofit organizations that create transformative impact. In 2022, HGV Serves propelled these efforts to new heights through two major launches: its fourth national nonprofit partnership and its #30for30 campaign (hosting 30 volunteer and philanthropic events in local communities in honor of Hilton Grand Vacations’ 30th anniversary).
The aim of the ongoing CSR campaign is to organize events and raise awareness of HGV Serves, while conducting outreach to local and national media. The company accomplished these objectives by executing a comprehensive plan to internally and externally communicate about HGV Serves and its initiatives.
The company evaluated its efforts by measuring the number of team members engaged and pieces of secured media coverage. Overall, HGV Serves made a community impact and raised awareness of the company’s initiatives by donating almost $500,000 to nonprofits and securing 1,014 articles about HGV Serves in 2021 and 2022.
Urban Alchemy exists to lift up those among us who are experiencing the most devastating consequences of extreme poverty and systemic inequity in America. Forged by people whose lives have been shaped by those consequences, the organization is now a large and rapidly expanding social enterprise working with municipalities across the country to bring unhoused people living in life-threatening conditions into safe, supportive shelter communities where they can find healing and peace.
More than 90% of the organization’s workforce are formerly incarcerated long-term offenders who have earned a second chance on parole. These individuals are so highly effective in this work because they have lived the experiences of the people they serve, giving them the expertise to create human connections and build the trust that’s needed to succeed in this work.
There’s proof that this model works. Urban Alchemy has received local and national recognition in recent months for transforming the biggest homeless shelter in Austin, Texas — once a dilapidated building surrounded by crime — into a clean, supportive community where people can begin a long-term path out of homelessness.
And a body of research soon to be released by a prominent Stanford research team has concluded that the organization’s community safety work in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco is resulting in dramatic crime reductions.
Riff City Strategies
Riff City Strategies was founded to tackle the toughest societal issues facing our planet using the power of media, advocacy and storytelling. Driving positive societal impact, Riff City builds brands and campaigns that are changing the world.
Riff’s unique offerings include working with disruptive philanthropic and political funding organizations and coordinating directly with grantees to help tell their stories and amplify their impact. Often, grantees are women- and/or BIPOC-led organizations that do not have resources to engage a PR firm full-time. Riff has landed dozens of stories for these organizations and helped to mobilize more than $120 million in new resources to continue to fund their important work.
Over the past year, Riff City worked on a number of successful campaigns, including one that delivered more than 2.4 million meals to vulnerable residents in San Francisco. The organization also promoted new national models of community safety and alternatives to police to help those in crisis, while creating careers for and changing the perception of the formerly incarcerated and unhoused with Urban Alchemy.
Riff City partnered with the Donors of Color Network to build a climate movement that directs 30% of climate philanthropy and a new funding baseline of $120 million to BIPOC-led groups. The organization also helped raise awareness of the student mental health crisis and promoted new resources available to help schools combat it with Effective School Solutions.
From a young age, Kate Walker felt a deep responsibility to help protect the planet and ensure a healthy and liveable environment for future generations. It was a natural fit for her to become one of the youngest employees — and only the 19th hire — at Tru Earth, an eco-conscious household cleaning products organization focused on eliminating plastic containers.
Starting out in customer service, Walker soon joined Tru Earth’s social impact and communications team. Today, as the ESG manager of Tru Earth, she helps everyday customers take small steps to live more sustainably while simultaneously developing and scaling an 895-organization-strong donation operation from a local to a global level.
At the height of COVID-19, when household supplies were scarce and aid organizations struggled to ensure constituents had clean clothes, Walker spearheaded a donation matching program: For every Tru Earth subscription purchase, 32 loads worth of Tru Earth laundry eco-strips were donated to organizations, including food banks, maternity programs and local women’s shelters in Congo, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba and Kenya.
To date, Walker has developed relationships with 662 organizations around the world and led the donation of more than 22 million of the brand’s eco-strips, the equivalent of $11 million in retail value. The program Walker created is scalable and can be replicated by any other CPG brand looking to make a difference.
Global CEO, Zeno Group
In 2021, Zeno embarked on a mission to elevate its purpose, articulated as to “champion the courageous to achieve something better for humankind.” It’s a purpose that global CEO Barby Siegel lives every day, unrelenting in her commitment to leverage Zeno as a platform to be and do more.
Under Siegel’s leadership, Zeno has experienced more than a decade of double-digit growth. In 2022, the firm grew nearly 18% for a global revenue of $138 million. While the bottom line is important, she led her team to also measure success by a different currency — lives impacted.
Siegel’s unwavering urgency and determination to advance DE&I in the industry is being noticed. The most profound manifestation of its purpose is her brainchild: the new model of collaboration for change with Black-owned, female-owned Egami Group. In partnership with founder and CEO Teneshia Jackson Warner, the firm advances talent and multicultural at scale for clients. Egami has seen double-digit revenue and headcount growth, as well as more staff development opportunities.
A testament to the power of service, Siegel has empowered Zeno employees to play an active role in supporting marginalized groups in their communities. Last year, Zeno delivered $1.8 million in pro bono time to organizations such as the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center and the Auschwitz Pledge Foundation’s global Erase Difference campaign to eradicate indifference toward discrimination.
MD, social impact and inclusion, Golin
Chief corporate affairs officer, PayPal
Franz Paasche, PayPal’s chief corporate affairs officer, is an expert in social impact strategy. With a focus on stakeholder capitalism and cross-sector collaboration, Paasche’s understanding of the intersection between profit and purpose established him as a key adviser to PayPal’s CEO and positioned him as the key architect of the company’s global initiatives.
As one of the first leaders to establish a global corporate affairs function, Paasche has long championed integrating communications, government relations and social innovation — an approach that has earned PayPal strong reputation capital, media coverage and recognition, including landing the top spot on Fortune’s 2022 Change the World list. He is also responsible for PayPal’s robust partnership strategy, which resulted in collaborations with the World Economic Forum, Aspen Institute, Business Roundtable, Council on Foreign Relations, Polaris and others.
An early advocate for embedding purpose at the core of business strategy, Paasche has been a driving force for some of PayPal’s boldest value-led actions, including the company’s decision to withdraw its plans to expand into North Carolina after the state signed anti-LGBTQ rights into law; banning organizations engaging in hate speech from PayPal’s platform; launching a U.S. federal workers relief program; and establishing Time to Vote.
In September, Paasche announced he was stepping down from his role at the end of this year and will serve as a senior adviser for the company until next June.
Chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer, Wendy’s
Kelli Richardson Lawson
CEO, House of Joy
Kelli Richardson Lawson’s extraordinary journey as an Emmy Award-winning creative visionary and entrepreneur spans decades of groundbreaking accomplishments and unwavering commitment to driving change, solidifying her standing as an influential force in the industry.
Through her leadership as the founder and CEO of the House of Joy (formerly Joy Collective), a Black- and woman-owned marketing and creative agency, she spearheaded purpose-driven work for brands including Dove, BET, OWN, AARP and the Ad Council. Lawson’s relentless pursuit of positive change has reshaped industry standards and paved the way for greater diversity and inclusivity.
Starting out at Procter & Gamble, where she excelled working on billion-dollar brands within the packaged soap and mass fragrance divisions, her career took a transformative turn when she joined BET. With strategic prowess, she built the first comprehensive marketing organization, expanding to seven divisions from a team of one. Her award-winning creative campaigns drove record ratings and elevated the network to new heights.
Driven by her passion for supporting families facing mental wellness and addiction issues, Lawson founded The SonRise Project, a nominee for the NAACP Image Awards. As the host of more than 175 weekly “live” calls, Lawson brings parents together to share experiences, shining a light on mental health and addiction issues within the Black community.
CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
CEO, Carol Cone on Purpose
In a career spanning over 40 years, Carol Cone has made an outstanding mark on the field of social impact. With her breakthrough ideas, she has helped brands build their businesses through initiatives that create true positive change.
Cone started her career in stride, launching the walking movement with Rockport. As its leader, she grew the company threefold within four years and led to an acquisition by Reebok. Cone was the creator of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which raised $1 billion and expanded to 50 countries around the globe. Working with PNC Financial Services, she found alignment in the issue of early childhood education and helped to advance this critical issue through partnerships with Sesame, Donors Choose, Head Start and other local grantees.
All of this was done at the eponymous agency she founded in 1980, Cone Communications, one of the first purpose-focused agencies. That firm was acquired by Omnicom Group at the end of 1999 before eventually being brought under sister agency Porter Novelli in 2017. Cone left the agency in 2010.
Recently, Cone and her new firm, Carol Cone on Purpose, developed the concept for My Special Aflac Duck, a social robot designed to comfort children undergoing cancer treatment. Aflac underwrote the development and donated ducks to all children newly diagnosed with pediatric cancer, receiving kudos far and wide, including the Tech for a Better World Award and Most Unexpected Product at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.
With a legacy of raising more than $2.5 billion for various social causes through her signature programs, Cone is a sought-after media expert and speaker who generously shares her insights on sustainability, CSR, purpose branding and corporate citizenship.