UnitedHealthcare (UHC) is a global healthcare provider, and also a new member of the Satell Institute. Dan Tropeano is CEO of UHC in Pennsylvania & Delaware and approaches corporate social responsibility (CSR) with somewhat of a business mindset – except instead of a financial return, he expects results on issues in the community. We spoke with Dan about civic responsibility, why he was motivated to join the Satell Institute and why the work of CSR is often its own reward.
You’re an active member of the philanthropic community and have established a good deal of relationships, what drew you to the Satell Institute? Why was it advantageous to become a member?
While I was certainly aware of the Satell Institute, it wasn’t until I attended their CEO Conference as a guest that I was truly blown away by the caliber of the CEOs involved. I signed up on the spot. I have a decent amount of years ahead of me in my career, and I feel like it’s important to never stop learning. I also believe that in order to do big things, you have to partner together to have a greater impact. That’s the real value of the Satell Institute – it’s a collective force that can really create change. At UHC, we’re accustomed to longer-term engagements with our nonprofits, so the multi-year commitment required for Satell Institute members felt natural. And while we tend to have national partnerships, we know that all things happen at a local level.
Let’s talk a bit about those partnerships, and the overall for-profit/nonprofit dynamic. Does your company culture play a role in the type of CSR work you choose to take on?
We have a deep and entrenched culture here at UHC, built around our five pillars – integrity, compassion, relationships, innovation and performance. Our pillar of compassion especially drives our civic engagement, and it is our proud responsibility to support the communities that support us. That is our driving mantra, and we reinforce that through our commitment to helping people live healthier lives. While healthcare initiatives are a natural fit for our CSR efforts, we also find it’s important to have a core focus within a multi-issue industry such as healthcare, like our support of fighting childhood cancer for instance. That way you can drill down your investment and really make a measurable impact.
Is it a challenge to measure CSR impact?
One of the biggest challenges in CSR is figuring out whom to say yes and no to, as there are just so many deserving causes. But we’ve developed a rigorous vetting process similar to the way we evaluate our business interests – we want a return on our investment. With things like mandatory multi-year funding, the Satell Institute model helps deliver on expectations. They are the linchpin; the one holding everyone responsible so it’s a win-win for all parties.
The UHC brand carries a lot of weight and is able to commit a significant amount of money/resources to CSR efforts. What insight would you have for CEOs of other companies that are not as large or might be just starting out with their CSR program? What can they expect?
My advice to anyone interested in getting involved with CSR is to get in touch with someone who is already involved – just pick up the phone and reach out. I’ve always received a tremendous amount of support and guidance from people in the CSR community. There are a lot of people in high-level corporate positions who might be tough to get a business meeting with, but you’d be surprised how those doors open when you’re discussing charitable efforts. Often I find CSR work itself is its own reward. Outside of all the other pressures and commitments of everyday business, at the end of the day when I reflect on our efforts to help the community, I feel pretty darn good.