How Comcast Does CSR
April 19, 2023
What’s the key to successful Corporate Social Responsibility? For Dalila Wilson-Scott, President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, it all starts with strategy
When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, Comcast thinks big. The Philadelphia-based media and technology company — a longtime Satell Institute member — has 186,000 employees, annual revenue of more than $120 billion, with a global presence that reaches millions around the world.
But there are things that leaders of any organization – large or small, for-profit or nonprofit – can learn from how Comcast thinks about and executes its commitment to CSR.
As Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, Dalila Wilson-Scott leads the work the company does in this space. Here, Wilson-Scott—who joined Comcast in 2016 after 16 years at JPMorgan Chase — talks about the energy around CSR; the role CEOs play in leading the charge; and Project UP, the $1 billion commitment Comcast has made to digital equity.
I first got involved in corporate philanthropy…
…when I was working at JP Morgan. They were merging their multiple foundations from a finance, technology and strategy perspective and asked if I’d be interested in joining the team.
I had done my own volunteer service, mainly in the economic development space in New York. But in my new position I was able to see things through a whole different lens – how we did it, why it mattered, how it integrated with the business. I ultimately took over strategy for the foundation, and then ran the entire foundation and global philanthropic operation.
I love this space. It’s evolved tremendously since I started. It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing it for just about 20 years now, but it’s exciting to see this much energy and passion behind it.
The expectation that people have for corporations…
…and their involvement in actively engaging in solving social issues is so much higher today than it was 20 years ago. Now it’s the expectation of our customers, our employees and the broader audience in many different ways.
Comcast has made a commitment to digital equity because…
…first, people must believe that you have an authentic, sustainable reason for impacting a specific issue and that you bring some expertise. We’re a media and technology company — there’s not a person who’s not touched by our industry every single day. Our industry has become increasingly more digital – and so has our overall economy. Over 90 percent of jobs today require a digital skill set. So, it was natural that digital equity was a place where we could make meaningful impact. Two, we bring decades of experience. And three, we have a real commitment to making sure that every single person has digital access because we know that it’s absolutely required for economic mobility.
The broad areas that Comcast focuses on are…
…number one is connectivity and broadband adoption. What does it mean to be connected? Do I know how to get connected? Is it affordable? Is it accessible? There’s also a lot of trust-building with communities. With technology, you hear people say, I’m okay with my smart phone, but I don’t want to do everything on the Internet. The problem is, you’re locked out of so many other resources – education and other opportunities — when you’re not connected.
That gets into the second piece, skills and creativity. We think the connection point is just the beginning. We also help people develop the skills that are in demand so they don’t just have a living wage, but really succeed and thrive and can be active participants in the economy in every single way.
The final piece is entrepreneurship. We know a lot of people in underrepresented communities in particular haven’t had the opportunity of entrepreneurship. There’s so much interest and demand for more resources on being an effective business owner. We want to make sure people know there are multiple paths available, and technology is the baseline for that.
When we think of our work…
…we think about the issue we’re trying to address, how it’s getting addressed, and the outcomes. It doesn’t start with, here’s a great partner — let’s figure out how to work together. We start with the issues, then find the partners who are committed to that issue and the outcome we want to see.
I think it’s really tough to do my job…
…if you never create those opportunities to see who you’re actually impacting. I was in Seattle last year, and I met a 68-year-old gentleman who was getting one-on-one training at a session we sponsored. He’d never owned a computer, he was getting a laptop, and he was getting lessons on basics such as email, and how to talk to his kids virtually.
We must have those types of connections and experiences because it gives you energy and inspiration to keep doing this at scale.
At Comcast, we were impacted by the George Floyd protests in 2020…
…because, on a macro level, it was the first time there was global awareness about the impact of systemic racism. And while there’s been progress, it’s not as much progress as people would like to see.
When I think about Comcast specifically, we’ve disclosed diversity numbers for over a decade. We have a strong DE&I program. We’ve been active in communities. But even for us, George Floyd was a moment to step back and say, well, we all know – as individuals, as communities, as large corporations — we could be doing better.
From that, we identified the key areas we wanted to impact. Our Chairman and CEO talked to employees about why this work was important. We had conversations across the company that allowed people to discuss race in the workplace in a way they never had before.
There is data that shows that the general public believes companies are expected to help solve societal issues, and that they’re best-positioned to. Companies can influence things in many different ways beyond philanthropy. Can they take a hard look at who they are banking with? What types of suppliers are companies working with? These are issues that people have been talking about for decades, but not at this level, and not with this much action. I think the challenge is keeping the momentum. It takes being intentional and specific and never losing sight of the outcomes we’re trying to reach.
I think the one thing every great leader knows…
…is that culture eats strategy, execution and everything else for lunch. You now have people wanting purpose to not be something they do after work, but to be a part of their work every single day. And in this war for talent, culture has to be front and center for leaders.
When you can tap into employees’ motivation, you can get to high performance. But you can’t get to high performance if you’re not understanding what motivates them. In today’s workforce the motivating factors have changed, and so keen leaders know this is something they must pay attention to and address if they want to achieve any of their goals around profits, growth, and execution. People aren’t listening if you’re not hearing them.
What I’ve always loved about the Satell Institute…
…is that there’s an entry place for every company. Committing $25,000 per year for four years is a lot for some companies. But I think it quickly provides a couple of different benefits. One, it helps people appreciate that commitments require some time. Two, it means being intentional about the issues you want to get behind. People understand you can’t be in and out as a matter of convenience.
Satell makes it possible for everybody to think about what that means. The idea-sharing that Satell facilitates between social impact leaders allows us to hear from different types of companies, learn how they got to where they are, and I appreciate that. They create an incredible foundation of what can happen next. I’ve always loved that about Ed and the Satell Institute and the people he brings together.