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Still Don’t Think CSR is Good for Business? Please Read On

January 17, 2019

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has long been at the core of regional growth. But today it is more essential than ever, business leader David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Comcast Corporation, told a roomful of top business executives recently at the Satell Institute’s Fall CEO Conference.

“Corporate Social Responsibility is one of our greatest HR tools,” Cohen said. “It’s a tremendous recruitment tool. It’s a tremendous retention tool for our millennial employees.”

Now more than ever

Without mincing words, Cohen reinforces a core belief of the Institute that CSR is key to continuing Philadelphia’s economic revitalization, now more than ever. Twenty years ago, he said, “I don’t think anyone was thinking about that kind of opportunity.” Even as recently as a decade ago, “CSR was nice to have, sort of a sideline activity.”

Not anymore.

“Now I think it is a central element of the strategy for most of our companies, if not all our companies,” he said.

Doing the right thing

Asked about what corporate citizenship means at his company, Comcast NBCUniversal, Cohen shared a chat he had with Comcast founder, Ralph Roberts. “Ralph told me, ‘David, my belief in this comes as much from a business perspective as anything else,’” Cohen said. “‘It would be easy for me to say we’re doing the right thing. We are helping people. We need to give back. We need to pay it forward. But my real answer to your question is that I strongly believe that the healthier and more vibrant that our communities are – where our employees and customers live and work – the healthier and more vibrant our company will be.’ As usual with Ralph, in one sentence there is the business justification for CSR,” Cohen stressed.

A true return on human investment

Cohen also gave his thoughts on ROI for CSR programs. “Although I passionately believe that there is a ROI on the resources that we commit to CSR, I think there is also a ROI in terms of the “Ralph” message of making our communities healthier and more vibrant, which is making our companies healthier and more vibrant,” he said.

“Although I believe there’s an ROI in terms of employee morale, in recruitment of employees and retention of employees, I believe there is an ROI by the impact on the poverty rate in Philadelphia, job training, trying to address homelessness, education, spreading technology through the communities. I’m convinced there’s an ROI on that. I have no idea what the ROI is on our $5.5 billion of CSR spending since 2001, and frankly, and I’m not at all embarrassed to say this, I don’t really care what the ROI is. And shame on anyone who says, well, before I invest in the community, before I increase our Corporate Social Responsibility budget by 10%, I need the accountants to come in and show me the ROI on what we spend.”

“I think in this space we can have a financial ROI, and we can have an anecdotal ROI, and we can have a human ROI,” he continued. “And for any company – a big company, a small company, a medium size company – we can all afford to invest in human ROI.”

You can have it all

To close out the conversation, Cohen was asked if a company in today’s world can be successful without implementing a corporate engagement program? He shared a unique perspective: “A lot of people say you can’t have it all, but in corporate America – in this space – you can have it all. There’s no way to have it all without having a fanatical focus on the financial success and the financial bottom line and pairing that with a fanatical focus on investing in our communities. And if you don’t do both of those things, you won’t meet my definition of having a successful company.”

Member Growth Continues in the New Year

The Institute’s membership continues to expand with great companies and private foundations choosing to support Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They recognize a collective force can do more for communities than any organization can do on its own. 

Five More New Members

We welcome the following new members among the several dozen who have recently joined.

Giant Food Stores
Founded in 1923 in Carlisle, PA, Giant maintains a focus on fresh thinking and customer service. Today the company promises to be a better place to shop, a better place to work and a better neighbor. This commitment includes a dedication to healthier choices, responsibility-sourced products, and a focus on charitable giving to strengthen communities.

Campus Apartments, LLC
Founded in 1958 in Philadelphia, Campus Apartments is now one of the largest providers of on- and off- campus housing. The firm works with more than 50 colleges and universities across 18 states and employs more than 500 people. Founder Alan Horwitz has been integral in transforming Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood.

Gwynn Philanthropies
The Gwynn family, who has been immersed in the healthcare industry for many years, focuses their philanthropic giving on the arts and education. As part of that focus, they have heavily supported the Walnut Street Theatre for years.

Contract Pharmacy Services
With a focus on a high level of service, Contract Pharmacy Services provides pharmacy consulting and medication fulfillment to long-term care, correction and behavior health facilities. CPS is a privately-owned pharmacy that combines personal attention with the technology and resources available from national pharmacies.

MKM Foundation
MKM Foundation’s core mission is to assist organizations that help low and middle-income people with basic needs and opportunity. The foundation makes grants to large and small organizations, local, domestic and foreign. Their net is spread wide–their grants range from the Pennsylvania Prison Society to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, from Jazz Bridge to the Service Women’s Action Network, from the New Jersey Tree Foundation to the American Foundation for Suicide Foundation. MKM celebrated 20 years of giving in 2018.

How Organizations Gain the Benefits of Membership

SI’s members are dedicated to building strong communities and contributing to the greater good through CSR. To receive the benefits of membership, organizations agree it’s of business value to support CSR by contributing a minimum of $25,000 a year for four years (minimum of $100,000 total) to a nonprofit of their choice. Some members proudly choose to contribute to multiple nonprofits (two, three, four or more). The unique four-year commitment requirement allows nonprofits the stable funding needed to support multi-year programs vital to their mission.

The Satell Institute is supported by its own endowment and charges no fees or dues to members or the nonprofits supported.

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