Bill Novelli on CSR

posted by Andrew Cuneo

By Lauren Wilson, Account Executive, Washington D.C. Office

Washington Women in PR hosted a brown bag luncheon last week at the National Education Association  where Bill Novelli served as guest speaker on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  Does the communication firm Porter Novelli ring a bell? Bill Novelli founded the agency that bears his name and left the company in the 90s to pursue a slew of non-profit and CSR roles including: Executive Vice President of CARE, President of theCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and CEO of AARP. Currently, Bill is a professor in social responsibility at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

Corporate Social Responsibility, the idea of incorporating responsible practices in daily business operations, has emerged as a strong focus over the last few years with companies restructuring their operations and making this practice a top priority.  Through Bill’s role at Georgetown, he discovered that there is a high student demand to learn about CSR and to pursue this work after the completion of their graduate studies.  In fact, many of his students and their peers are willing take pay cuts to work in a CSR role. Bill’s goal is to help students and communications practitioners understand the value of this responsibility so that they can serve in roles that produce social change, which will ultimately lead to the betterment of our society.

One member of the audience asked: How do you move organizations to adopt CSR practices in a down economy?  “It is important to convince your organizations to act socially responsible because that is often the expectation from its constituents and stakeholders. Organizations that have strong CSR campaigns often exude more confidence and uplift employee morale,” Bill responded.

Bill also noted that in this down economy, volunteerism has risen.  According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), volunteerism jumped by 1.6 million last year, the largest increase in six years. Over 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service was donated by Americans last year. Corporate Social Responsibility has emerged as a sustainable practice and organizations often have success when they participate in this practice over time.  This audience was very receptive in learning about  Bill’s current role as a CSR enthusiast and many expressed how they felt empowered to challenge their organizations to adopt CSR initiatives. If each organization did their part to implement a CSR program, then the idea of “doing good” would eventually be seen as normal corporate practice.

[Disclosure: Hill and Knowlton represents CNCS]


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