Versaic Q&A with Mark Shamley, CEO, ACCP

Sep 21, 2016 1:00 PM ET

Mark Shamley was named ACCP’s president & CEO in August 2007 and has more than 19 years’ experience in corporate & public affairs, corporate social responsibility, business development and marketing.

Prior to joining ACCP, Shamley oversaw community relations and government affairs for the Orlando Magic and was instrumental in assisting the NBA franchise to win approval for construction of the Amway Center.

Shamley also served as director of global corporate citizenship at Tupperware Brands Corporation and vice president and executive director of the Tupperware Children’s Foundation. He holds an undergraduate degree in marketing from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and has a MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College.

Versaic: Why should companies invest in CSR?

Mark: In the past, many companies made philanthropic contributions because it was thought to be the right thing to do. Today, many companies still make social investments simply because there is a belief that it is the right thing to do.

However, the pressure to maximize shareholder value and the global economic opportunity and uncertainty has rightly caused companies to think more broadly about how social issues impact its business.

There have been countless studies done over the past ten years or so that sought to determine if there was business value to social investments. In 2015, I O Sustainability and Babson College conducted a study of studies to ascertain if there were business benefits to social investments.  The result of their work is detailed in Project ROI.

In short, Project ROI found companies that have well-executed, well-funded and strategically aligned CSR initiatives are shown to reap business benefits in addition to societal benefits.

Versaic: What benefits or outcomes should a company expect from well executed CSR programs or initiatives?

Mark: Companies that undertake a strategic approach to CSR, fund the initiatives at an appropriate level and execute them well, can realize many business benefits in addition to the social good they seek to impact.

For example, CSR has the potential to: impact market value; increase share price and reduce risk; enhance marketing, sales and brand reputation; reduce staff turnover, lower salary costs, increase productivity and increase employee engagement.

Versaic: How can companies measure success and how does that equate to business value?

Mark: What is most important is that companies adopt a commitment to measure before settling on a process or an approach.

You should determine what is most important or core to your business value. Another way to think of a core value is how a company drives revenue.  For example, for many companies their reputation or brand is their most important core value. In companies that put brand or reputation first, everything they do is tied to enhancing the image of their reputation or brand. For some companies, their core value might be tied to employees.  For other companies, it may be a product or their sales process.

Once you’ve determined what your core is, be it brand and reputation, or employees or something else, you want to look at measuring impacts of your CSR programs to what is core.

To illustrate, if you have determined that employees are the core value to drive revenue in your company, you will want to measure your business impacts on employee based factors.

You might set up a control that examines the turnover rate of employees that are engaged in your CSR activities, such as a Volunteer Day, against employees that are not engaged in those activities.  You need to control for a variety of other factors, such as length of time with the company, the position held, and such. Once you have done that, you can begin to look at the rate of turnover for employees that are engaged in CSR and those that aren’t. As you become more sophisticated in what you track, you can measure by program, cause or any other factor that you can isolate.  Companies that have measured for this have found as much as a 50% reduction in turnover.  Your HR department most likely has a dollar figure that they use to calculate the cost of employee turnover.  You can then use that figure as a multiplier to project the savings realized from your activities.

Versaic: What tips would you offer companies wanting to increase the impact of their CSR programs?

Mark: The single most important aspect in my view is to make sure that you align your CSR strategy to the business. 

As an example, drawing upon the technology sector, employees are usually a technology company’s most valuable asset. There is a shortage of people with technology skills.  Further, studies have proven that you need to engage students in STEM education when they are in grade school, as early as second grade, to put students on a path to a STEM career.  So if you are doing CSR work at a tech company, aligning your CSR activities to encourage STEM careers, promote employee engagement, and increase employee satisfaction will lead to not only social good, but business value.  

Of course, tantamount in this is finding the right NGO partners and ensuring that the issue you are trying to move the needle on is within a scope that you can manage with the budget you have.

Versaic: Where do you see CSR heading and what will be important three years from now?

Mark: The field of CSR is in a perpetual state of evolution as it has been for at least the past two decades.  What started many years ago as a way to focus giving to a select group or organizations or causes, usually with a check, has evolved into a way to improve how business improves society. The practice is certainly more strategic and is far more ingrained in the business operations.

In years past, cash was the predominant currency for CSR. Today, talent is ascending.  I would envision talent growing even more in relevance.

There are several reasons I see talent becoming more prevalent. Corporate cash resources are limited. However, tapping into the talent pool of a corporation yields sustainable benefits to the company, the employees, and the community.

As an example, a company might never be able to make a cash donation large enough to eradicate hunger in their community; they might, however, be able to run a program with their employees as volunteers that teach skills that improve the employment opportunities for those in need. By doing so, the company has greater impact.

I expect that CSR will become even more entrenched throughout the company. Rather than having CSR sit off to the side, more and more companies are weaving CSR into the operations.  You will often see companies that have a CSR function embedded in departments so that the voice of CSR is represented throughout the company.  As studies have also shown, consumers are demanding that companies be good corporate citizens and many consumers are willing to vote with their pocketbooks. Companies that are perceived as good citizens not only build more loyal consumers, they are also able to charge a premium for their products or services. This will drive more companies to examine how they can capture market share and command higher prices through their CSR activities.

The needs of society are great and I believe that corporations understand that as members of society, it is incumbent upon them to impact change in a manner that is consistent with their corporate values.