Corporate Citizenship - How the Private Sector is Advancing Sustainable Development

By Camille Cannistraci

ISSP-NYC started the new year with our first Leaders in Sustainability event of 2018, co-sponsored by ISSP-NYC and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and held in a beautiful setting at Freshfield’s Manhattan offices. Moderated by ISSP member Wendy Hapgood, COO of Wild Tomorrow Fund, the panel featured Kim Weinrick, Head of Public Affairs at OppenheimerFunds, and Joy Tumang, North America Regional Lead for CSR & Pro Bono Programs at Freshfields. The panelists discussed the critical role of responsible business in enabling global development to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. Tumang spoke of Freshfields’ legal cases related to sustainable development as well as the firm’s commitment to pro-bono client work. For example, Freshfields was one of the law firms that sent their attorneys to airports to help those with valid visas to re-enter the country during the travel ban confusion. The initiative brought critical focus to human rights while giving junior staff valuable experience. Freshfields sees their pro-bono work on social justice as key to retaining talent and ensuring job satisfaction.  Ms. Tumang  also discussed innovations in corporate citizenship through new mechanisms such as social impact bonds. For example, Goldman Sachs issued the first social impact bond in the US to help fund a program reducing the recidivism rate for adolescent offenders at the Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City.

Ms. Weinrick discussed the importance of considering a firm’s core assets and the skills of its employees when choosing corporate citizenship programs, as exemplified by OppenheimerFunds’ commitment to math literacy programs utilizing their financial expertise.  She advised businesses to think deeply about their CSR programs, ensuring value add without unintentional consequences such as job loss. Ms. Weinrick spoke of the benefits of their close partnerships with nonprofits such as Bankers Without Borders. For example, this key partnership helped Oppenheimer understand that some children’s educational struggles could be alleviated by eye tests and vision correction, which their math literacy program was then able to address.  

Both guest panelists emphasized the importance of engaging a company’s senior leadership and demonstrating to them the specific business benefits of robust CSR programming as well as the need for community citizenship and philanthropic programs to be "genuine."  Additionally, they explained that companies can attract top talent through demonstrated commitment to corporate citizenship.

Following the panel, event attendees enjoyed breakfast and lively conversation with sustainability professionals.