What's the Value?

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What's the Value?

By Jeffrey Whitford
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On @moneyinccom, @SAGlobalCit_JW discusses how his team at @MilliporeSigma shows the value of #CSR: http://bit.ly/2sIexTJ
Monday, June 5, 2017 - 11:00am

CAMPAIGN: Greener Products and Solutions

CONTENT: Article

One thing I’ve realized over the past seven years working in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is that perception is a powerful thing. When I walked into a room and sat down to talk about what we at MilliporeSigma were doing in CSR, I could script how it would go. In fact, I should have placed bets because I could have retired by now. People anticipated and expected fluff. They did the important “business stuff” and we did “cosmetic stuff.” What does that say about how we think about and execute meaningful work with the power and potential to literally change the world? How are we thinking about bringing meaningful value to the table?

I fortuitously began my “official” career in CSR right as I was going back to get my MBA. As a bit of an overachiever, I originally thought there was no way I could do both things at my ideal level. At the time, I didn’t realize that this was the perfect opportunity for practical application and where the concept of value would become more elucidated to me. It was pressing the repeat button on what formed my undergraduate education at one of the world’s first school of journalism and combining it with the use of the “Missouri Method”—or simply put, hands-on, practical application. I viewed strategy through a much different lens in marketing and communication. How could I now use words and images layered with rich information to effectively convey the value of what we were doing to our internal and external stakeholders?

As a company rooted in science, it made sense that we had an analytical environment—one that required data, analysis and continual improvement on the approach. Once I made the connection between how I could leverage data in a very different way and communicate it more effectively, we found life to be far easier. There are a couple instances that standout clearly to me. Time and time again, I witnessed people going into meetings to discuss very complex topics with thick PowerPoint decks that no person could digest in one setting. I also realized that our leadership wasn’t the type to have spare time just lying around, so there wasn’t a high likelihood of them picking that deck back up and really diving into it.

I started to implement what we now reference as our signature Corporate Responsibility (CR) One Pager—which includes all information on one page, with a limited reliance on words and a heavy infusion of graphical data. By taking this approach, we had to know our materials inside out—requiring us to pressure test our information to make sure we included all key information in a clear format, especially when we attempted to be thorough yet brief. The clarity of our communication and the value of our project or idea required precision and framing as we took this one-shot approach. To be successful and get the green light for our projects, we needed to hit it out of the park on the first shot; a do-over wasn’t guaranteed.

We were trying to get approval for a new philanthropic investment strategy that would require an agreement to substantially increase our funding. We needed our approach, competitive data on what was happening in the market and regional information to put it all into perspective. That one power-packed piece of paper led to the investment and the start of a transformational process. Never underestimate what a little competition driven by data can do for you!

I also had the fortune to work with my team to think through “value.”  We have one program in particular that I was learning more about and found very interesting.  Unique to the industry, this fascinating concept addressed a growing concern from an environmental perspective. We started to engage on the topic and as I was listening, I heard a great idea that just hadn’t found its value yet—affecting our ability to enroll the business and get buy-in to champion the program. Our next step was to find the value. We connected a few dots and found partners to help us look at the challenge through a new lens. The team gathered data, held countless interviews with stakeholders and continued to iterate on the concept. In the end, we landed on a potential significant sales opportunity by leveraging a CR-based program to support the business. If people weren’t paying attention before, they definitely were now—with a changed perspective and thirst to know more.

I now start off the conversation in a very different way. My stump speech is quite frank, and is more of a warning than anything else. I actually tell people to buckle-up because not only do we have a lot to cover, but this also won’t be like any other CSR presentation they’ve sat through before. We’re not skipping through fields of daisies, hugging trees or kissing babies today. We’ll be talking about business-relevant, content rich material that has the opportunity to differentiate us from our competitors or in the case of our customers, truly help address the CR related challenges they are facing to implement. I can now predict the response at the end—“There was actually content there. How can we start implementing this?” Shouldn’t we always be bringing value to the table?

Keywords: Responsible Business & Employee Engagement | Corporate Responsibility | Environment | Jeffrey Whitford | Media & Communications | MilliporeSigma | data | value

CAMPAIGN: Greener Products and Solutions

CONTENT: Article