Mar 252010

**This post is part of our Social Enterprise Series this week, leading up to the 2nd annual Social Enterprise Symposium on Thursday, March 25.  View the live stream of the event here. 

Marriott’s “spirit to serve” our customers, employees, and communities is the way we do business and has been an important part of our company culture since our founding over 80 years ago.  Working with charitable organizations we are serving our communities through these signature SERVE issues:

S Shelter and Food

  …addressing housing and hunger needs including in times of disaster

E Environment

  …working towards a greener, healthier planet

R Readiness for Hotel Careers

  …educating and training the next generation

V Vitality of Children

  …aiding sick and impoverished children

E Embracing Global Diversity and Inclusion

  …providing opportunities, especially through the workplace

For almost three decades Marriott’s environmental efforts have focused on water and energy conservation.  As our program has matured, we began collaborating in 2007 with Conservation International, a global conservation organization, to map our carbon footprint and develop a long-term environmental strategy for full future sustainability.

It includes:

 (1) carbon offsets through the protection of rainforest;

(2) further reduce fuel and water consumption by 25 percent per available room over the next 10 years as well as install solar power at up to 40 hotels by 2017;

(3) engage the company’s top 40 vendors to supply price-neutral greener products across 12 categories of our $10 billion supply chain;

(4) create green construction standards for our hotel developers to achieve LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council; and

(5) educate and inspire employees and guests to support the environment, including through green meetings and events.

Rainforest preservation is a cornerstone of Marriott’s environmental strategy and one way we are engaging our guests and employees in protecting the environment.   In 2008 Marriott pledged $2 million to protect 1.4 million acres of rainforest within the Juma Sustainable Development Reserve in Brazil.  The project provides education, medical care, employment and a “Bolsa Floresta” stipend for the more than 3,000 Juma residents (about 400 families) who are trained and compensated to protect the rainforest.  Juma is a REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) initiative addressing deforestation and the consequential emissions of greenhouse gases, and is also the first avoided deforestation project to achieve Gold Status under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) standards.

Closer to home, Marriott’s headquarters in Bethesda is also working toward a more sustainable future.  The building was recently awarded LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Existing Building Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  More than 30 of Marriott’s hotels are also in the pipeline to achieve LEED certification. Marriott was the first major hotel company in the U.S. with a LEED certified hotel–The Inn and Conference Center by Marriott at the University of Maryland in College Park.

For more information about Marriott’s corporate social responsibility program and environmental efforts, please visit:


Marriott International is a platinum sponsor of this year’s Social Enterprise Symposium.

Getting Real: Stripping Away the Façade of CSR

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Mar 242010

**This post is part of our Social Enterprise Series this week, leading up to the 2nd annual Social Enterprise Symposium on Thursday, March 25.  View the live stream of the event here. 

By Scott Henderson

Let me get this out in the open.  I think it’s ridiculous that we even need to have a term like “corporate social responsibility” or “CSR.”  What’s more meaningless than talking in jargon and acronyms?

You can’t compartmentalize doing good anymore.  It’s not a department.  It’s not a job title.  It’s who you are and what you do, not just what you say you are.

Somewhere along the way, we collectively forgot this fact.

In the broadcast era, those running companies were detached from those who bought their products and services. Brands were created to personify the company.  By their very nature, brands are artificial constructs.  This disconnectedness created a numbing effect on ethics and decision-making – much like a man shaving with a face full of Novocain.

Historically, companies have used cause marketing, corporate philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility efforts to offset any negative behaviors.  Interestingly, many have housed these in different silos of operations. But with the world increasingly becoming interconnected, consumers want to see brands and companies realign their cause efforts into an integrated strategy.

For this reason, companies need to be rooted in authentic commitments to doing good. They need to be alive and dynamic, constantly manifesting themselves in the individual and collective actions of company staff and like-minded partners. Their initiatives should be aligned with company culture and principles, not out there as standalone projects.

Everything about our society is changing – rapidly and constantly.
  How we communicate, get and share information, and engage each other — online and offline – is different than it was just a few short years ago.

Information moves faster, people are more closely connected, and the level of interest and commitment that people have when it comes to social issues and causes has never been greater. Our society has shifted and how companies support causes, respond to disasters, and mobilize the public needs to shift as well.

The time has come for companies to move past the gimmicks and devote more earnest efforts at addressing the root problems of our day.  It’s time companies ask more of their charity partners and actually solve the causes, not just serve them.

It’s time we get real about our role in bettering the world.  Are you with me?

Scott Henderson is managing director of CauseShift, helping organizations think, innovate and solve problems.  He is currently leading, a yearlong initiative to shift the conversation about hunger in America and create real, tangible solutions.  Follow him on Twitter at @ScottyHendo.

Mar 232010

**This post is part of our Social Enterprise Series this week, leading up to the 2nd annual Social Enterprise Symposium on Thursday, March 25.  View the live stream of the event here.

By Daniel Aronson

Interest in corporate responsibility and sustainability is growing exceptionally rapidly: By one measure, interest in sustainability has increased 1,000% in the last five years and over 350% in just the last year. Everyone knows CSR and sustainability are fast growing areas, but when we quantify it, we get an even better sense for just how fast the tide is rising.

With this growth comes a change in the influence of social responsibility, and that is accompanied by – as it must be – a change in how social responsibility is practiced.

The Link to Business Strategy

For many, many years, social responsibility proponents have been trying to make it more central to how businesses think and what they do (I’ve been working on this personally for over a decade, and others have been involved that long or longer). And we have really begun to succeed, with more and more companies making it part of their strategy and operations.

Going along with that is a burgeoning change in how social responsibility is practiced – bringing in the types of practices that are used to tackle the other important issues companies face. For example, companies are doing much more about collecting, analyzing, and reporting information on their social responsibility and sustainability initiatives.

A number of firms have made major strides in this area, such as one Fortune 50 company that recently launched a dashboard showing energy use across the hundreds of buildings they own. This is as is it should be: social responsibility and sustainability are too  important not to be managed to the same high standards as the rest of the business. We must be responsible, and we must also be smart about how we do it.

Closing the Knowledge Gap

Even with this progress, however, there is still a long way to go. IBM research shows that well under half of companies have a good understanding of what their customers expect from them in terms of corporate responsibility. And only a small minority collects CSR-related information as frequently as they need it. To truly ensure responsibility’s place at the table, these gaps in knowledge and information need to be closed, the way they would be if they existed in other parts of the business.

IBM’s Approach


For today’s businesses, which are complex, global, and fast-moving, this will require technology. For almost 100 years, IBM has helped the world advance through science and technology, and corporate responsibility is no different. We are using our Smarter Planet technology to helping businesses know more, react faster, and use resources more efficiently – for example, a new system helped one group reduce their employees’ carbon footprint from travel and work by 40%.

Engaging Employees

We’re not only using technology to improve operations, but also to improve how corporate decisions reflect people’s deepest values. Over a hundred thousand IBMers were able to participate in a two-day, real-time conversation on what opportunities would reflect the values of IBM – one of which is “innovation that matters for our clients and for the world” – and the needs of our clients.

One of the results of that conversation was IBM’s Big Green Innovations initiative to improve management of alternative energy, carbon, and water as well as to improve modeling of things like pollution, climate, and pandemics. As a result of the passion of our employees and the opportunity to help clients with these important issues, IBM invested $100 million in this initiative.

Having thousands of employees participate in devising an idea to make money and improve the world at the same time shows something about what IBM is like, as does investing $100 million in making it happen. Sometimes overlooked is the fact that the focus areas for Big Green tell you something about IBM too: A penchant for taking on the problems of tomorrow.

When people think about the most pressing environmental problems, they typically think about energy, pollution, and carbon, but it is much less common to include water on that list. But water is not only a big driver of today’s issues (a 10% reduction in the energy used for water would be the equivalent of taking millions of cars off the road) it is going to be an even bigger issue down the road. IBM wants to be a leader in solving not just today’s problems, but tomorrow’s too.

On behalf of the 400,000 employees of IBM, I look forward to talking and working with you to move corporate responsibility, and the world, forward.

Daniel Aronson is the Global Offering Lead, Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability, Strategy & Transformation, Global Business Services at IBM.  IBM is a gold sponsor of this year’s Social Enterprise Symposium.

2 Tips for Landing a Job in CSR

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Mar 222010

**This post leads off our Social Enterprise Series this week, leading up to the 2nd annual Social Enterprise Symposium on Thursday, March 25.  View the live stream of the event here.

By Lucille Pilling

How do I find a job in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability? This is a question that the panel on CSR: How a Company Communicates its Cause identified as one to anticipate and one I am asked often.

The response is that there are very few positions available in this field (although that is beginning to change).  The majority of corporate CSR related positions are awarded to internal candidates that either are seasoned professionals that know the firm well and are close to retirement or young enthusiastic employees who are given sole responsibility to lead a CSR initiative. This too is changing as corporations progress from CSR as a form of risk aversion, to CSR as strategic philanthropy, to CSR as an integral part of core business strategy.

Think Company First

The best way to obtain a position in CSR is to identify a firm with an environmental, social or governance (ESG) message that matches your interests, start working there and become a visible participant in the firm’s ESG component.

Personal Branding

Another piece to this approach is to develop your personal brand by identifying and unleashing your passion in your career within the work at hand, the organization and how you progress. As the recession recedes, corporations are increasingly realizing the importance of attracting and retaining talent through their CSR initiatives. This is particularly true, as the recent study from Pew Charitable Trusts verifies, for the Millennium generation.

Dr. Lucille B. Pilling works at the intersection of global public health and corporate social responsibility.  Her involvement in CSR began 14 years ago developing public private partnerships on the nonprofit side. She teaches CSR at New York University and is a CSR strategist. 

The Future of Energy in 11 Words

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Mar 112010

Dennis Wraase, former CEO and Chairman of Pepco Holdings Inc. (and the first executive-in-residence at the Center), spoke last night on the future of the energy industry.  In his words, it was all about “energy conservation through the eyes of a major energy utility” — which, at first glance, sounds counterintuitive.

The goal is to encourage consumers to use less of the very product that Pepco sells, he said.  So how does this make sense?

Changing the way consumers think about and use energy will allow the entire industry to become more efficient, and will move us that much closer to the 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions (from1990 levels) by 2050 that the industry believes is within reach.

So, without further ado, here is Wraase’s forecast for what that future will look like (and what it will take to get us there):

  1. Leadership–Strong leadership, and consistent policy, at all levels (federal, state and local) is essential.  Right now energy policy changes at the whim of every politician.  Wraase said the industry ‘jumped for joy’ when President Obama brought up the possibility of decoupling, only to have that excitement evaporate when it was made clear that approvals had to be made at the state level.
  2. Collaboration & Innovation–The industry and the government must work together to fund the research and development of new efficient technologies, and new regulatory models.
  3. New role for customers–Customers have to take the lead in better managing energy usage, and this is absolutely key, Wraase said.  But this is a function of better information.  It’s been shown that customers reduce energy usage by as much as 25 percent when they are aware of the rate differences.  Wraase also said that better customer service is a huge part of this–being able to get on the phone with a customer, have him or her turn off an old AC unit in real time and pinpoint the exact energy savings.
  4. New products–Smart appliances, equipped with smart chips that receive price signals and can indicate the best time to defrost a freezer for example, eliminate the need for customers to even be aware of the pricing and usage to some degree.
  5. Electric vehicles–Look no further than yesterday’s Wall Street Journal for news of a 100 mpg electric vehicle that may slay the Prius.  With 5-6 new EV models due out next year from manufacturers like Nissan and more, the idea of 800 million electric vehicles being on the road in 40 years (or 40 percent of total vehicles) doesn’t seem so far off.

The fully digitized system Wraase predicts, in which your car (operating as a mini generator) and entire home is outfitted with smart chips that communicate with each other via your electrical lines, raises some complex security/privacy issues, but nonetheless is an interesting future to contemplate.

So, can you change the world one lightbulb at a time? Wraase certainly thinks so.