By: Patrick Millar
“No matter what stage of life you are in, social responsibility is a personal, moral choice.”
Those words from veteran management consultant and keynote speaker Bruce Piasecki set the tone for the fifth Corporate and Community Social Responsibility (CCSR) conference.
The annual conference was held Nov. 6 in the Student Commons, with Algonquin students and business professionals from around the world coming together to learn more about environmental and social commitment in a rapidly changing business world.
“I find conferences are an opportunity to learn in a different way, myself I enjoy spoken words rather than books or Internet,” said Nick Novak, a public relations student at Algonquin. “I find the information between storyteller and recipient forms a bond that makes the information stick more than, say, reading. It’s an emotional connection. Plus, it’s an opportunity to network and meet new contacts.”
There were many opportunities for learning at the conference, from keynote addresses ranging from how to stay ahead of the curve in social responsibility to the effects and consequences of global climate shifts, a range of workshops dealing with different areas of corporate responsibility in a competitive market, a mini tradeshow and a Dragon’s Den knockoff called the Lizard’s Den, with young entrepreneurial contestants giving presentations showcasing their social enterprises to a panel of lizards.
The event was capped off with an evening gala where many young entrepreneurs and companies were honoured with awards for their contribution and dedication in carrying out the values of social responsibility on a local and international scale.
Piasecki, the president of AHC Group and bestselling author of Doing More With Less, said that companies are already learning to adapt to being responsible and committed to social and environmental issues in the age of social media.
“It’s a juxtaposition: global and local companies are trusted less and less, but are expected to do more. Society seems to think that large corporations are an unseemly celebration of greed that threatens their way of life,” said Piasecki. “In reality, companies are being more pragmatic than ever, with social and corporate responsibility being at the forefront of the consumers’ minds.”
Public relations coordinator Stephen Heckbert said that one of the major benefits of the conference for students was getting them to understand how corporate social responsibility could help their business initiatives and why it should be integrated into their business, especially for the public relations students for whom the conference was mandatory to attend.
“It gives them a chance to say ‘ Oh I get it now, I get what they’re talking about and why this would matter,’” said Heckbert. “You see global clients like Apple and Google doing things abroad and you don’t hear enough about what’s happening in the local market with those same types of projects. It definitely gives the students a good learning opportunity.”
College President Kent MacDonald said that being aware is the most important element in getting students to participate in making companies more socially responsible.
He also said there are multiple reasons the topic of social responsibility is important for students to think about.
“Two reasons. Employers expect it. Over 80 per cent of companies listed on the TSX now report their efforts in this area,” said MacDonald. “The Abacus Data research conducted for the conference indicated that over 90 per cent of Canadians expect companies to achieve profit success while helping the communities in which they operate. Students need to know this. They need to be aware of what employers think and what citizens believe.
They will leave Algonquin as a much more prepared and productive citizen if they understand and reflect socially responsible practices.”
For more information on the conference, visit algonquincollege.com/html/ccsr/index.htm