CSR: People Before Profit

Development3 Founder and Managing Partner, Akash Ghai, was at the Sustainable Brands conference in Detroit last week. He hosted a panel discussion titled: “How to use technology and creativity to boost people upward in a rapidly changing job market.” Marie Zwickert, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager at Cisco and Charles Antis, Founder and CEO of Antis Roofing and Waterproofing (Antis) were the panelists. Here are some of his thoughts on the experience.

Last week I had the privilege of hosting a panel discussion that connected two leaders at very different companies on one clear focus: the need to address the changing job market through the use of technology and creativity. On one side you have Charles Antis of Antis Roofing and Waterproofing, a growing and socially-driven roofing company that embraces CSR and on the other you have Marie Zwickert of Cisco, the global tech giant that encourages learning wherever you are in the world. While in different industries, both companies are skill-building focused which helped find the middle ground.

We found that the challenges faced by employees is important and successful companies are putting people before profit. Marie shared her insights on the Cisco Networking Academy, a program that “provides the balance of technical skills, business understanding, and innovative thinking that employers seek today.” While Cisco educates and prepares its employees professionally, Marie shared a personal experience of how the company goes above and beyond to care for them in times of need. Seeing a global multinational company put people before the bottom line is rare; companies regardless of size, need to embrace this culture.

Charles, working in a predominantly “macho” industry, explained how Antis pays close attention to the challenges faced by its employees. Traditionally, the bottom line determines what happens next for a roofing company. Charles has flipped that mentality and places value on doing right by his people. For example, the company is based in Southern California and has a large Latino workforce. To embrace the values of Latin people, Antis successfully built Aguinaldo, an annual Christmas bonus that Mexican businesses are required by law to pay to their employees, into their corporate strategy. This, among other creative approaches embedded by Antis suggests that regardless of size, industry and focus companies can engaging their employees in unique ways.

Charles Antis, Founder and CEO, Antis Roofing and Waterproofing and Akash Ghai, Managing Partner, Development3

The Sustainable Brands conference was chock full of large companies explaining how they impact the CSR world. But one thing I am most interested in is the role of small and mid-sized companies like Antis Roofing and Waterproofing in this space. While larger companies are reaping the rewards of doing good; positioning their brands as caring and getting at new consumer markets: what needs to be done for growing companies to take doing good seriously? Antis is a prime example of a growing company giving back to its employees and its local community, which has positively impacted the roofing industry in the US. I’d like to shine a light on growing companies pursuing CSR and have an idea for another panel discussion at next year’s conference. So watch this space!

After the presentation, I finally met my long-term CSR and cause marketing guru Olivia Khalili, Executive Director of Yahoo! for Good. Back in London when I was trying to understand the world of CSR, I spent a lot time reading Olivia’s blog Cause Capitalism (it hasn’t been updated in a while to Olivia’s constant dismay, but the posts are fantastic!). I used to bother Olivia over Skype, to try and figure out what I can offer the CSR space. Now as Development3 helps organizations build and establish their social legacy, I think I have my answer!

On a final note, we would like to thank Geof Rochester, Managing Director at The Nature Conservancy for helping us secure this opportunity. He saw something in us that we didn’t-  our ideas have value, value that should be shared. If you would like to learn more about what Development3 is doing in the CSR world feel free to drop us a line info@development3.com!

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