About 100 students gathered in the Ross School of Business last night for a talk by a University alum on corporate and social responsibility.
Shannon Schuyler, managing director of corporate responsibility at PriceWaterhouseCoopers — an assurance, tax and corporate advisory service provider — spoke at the event about the importance of corporate responsibility to both consumers and prospective employees.
“The topic of corporate responsibility is a dynamic topic, and it should be one that leads to debate,” Schuyler said during her presentation.
Schuyler focused on raising awareness of the ethical responsibilities that corporations may shoulder and tried to a dialogue between presenters and members of the audience.
At various points during her presentation, Schuyler gave audience members opportunities to voice their opinions about social and corporate responsibility.
The first question Schuyler asked was whether or not members of the audience care about the ethics policies of the companies they endorse every day.
One member of the audience shrugged, saying “not really.” But across the room, another student responded that she cared and a dialogue began.
Fitting in with Schuyler’s intention for the presentation, students began expressing their opinions about the pressing and complex issue of corporate ethics. Schuyler said companies are trying to “figure out” whether consumers care about the corporate responsibility of companies they encounter regularly.
“There is definitely starting to be that correlation between people who pick brands based on what they’re doing good,” she said.
Schuyler used Toyota and Starbucks to exemplify the impact of maintaining the appearance of a “do-good” corporation.
She said that though Toyota had a massive safety recall and was slapped with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s highest penalty for a failure to report a severe safety issue, a progressive and earth-friendly reputation has kept them afloat in the minds of consumers.
“Because they weren’t this company that was all-out to make money and forget everything else, they’re getting a little bit more leeway,” she said. “What attaches to your brand does pay off.”
Schuyler also discussed how the issue of brand-responsibility holds a great deal of importance on both the corporate and individual level.
In an interview before the presentation, Schuyler said that new graduates entering the workforce are a brand in themselves.
“People need to be savvy to have their own brand and figure out what that is,” Schuyler said.
She added that new graduates need to have an “unwavering” foundation of ethics and realize that every member of a company is responsible and important.
“You do make an impact,” she said. “One person can make a difference.”
Schuyler said she recommends that young talent understand how much power they truly have, but warns against “flaunting” it.
“You have to know that you have that power going in,” she said.
Schuyler said that one of the main reasons corporations are spending more of their resources on their philanthropic endeavors is to attract young talent.
“We know that 92 percent of undergrads specifically look for a company that is socially responsible. We know that MBA’s will take up to $14,000 less to join a company that is responsible,” Schuyler said. “We know that 4 out of 5 employees will stay longer if we do these things.”
She explained that corporations are beginning to change their ethics policies and are altering their strategies to be more geared towards philanthropy. Aside from appealing to a more socially conscious talent pool, Schuyler said that corporations are taking on more responsibility simply because it’s the right thing to do.
“It makes sense that we’re giving back,” she said.