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Stakeholder Engagement Key to CSR Success

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By Rhett Smith (MBA'17)

On Wednesday GSEI was honored to host, in partnership with Bank of America and McDonough’s Net Impact chapter, a panel discussion with Andrew Plepler, the Global Corporate Social Responsibility Executive at Bank of America, and Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. Facilitated by Professor Bill Novelli, our guests discussed of the evolution of corporate social responsibility since the financial crisis in 2007 and highlighted the key issues to tackle over the next decade.

Mr. Plepler has played a vital role in the cultural shift at Bank of America towards socially responsible programs, policies and direct investments. Asked about BofA’s recognition by the Dow Jones Sustainability Board as a world leader in corporate social and environmental performance his response was simple: the honor was due to the bank’s expansive view of CSR, focusing on culture and people. It was a theme that continued in many of his responses: that by dedicating itself to asking the hard questions, listening to critical partners, and dedicating the organization not only on creating shareholder value but improving the welfare of its customers and their communities, the bank could achieve its long term goals.

As one of BofA’s partners in its CSR efforts, Ms. Murguia discussed the balance of holding its partner accountable on tough issues while publicly praising its progress. She echoed Plepler’s emphasis of a holistic, cultural approach to CSR, applauding the diversity of BofA’s board of directors compared its corporate peers. As the evolution of their partnership grows, Murguia encouraged the bank to become more of an external advocate and lobbyist for policy change rather than focusing solely on internal practices of responsibility.  The strong partnership between the two emphasized the relationship of trust and measurable results the two have formed over the years.

And what CSR panel is complete without a discussion about Republican Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump? When asked about the radical immigration policy of the candidate, Murguia stressed the need for long term policies aimed at enhancing the Latino community, who could serve as an engine for economic growth.  In her mind, a measuring stick for progress will be more diversity on corporate boards, allowing leaders of all communities to have a voice in shaping the private sectors role in society.

This panel was the first in a series of discussions over the next year where speakers will explore the journey of corporate social responsibility.