Best Practices and Inspiration Shared at CSR Awards Luncheon

Kraft Foods' "Make a Delicious Difference Every Day" won a CSR Award in the Employee Relations category.

More than 200 communications pros fully committed to corporate social responsibility excellence jammed a ballroom at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C., on April 17 for PR News' annual CSR Awards luncheon. In all, PR pros were nominated in 30 CSR categories—plus an agency “A-List” and CSR Hall of Fame inductees. (See the complete list of winners and honorable mentions; download a pdf of the CSR Awards special issue.)

While the event honored the best individual CSR campaigns of the past year, there was a palpable feeling in the room that the attendees are members of a communications community that not only advances business goals through CSR but also rallies employees, helps their communities and shares CSR best practices with their peers.

Each winner gave some advice on how to accomplish CSR goals. “Set a framework globally, but inspire the team on the ground to get things done,” said Perry Yeatman, SVP, corporate & government affairs, at Kraft Foods, which took home the CSR Award in the Employee Relations category for its Make a Delicious Difference Every Day campaign.

The benefit of CSR programs to employee relations was a big theme at the event. Lisa Lanspery, manager, corporate communications at IBM, said in collecting the award for Volunteer Program that the key to Big Blue’s CSR  success is working with its close to 430,000 employees worldwide, “engaging them as our ambassadors,” she said.

Five people were honored as CSR Professionals of the Year: John Brock, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises; Zafar Brooks, director, government relations and diversity outreach, Hyundai Motor America; Lewis Fix, VP, sustainable business and brand management, Domtar Corp.; Michael Kempner, president and CEO, MWW Group; and Sonia Sroka, SVP, director of Hispanic marketing at Porter Novelli.

In accepting her honor, Sroka said that the key to getting things done is to “really stand for what you believe in and believe that you can really make a difference.” Then, the next step is recruiting like-minded people within your organization who will support your mission.

And speaking of making a difference, in accepting the award on behalf of Zafar Brooks, Brianna Commerford, a 14-year-old 2010-2011 Hyundai Hope on Wheels National Youth Ambassador, said Brooks "works so much for others and is so humble about it."

CSR Awards keynoter Derek Archambault, senior brand manager at Green Mountain Coffee, spoke on how his company leverages CSR to engage consumers and to add depth to the brand. Social responsibility is crucial to Green Mountain’s business, said Archambault. The company has pledged more than $15 million in support of communities within its supply chain.

Achambault had some words of wisdom for executing a successful CSR program: Involve your cause partners early and often; the consumer always comes first; and since everyone involved in a CSR program wants to be a marketer, be diplomatic.

Finally, James Anderson, SVP of public relations at Cartoon Network & Adult Swim, which picked up a CSR Award for its Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign, said, “When you’re dealing with an issue such as bullying and you want to help empower kids, stick to your message, know your goals, think long term and you will break through.”

Words for any CSR communications practitioner to live by.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01