Businesses today have a tremendous opportunity, and responsibility, to accelerate change. In this series of interviews with thought leaders in the impact space, dubbed Bright Minds, we’ll explore key trends and considerations where purpose-driven companies and corporate social responsibility programs are multiplying positive societal impact.

Our first thought leader is Dave Stangis, Founder & CEO at 21C Impact and Former Chief Sustainability Officer at Campbell Soup Company. Here are some highlights from that discussion.

How did you end up in this field and what was the journey like?
A lot of us in this profession are pay-it-forward people – we get meaning out of it. If it felt like work, I probably wouldn’t be doing all the things I have, but it feels like helping which I enjoy. When I started, there was no corporate social responsibility (CSR) profession – we were creating jobs out of thin air and helping others that wanted to work in this space. Often that included teaching students and doing pro-bono work as well. I had the opportunity to work across many different sectors during my career including the utility, tech and food sectors, which was a lot of fun. But one of the reasons I transitioned out of Campbell two years ago was to multiply my impact and help more sectors and people. There are a lot of companies at different points on the maturity curve, and I want to help them create value.

How has corporate social responsibility evolved over the last 20 years?
Moving from activity to measuring impact
It’s like night and day. There were clearly some companies doing this work in the past, but so many things have changed since then. Technology has changed. Product offerings have changed. Transparency or the ability for the external world to see what’s going on behind the scenes at a company has changed. As a result, companies have really shifted their focus from being good corporate citizens to measuring impact. How many kids have we touched? How many dollars have we given? How many things have we cleaned up? These are activity measures. What leading companies are doing today is seeking to measure outcomes – both the business bottom line and in society.

Bringing it all together for disclosure
It’s also about bringing things together. We just talked about some of the terminology, and I’ve seen corporate social responsibility programs dip into other areas such as governance or the environmental piece. But as companies get more strategic, it’s not corporate citizenship in one corner of the company and sustainability in another. Rather it becomes more of a comprehensive view to pull metrics for transparency – the reporting and disclosure side of things which has gotten a lot more rigorous over the last 20 years.

Read the full article about corporate social responsibility by Julie Yamamoto at Bright Funds.