CSR: A Love Story

When thinking about corporate social responsibility and events, one doesn’t generally picture a two-person, soap opera-esque play about love and relationships.

However, Alexandra Kenyon, lecturer of hospitality and retailing at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, personified CSR as just that at this year’s MPI World Education Congress. She and her colleague acted out a scene as an attendee and a corporation in a “lovers quarrel.” Equating CSR to a romantic relationship actually makes sense: transparency and effective communication are important when maintaining a relationship between organizations and attendees — especially one that is happy, healthy, and mutually beneficial.

The skit embodied the results of an event-related CSR research study conducted by Kenyon and her team revealing what delegates and organizations deem important. For instance, companies, more so than attendees, think it’s essential that all staff receive minimum wage. Whereas attendees, on average, care more about water management and renewable energy sources than organizations do. This demonstrates a difference in values, that can sometimes result in misunderstandings between meeting planners, attendees, and even the local community.

Alexandra Kenyon and colleagues with the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group

To help bridge these communication gaps, Kenyon and her colleagues connected attendees with a local non-profit, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, fostering discussion during the education session about how events can benefit their host cities and local philanthropic organizations. The Old North Restoration Group works to revitalize a large area of downtown St. Louis, providing the neighborhood with a famers market, grocery store, retailers, and other businesses. In the session, delegates and the Old North Restoration Group discovered more ways to collaborate so that everyone’s needs and expectations are met. They realized the opportunities are endless — there are organizations in every city like Old North that companies can partner with in order to enhance their events. It all starts with a dialogue.

In the end, each group left with new, innovative ideas on how to work together to give back and maximize their impact. And thankfully, unlike most soap operas, no one left heartbroken.

Sarah Beauchamp

Sarah Beauchamp was formerly assistant editor of Convene.