CEO Steve Distante sat on the panel for, “The Future of Corporate Responsibility: Exploring Organizational and Individual Preparedness”, in collaboration with Be Social Change (BSC) and the Organizational Development Network of NY (ODNNY) on April 28th at The Work Better in New York City.

The panel, “The Future of Corporate Responsibility: Exploring Organizational and Individual Preparedness” was an open discussion about how businesses are evolving to meet the increasing demand for environmental and social responsibility. The panel featured extremely innovative thought leaders in corporate responsibility and change.

In addition to Steve, panelists included: Claudia Chan, founder of SHE Global Media, Inc.; Patty Hellman, Organizational Development Partner, Eileen Fisher; Liz O’Donnell, NYC District Environmental Coordinator, Patagonia; Tom Stack, Director of Global Planning, D’Addario & Co. The panel was moderated by Marcos Salazar, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Be Social Change. Full bios are available on each speaker, here.

The over 75 participants learned about new Organizational Development and Corporate Social Responsibility trends and challenges from the companies represented in the panel and their experiences from their own Corporate Social Responsibility journeys’. Several companies present had already achieved B Corp, or Benefit Corporation Status, and all were striving. Vanderbilt was the only company represented to be LEED Platinum certified and Tom Stack is a LEED Architect. These Organizational similarities reflect the shared values of the companies and similar missions to affect the world with positive social and environmental change.

Each panelist expressed their experiences and journeys in how they entered the field of social responsibility. The common themes were to think like an entrepreneur, finding your passion to drive your creativity and work, as well as being social responsible at both the top level and roots of the organization.

CEO Steve Distante spoke on efforts that Vanderbilt Financial Group has taken to make a social and environmental change. The firm’s efforts with the INN (Interfaith Nutritional Network) as well as the creation of the John Brower Foundation were key points in Steve’s conversation. Additionally, Steve mentioned the venture on achieving LEED Platinum status at Vanderbilt’s Office located in Woodbury, NY.

The pursuit of social responsibility and the challenges were mentioned briefly. Patty Hellman related the struggle on getting the whole company and each entity on board with responsible initiatives and her undertaking as the Organizational Development Partner at Eileen Fisher. One specific project she mentioned was trying to find a way to reduce the cost of their product and simultaneously increase the wage of their foreign workers in other countries.

Claudia Chan of SHE Global Media, Inc challenged the audience to be “intrapreneurs”. She communicated that change and innovation for social responsibility can come from within the organization and any individual no matter what your role is. Many look to leave organizations feeling restrained but Claudia encouraged the idea that it is easier to make a change with a corporation than on your own. Lastly, she stated companies should have avenues for individuals to contribute and innovate as a socially responsible goal.

Taking action was the advice given by Tom Stack and how just ingesting material isn’t good enough unless you act upon it. One anecdote he relayed was working on a project where he knew what he had to do to elevate his work but his firm was not on board. His persistence enabled the client to see the value and Tom was able to create the first LEED certified Interior in Long Island. Tom encouraged the audience to do something if you believe in it but not be afraid to ask questions or change course if you need to.