February 7, 2018
Shannon Schuyler, Chief Corporate Responsibility and Purpose Officer with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, will present the Foster College of Business's 42nd McCord Lecture. As a strong voice in the global business community, Schuyler works to infuse purpose into PwC’s core business strategy by elevating the global conversation on building trust, collaboration and acting with intention and meaning in every practice, service offering and engagement. She serves as a managing editor of Huffington Post's What's Working initiative and is helping to redefine the role of purpose as a critical vehicle for driving organizational performance.
The lecture, originally scheduled for Feb. 14, has been postponed until later this spring.
For an introduction into her career and professional interests, Schuyler answered a few questions for the Office of Marketing and Publications. Here’s what she had to say:
Chief Purpose Officer is an interesting job title. What’s the story behind it? Why are businesses adding CPOs to leadership teams?
A few years ago, PwC developed and launched our purpose. Our leadership believed in the notion of a “north star’; a focus on the why we do what we do in comparison to the what and and how, and the transformational and collective impact of 250,000 PwC staff gavinalized on a single purpose. Our purpose moves us from being purely transaction in nature but rather leads us to explore and define the humanity in our products and services, and optimize that impact in a manner far beyond financial results. We use our purpose, to build trust in society and solve important problems; as a filter to guide the decisions that we consistently make across the firm.
Why are you passionate about giving others purpose?
Purpose is a very personal journey but once identified, can translate everyday behaviors and decisions into more thoughtful and mindful actions. Your work should embrace your personal purpose but also provide organizational purpose to define thoughtful and mindful actions for the company and thus give more meaning to the content and importance of client and customer service. People also want to know that they’re contributing to something greater for the organization; that the valuable time that they are spending at work is helping to solve, beyond a paycheck but for something bigger that can connect to society overall.
What are challenges of creating a purpose-driven workplace?
First of all, it has to start at the top: To create a purpose-driven workforce, you must be a purpose-led and values driven organization. Such organizations allow purpose to be their guiding force behind all their decision making, up to and including choosing to turn down business if it’s at odds with their purpose.
Purpose-led organizations allow purpose to permeate every facet of operations, strategy and decision making. Then purpose can filter through to the workplace, and you have people able to see how the company’s decisions were guided by that North Star. But, when you are talking about a organization that is global, has a complex matrix, multiple products and services, serves over a dozen different industries and is diverse, getting to a united step forward is challenging, as it is about inspiring action one person at a time, until there is a tipping point where the culture changes and embraces the purpose.
Why is corporate responsibility vital for businesses?
Corporate Responsibility (CR) has evolved so much over the last 10 to 15 years, from charity, to philanthropy, to impact and now arguably activism. CR, when integrated into the business strategy and not used as a standalone marketing tool, can connect the role of the organization and the products it creates to solve long standing societal issues— from access to education, healthcare, water, financial wellness, jobs, etc. CR also can work to bring together companies from the same industry and leverage competitors to work together to amplify good work and maximize potential.
What conversations has the #metoo movement sparked among corporate responsibility leaders?
The #metoo movement has gained significant visibility but more importantly it has turned into a movement.. But #metoo wasn’t the first pebble thrown into the pond. We saw this slow burn, from gender equality, the fight for marriage equality, and more: It’s not just #metoo. The building of these conversations is demonstrative of the larger need for our society to get to the core and root of some of these century-long issues that we have struggled with.
Whether we’re talking about race, sexual harassment, gender equality, or the intersectionality of race, status and equity, what we’re seeing across the board is that businesses realize they can no longer stand at the sideline. For all brands, inaction will be judged as action.
One articulation of this is CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, with over 350 CEO signatories, it is now the largest CEO-led business commitment for driving diversity and inclusion and Tim Ryan, PwC’s US Chairman and Senior Partner, lead its inception. One of the key points of CEO Action is around having difficult conversations in the workplace, conversations where we own our history, identify our unconscious bias, and step up to the plate to acknowledge the role we all have in the issues we face, while recognizing we all have a responsibility to solve those issues.
What excites you about visiting business programs like Bradley?
Visiting business programs like Bradley signals that the purpose conversation has elevated to a place where it deserves to be. The fact that we’re having this conversation in the context of a business program means that we are recognizing that purpose and diversity are not nice-to-haves, but a vital element of business. I’m excited to see purpose and diversity becoming a piece of development for business students.
How do you hope to inspire aspiring business leaders?
The intersection of business and societal needs has never been greater. it will take business to innovate in a thoughtful manner, to not only yield positive financial results but simultaneously address some of the most challenging needs of our communities. Business is positioned to be a force for enduring good and the incoming generations will be pivotal to realize sustained and collective success.