5 Questions with Carolyn Berkowitz

1. What was your path to Corporate Citizenship?

I began my career in association management where I developed deep appreciation for the power of affiliation, networking and organized learning on advancing a profession.  Moving then to the Points of Light Foundation and America’s Promise, I worked with corporations and community leaders to maximize their impact on social issues.  This led me to Capital One, where I spent more than a decade developing and executing a citizenship strategy that aligned with business goals, built the company’s reputation, and deeply engaged employees.  I’ve spent my entire career ensuring that corporations both deliver and derive significant impact through community and societal engagement, and see this leadership moment as a culmination of my life’s work.

2. What do you think is the greatest challenge for the field?

The problems facing our society are great, and pioneering companies are harnessing their business strengths every day to solve them.  Directing this massive source of resources to benefit both business and society is a responsibility that business leaders in our field must not take for granted.  To prepare our companies for this challenge requires a corporate citizenship workforce with deeply refined skills and access to an expanding and sophisticated body of knowledge.

3. What is the greatest opportunity for the field?

Societal and market forces are quickly convincing C-suite leaders that Corporate Citizenship isn’t just nice to have, it is an imperative. The opportunities that this opens are extraordinary. Great corporate citizenship – in which prepared and savvy companies address seemingly intractable problems with authentic corporate values and solutions that are innovative, customer-focused and deeply human – will become the practice of every company.  Whether a company is a small start-up or a centennial blue chip, citizenship professionals are increasingly being called on to build, iterate, and execute integrated strategies that drive business.

4. Where do you see the field in five years?

As the value of the work that Corporate Citizenship professionals bring to business and to society is increasingly embraced, I see the our work moving from a “department” or function to an integrated discipline that touches all facets of the business. We’re already seeing companies create community marketing groups, building citizenship into their talent models, improving conditions for business by building the health and well-being of their communities, and creating or entering new markets here and around the world leading by with citizenship.  As this is happening, companies are structuring to maximize success by creating an integrated ESG function in the C-Suite, which is a key driver of purpose throughout the organization.

5. What is the best piece of life advice you’ve received that you would like to pay forward?

My 91-year-old Dad is my most important teacher and mentor.  He taught me through his words and example to give every task your full effort, show up every day as your best self, and most importantly, treat every person with whom you interact with genuine respect.  I try my best to live up to these simple, yet profound, tenets.

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