Talking Purpose with Carolyn Berkowitz, featuring Marty Rodgers of Accenture

ACCP is excited to kick off our 2023 Talking Purpose feature with Marty Rodgers, Senior Managing Director, Market Unit Lead – South and Metro Washington, DC office at Accenture. Marty is also the recipient of the ACCP Champion for Change Purpose Award for 2022.

How did you get your start in corporate citizenship?

I have been blessed to work with amazing heroes and she-roes who have changed the country and the world: Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Johnetta Cole, Father Ted Hesburgh, Senator Harris Wofford, and so many others. From all, I learned the power of purpose and that we are called – we have vocations – which beckon us to be part of something bigger than ourselves and to hone and use our gifts to leave each other, our families, our companies, our communities, our country, and our world better than how we found it. We must do this personally and professionally, individually and institutionally. With Senator Wofford, I assisted in writing several successful pieces of legislation, including helping to create Americorps—the US domestic Peace Corps—the first major federal apprenticeship legislation, and turning the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday into a National Day of Service. In all of these cases, there was the idea that both people and companies have rights, but those rights carry certain responsibilities.

The field is evolving rapidly. What are the most important skills and knowledge citizenship professionals need to stay ahead of the curve and be successful in the future?

More important than a particular skill is a mindset and a belief. A mindset that we are surrounded by abundance, possibility, innovation, and invention and a mindset that boldly refutes the noise and naysayers to say that our best days are in front, not behind. And a fundamental and profound belief that, as Margaret Mead once suggested, “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” A belief that what we do today and how we do it really can change tomorrow. With this mindset and belief, citizenship professionals can ensure that corporations are the most powerful force for good in the world.

Finally, I have always believed in doing good while doing well as both citizens and corporate citizens and that these are mutually reinforcing. Companies that are the most diverse, most ethical, most just, and most engaged as part of the fabric of the communities where their employees work and live are the companies that perform the best financially now. This correlation will only grow stronger in the years ahead. Corporate citizenship is good business. It is essential that corporate citizenship professionals have a passion and understanding of their business to craft and drive sustainable strategies that will benefit communities, the environment, and the economy for years to come. It is also important to understand how technology and innovation drive and scale effective corporate citizenship.

What advice or lesson learned do you most often share with members of your team or other CSR professionals?

Numbers and data and ROI matter.

What is one specific piece of advice you received that has served you well in your professional journey?

A guiding principle and piece of advice comes from my former boss and mentor Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, who suggested: “service is the rent we pay for living.” Regardless of our station,  age, race, color or creed, or our day jobs, we are all called to serve each and every day. The rent or mortgage doesn’t magically get paid if you haven’t put in the work each and every day of the month.  And whether it is public service, military service, national and community service, or customer and client service, it is all rooted in the same ethos and spirit.  

Taking out your crystal ball, what current trend will still be a force five years from now, and why?

As mentioned previously, my life’s journey has been impacted by many mentors and sponsors and heroes and she-roes. For this question, I’ll pick Father Ted Hesburgh, a remarkable man of grace, who was the former President of my alma mater.

He taught me that, ultimately, ivory towers crumble in irrelevance if not applied to improving the human condition. He was the embodiment of an ordinary citizen changing the country and the world through a commitment to ideas and ideals, from chairing the first Civil Rights Commission and laying the foundation for all the major civil rights legislation of the 1960s to being a counselor to Popes and Presidents, Kings and titans of industry for decades and wrestling with all the tough issues of our time from immigration to nuclear proliferation, from higher education to the Peace Corps.

Finally, he also taught me to listen to and learn from everyone. There is a great documentary about him called “Hesburgh: One Ordinary Man. One Extraordinary Life” if you get a chance to catch it on Amazon or take a couple of hours and Google and watch his memorial service.  As a corporate citizenship professional, after you watch it, please share it with those on your team you seek to inspire, and also let me know what you think.

Thank you again to Marty for joining us! We look forward to continuing our series in 2023 as we speak with corporate social impact thought leaders and learn more about their journey.

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