Talking Purpose with Carolyn Berkowitz, featuring Raheem Uqdahl

ACCP Staff

ACCP’s President and CEO is excited to speak with Raheem Uqdahl, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Curaleaf, to learn more about how he got his start in the field, and why he thinks knowing the business is vital for those working in corporate social impact.

How did you get your start in corporate citizenship?

I started in corporate citizenship after leaving the non-profit and community organizing sector. I was interested in finding employment that felt personally aligned with the change I wanted to see in the world. At the time, corporate social responsibility/corporate citizenship was a newer function, so it required a lot of stakeholder engagement to drive a level of understanding to create the role and support the outcomes related to community impact.

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

Corporate impact relies heavily on soft skills. To be successful in social impact, you must be capable of motivating people to deliver beyond what they can see and what their job descriptions may require. Curiosity is also essential to staying on top of the ever-evolving trends and finding hidden solutions to your industry’s biggest challenges. While beneficial to have in-house, technical expertise is a set of skills that should be acquired as needed as new standards and frameworks are developed.

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

Stay flexible and look for opportunities in waste and inefficiencies. One of my professional goals is to find innovative ways to get people to look at something they may interact with daily and help them quantify or understand it in a different context. Waste is an unused input for a system of another sort, and if you can find ways to turn those byproducts into catalysts for business change, you can drive systemic change for your organization. Ensure that your programs address the root causes of your business challenges, and I believe you have the recipe for great success.

Considering the current landscape corporate social impact professionals are working in, what are the essential things you suggest they prioritize?

You must understand how your business works. We all want to make the world a more equitable and just place, but for our programs and professions to be viewed as value-added risk mitigation for our partners, we must align our efforts with the business’s bottom line. We must never stop pushing for the deeper impact we hope for, but we must enter conversations with incrementalism and realism at the center of the message. Then, we must craft a plan to get our partners from point A to point B first, then walk with them to point Z.

Who’s someone you admire, and why?

One of my biggest inspirations is Senator Bernie Sanders. I admire him not only for his life story, but also for his tenacity in speaking the truth to power and his consistency on the issues. At the end of my career, I hope to have a record as consistent and empathetic as his.

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