Porter Novelli

Note: The following is a guest post from Bill Novelli, the first in a series based on his comments from a co-convening of Social Capital and Points of Light. Most of the attendees were corporate execs, with a smattering of nonprofit execs included. The event was a joint session with Social Capital and Points of Light that sought to understand how to approach partnerships and where to go from there. It took place in Alexandria, VA on Feb. 23. You can read the introduction to the post here, part one of the series here, part two here and part three here.

Public policy reforms and therefore policy advocacy will become increasingly important

Bill NovelliCompanies have long engaged in public policy, directly through corporate channels, via trade associations and through partnerships. Now even more companies are getting involved. A recent New York Times article said that today’s tech companies, even the youngest ones, have accepted lobbying as an essential part of doing business.

Businesses engaging in public policy are an essential part of our democratic political system. Companies usually focus on policy issues closely related to their industry and business interests.

But more and more, companies are also advocating for policy change concerning overarching social and environmental issues that go beyond their specific industry and corporate interests. For example, there is a CEO coalition working to reduce the U.S. national debt and deficit. And Apple, McDonald’s and Marriott have been engaged in urging Congress to modernize America’s immigration system.

Candi Wolff, EVP for Global Government Affairs at Citigroup, talks about the importance of integrating her company’s public policy and social responsibility.

In my view, as collaborations for good expand and become more effective, in countries and across continents, policy advocacy will become even more important as part of the strategic mix.

The Bloomberg Foundation supports the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to train and nurture local advocacy organizations in many counties, including Russia, China, Brazil, Kenya, and others to reform policies to reduce tobacco use. And now they are branching off into other issues, including road accidents. In these programs, companies are always welcome, although not yet a major part of the effort.

There are risks involved in companies engaging in public policy advocacy as part of social programs. Issues, no matter how much they are part of the public good, can be politicized.

Companies have to weigh these risks, and won’t always want to be part of this aspect of social change. But many will. In C-TAC, our coalition to reform advanced illness and end of life care, many of our corporate partners are essential players in our advocacy initiatives.

Our business school at Georgetown and the Bipartisan Policy Center are holding a roundtable discussion next month on evaluating policy advocacy. A number of companies, nonprofits, foundations and others are involved. If you are interested, please let me know.