by Leo Jakobson | September 30, 2013
Every year, Incentive gathers a group of experienced professionals from every sector of motivation, engagement, and incentives to talk about the state of the industry. On June 20, 12 participants gathered at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, FL, for some sun, sand, and serious conversation. Topics this year ranged from government regulation and return on investment to gamification and the return of luxury. 

What follows is a more detailed and extended version of that discussion regarding corporate social responsibility.

INCENTIVE: Is corporate social responsibility (CSR) something that’s still important?

MIKE MAY, President, Spear One, and Trustee, Incentive Research Foundation: In the incentive travel realm, I think CSR is something that the planner is passionate about, but I do not think that the participants care. There was a Site [Society of Incentive Travel Executives] Foundation study last year, “Participant’s Viewpoint of Incentive Travel [Part 3],” and the one motivational thing that ranked the lowest of all to people was CSR. They care about the destination and their activities. So, I think the planner thinks about it, and the CEO thinks it would be good to do something while we’re in this nice tourist destination, driving by people that aren’t as blessed as we are, but [the participants are not motivated by it]. 

CLAUDIA DAVILA, Tourism Director – USA, Proexport Colombia: They don’t ask for it much. My destination could offer a lot of social responsibility opportunities. Colombia has this contrast of rich people and really, really poor people. Whenever they ask, I say if you want to do social responsibility there are a lot of places where I can take you. Very rarely do they ask for it. 

LYNN RANDALL, Managing Director, Randall Insights LLC, and Education Director, Incentive Research Foundation (IRF): IRF research found that about 40 percent [of planners] are using [CSR] in their incentive travel programs, which has been static for years. 

MICHAEL DOMINGUEZ, Senior Vice President, Corporate Hotel Sales, MGM Resorts International; Chair, Meeting Professionals International; and Executive Committee Member, U.S. Travel Association: We find that the importance mirrors the culture of the companies that are coming. There are companies that have it as a part of their company cultures, and you see their employees are engaging in CSR, and it matters. Then there are other companies that are trying to force the issue so to speak — saying, ‘We’re going to go do this’ — but it isn’t innate in their corporate cultures, and it doesn’t matter as much to their attendees. 

KIRSTEEN SCOTT, Business Visits & Events Manager, VisitEngland: [We can offer the option.] If people want to do it, they can participate. That makes them feel good. If it works for you, it works for you. If doesn’t work for you, then we don’t need to do it.

DOMINIGUEZ: We’ll have 3,000 attendees and we’ll have 500 people for whom it will be important. That’s the balance. Going back to the demographic shift, the one thing that has been common with the Millennials is that they are literally the most philanthropic generation we’ve ever seen. They want to change the world.

JOE KELLER, President and COO, MotivAction: I have 18- and 21-year-old daughters. Since they’ve been in fifth grade, part of their curriculum has always been service. They’ve grown up with it; they always ask, ‘What’s my service project this semester? How many hours?’ They don’t know anything different. They have to have so many hours to graduate. Then they graduate, and there’s a service aspect to the college curriculum now.

ANNMARIE MOLINELLI, Vice President, Marketing Manager, M&T Securities, Inc: We have volunteer programs constantly within our organization. We would absolutely go do that. Do we do a lot of them? No. There are two or three big program across the board now. We have a big focus on our communities — that’s No. 1 for our organization actually: our community commitments.

DOMINGUEZ: I think that with CSR, it’s important to recognize that the term has changed. You guys are focusing on community in this discussion, and CSR in most corporations today is more about community, sustainability, and diversity within the workplace.