Helping Organizations in the Shift Toward Social Responsibility

by Tyler Pincus and Lusana Ornelas | Mar 28, 2018

Tyler Pincus and Lusana Ornelas are students in the Class of 2019. Both are majoring in Business and focusing on using brand management as a way to positively influence the world.

There are many ways to change the world. Some people volunteer their time, others donate money to charitable causes. Some pursue careers in the nonprofit sector, others take governmental positions. For Minerva students Tyler Pincus and Lusana Ornelas, they interned at large corporations to have a positive impact on their communities through business.

While the last path may not seem to be the most obviously philanthropic, “business” and “social responsibility” do not have to be mutually exclusive. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and conscious capitalism are increasingly influential fields that aim to combine traditional business with ethical practices. Responding to the rise of the conscious consumer, many businesses are exhibiting more transparency around production, such as adopting ethical supply-chain policies and financially supporting philanthropic goals, just to name a few. While consumers hold different opinions about what is “right” versus “wrong,” and to varying degrees, one thing remains clear: business as usual is not cutting it anymore.

Tyler Pincus is a third-year student from the United States who has always been interested in social impact in the public sector and nonprofit space. After realizing that some of his favorite brands had campaigns focused on inclusion and sustainability, he decided to explore the relationship between social impact and consumerism.

“It’s really interesting how brands today are focused on social impact and positioning themselves so that people can relate to them on a deeper level than just clothing or just a media product. Now we’re seeing more and more companies creating communities and taking on larger social missions,” says Pincus. “So I’m interested in how, from the private sector, we can create scalable change that can be more bottom-up than top-down.”

Pincus connected with Minerva’s Professional Development Agency to better define his long term goals and determine the skills he was interested in developing that summer. Using his desire to work in the media and entertainment sector as a guide, Pincus participated in career coaching meetings to explore opportunities that would allow him to work in a collaborative environment making strategic recommendations through a synthesis of qualitative and quantitative data. When the Professional Development Agency created an opportunity with the New Ventures Group at Audible Inc. (an Amazon company), the largest producer of spoken word content and downloadable audiobooks, Pincus prepared, applied for, and secured the internship. There, he saw firsthand how the international organization included CSR initiatives in both its creation of products as well as the making of everyday decisions.

Pincus was specifically drawn to Audible Inc. because of the company’s connection to his home state of New Jersey. In 2007, Donald Katz, the Founder and CEO, decided to move the company’s headquarters to Newark, New Jersey. Katz was determined to revitalize the disenfranchised Newark community and provided incentives to encourage employees to volunteer, live and eat locally, and work with the nearby neighborhoods. Katz integrated the city of Newark into Audible Inc.’s success — a move that has been noticeable to consumers, including Pincus. “The connection to Newark can always be felt at Audible, from work events and lunch breaks at local restaurants to volunteer opportunities in the city. Audible prioritizes hiring local talent, from high school interns to full-time employees,” reflects Pincus. “As a New Jersey native, it was powerful to work for a company so involved in Newark’s turnaround.”

During his internship, Pincus conducted market research to explore growth opportunities. Previously, while studying in Buenos Aires, he had performed similar e-commerce research on a civic project with startup MercadoLibre, which helped him acquire professional skills in a short period of time. This prior experience enabled Pincus to quickly understand how to be effective and efficient in his responsibilities with Audible Inc. “When I was given an assignment, I tried to think not just about what the assignment was but about how it might be used in the future, then [I would] think about how I could add a layer to it so that it would be even more useful. It was something my boss commended at my end-of-summer review,” Pincus shares.

One standard brand management process is developing a unique style for an entity which subsequently individualizes a brand and creates desire for a particular product. However, this practice often evolves into creating an sense of inherent exclusivity. And while this desire-driven marketing is often effective and unlikely to go away any time soon, the consumer market is now valuing brands that incorporate social issues into their mission.

“I think it is really inspiring that there are corporate executives and others in the private sector who are passionate about [change]. When people think of consumerism, social impact is likely not the first thing that they think about,” Pincus continues. “It’s inspiring to see consumers wanting brands to be more than just products, and it’s a really exciting movement to be a part of.”

At first glance, getting women interested in beer as a beverage may not seem like a feminist project. But for Lusana Ornelas, a third-year student from Brazil, helping Anheuser-Busch create a marketing campaign to increase brand awareness among female consumers is a way to reduce gender stereotypes.

A Business major with a focus in brand management, Ornelas has used her classes and global rotation experience to better understand brand management as an effective vehicle to deliver societal change. “I’ve always been an activist when it comes to gender equality and I care a lot about social responsibility,” Ornelas explains.

Once she studied brand management — the relationship between a company and consumer — she decided to use her academic interest to address her values. Ornelas often hears that business and capitalism are inherently “bad.” However, this opinion does not dissuade her; she is thrilled by the challenge of changing the power dynamic and using the influence of businesses to scale philanthropic goals. “If companies are actually the institutions that have the resources, why don’t we use them to make this change and this shift? Why don’t we [run businesses] in a more sustainable, more ethical way?”

For her current project with Anheuser-Busch Companies, where she is interning, Ornelas aims to eliminate sexist messaging in beer advertisements. Last semester while living in Seoul, Ornelas performed market research to better understand the preferences of South Korean women, as well as how other beverage companies in South Korea advertised their products. She has directly applied the lessons she learned in her Business classes, such as how companies can interact with their customers in a genuine manner, to her internship responsibilities. She conducted interviews with South Korean women to learn the customer needs and desires. During this research phase, she saw that beer campaigns targeted men and propagated the stereotype that beer is a male-only beverage. Now living in Hyderabad, she is continuing her collaboration with Anheuser-Busch Companies to devise a campaign that not only meets the company’s customers’ requirements but also aims to inspire drinkers to think about their actions in a socially responsible way.

Ornelas is using her internship to gain valuable brand management skills and experience she plans to apply to advance gender equality across cultures and societies. While working within the business sector enables her to pursue complex problem-solving initiatives, she understands that it is not the only path for mission-driven individuals with a desire to change the world.

When asked if she had anything to share about her experience that would be relevant to others looking to make a similar impact, Ornelas suggests, “I chose business because that’s what I love to do, and I think it’s a sustainable path because businesses have so much influence and power. But you don’t need to [follow my exact path] to make social change and social impact. You can make change in so many other fields while doing what you love.”

There are many ways to change the world; and it is very easy to do none of them. Luckily, Pincus and Ornelas are up for the challenge. By combining their problem-solving expertise with their passion for social change and applying it to their professional aspirations, these two Minerva students are making strides to improve the relationship between businesses and consumers.