The Exchange 2021 - Owning the Table

The 2021 Exchange brought members together to discuss how best to own the table. The last 18 months have firmly placed CR&S and ESG issues at the heart of business discussions and called for innovative, brave, and collaborative approaches to delivering positive social and environmental impacts. Over 100 members joined us virtually to hear from members and fellow practitioners on topics such as Net Zero, Social Mobility, CR&S Reporting, and ESG and Investor Relations. Our two keynote sessions on Owning the Table and Active Adaptation provided a rare opportunity to take a step back and think about the skills and behaviours needed to drive change as a sustainability practitioner. Members even enjoyed virtual networking on the Hopin platform, and in-person networking at our Member Drinks event held the following evening. Thank you once again to all our speakers and members who were able to attend.

You can watch all the recorded sessions below and check out the key resources mentioned.

‘Owning the Table’ – Embedding transformative change

Our keynote this year focused on how CR&S professionals, currently at the centre of the sustainability wave, can work cross-business and with key stakeholders to drive embedded, long-term and transformative change, enabling the agenda to be ‘owned’ at C-suite and in the business.

Three speakers from Royal London Group, the UK’s largest mutual financial services company, shared their united collaboration across social impact, strategy and brand, to move the business from a strong social impact programme to an embedded purpose framework.

Nadia Al Yafai, Head of Mutuality & Impact, and ICRS Board director, shared the journey of developing the company’s social impact programme, from driving employee engagement, through to focusing on social innovation on the purpose impact areas. Along the way, she worked as the business lead on the Purpose work, with the strategy division, to collaboratively develop the purpose, impact areas, and latterly the metrics and outcomes. This relationship, with Strategy and Brand, has been built on a long period of demonstrating the wider value of the programme, horizon scanning, and utilising her existing, strong networks to get buy-in.

‘I’ve actively pivoted my role and expertise, to enable true embedding of the Purpose. Bringing the CR&S professionals’ knowledge, passion and outsider-in approach to get societal and environmental agendas at the heart of the business, is ‘owning the table’. Nadia Al Yafai, Head of Mutuality & Impact, Royal London.

Amy Higgs, Head of Strategy’s team is responsible for working with the CEO and Exec to develop and articulate the strategy. ‘Our changing landscape is bigger than our operating environment and the balance of market forces, it is also about the role we play in our customers lives and in society’. Amy talked about how the purpose was developed, with Nadia and other SMEs, through engaging colleagues in purpose cafes, surveys and with senior leaders, to develop and iterate the purpose, in a way that resonated. Amy talked about the role Nadia played in this, ‘guiding us on what it really meant to be purpose driven, and why it mattered’.  A key value of alignment with SMEs was enabling the purpose to reflect the existing social impact commitments, the company’s focus on the customer, and its commitment to sustainability under one cohesive framework and message. 

‘The Purpose framework became a key addition to our strategy articulation this year – setting out our focus as a business and is now our north star,’ Amy Higgs, Head of Strategy.

Nadia Robinson, Senior Brand & Sponsorship Manager, talked about how the development of the purpose and strategy, helped set the direction for the whole organisation, and helped shape the brand campaigns. ‘The purpose being in place has given the brand a platform to create a bold campaign, and the early results, are promising, so it’s paying off’.  This means that commercially, a purpose-driven brand campaign talking about responsible investment and climate change, has enabled the team to drive brand fame for our pensions company, which is really positive.  

‘It’s testament to what can be achieved if you pull together your narrative and go to market with a compelling story, underpinned by authenticity. It sounds cliché but it really does need a ‘one team’ mentality.’  Nadia Robinson, Senior Brand & Sponsorship Manager    

Recorded Sessions:

Introduction and Keynote Address: Owning the Table


Net Zero and Climate Change


ESG and Investor Relations




Keynote Session: Bravery in 2021 is about Active Adaptation

Resources related to this session:

Bravery and Active Adaptation Slides - Forster Communications and CAF

Closing Thoughts from the ICRS