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Doing Business Responsibly

Toby Usnik
9:00 am, Apr 29th (EST) 
Expert Guest

Toby Usnik

Founder of Philanthropic Impact Partners
Toby Usnik is the author of The Caring Economy, published in 2018. He founded Philanthropic Impact Partners (π) in 2016, a global advisory firm that works with the world’s most influential corporations, philanthropists and social innovators to tackle problems both global and local and build a shared sense of community. Previously, Mr. Usnik was Chief Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Officer and International Director at Christie’s, the world’s leading art business. Prior to that Mr. Usnik was Senior Vice President and International Head of Corporate Communications, Christie’s International, since August 2007  Mr. Usnik joined Christie’s in May 2006 as Vice President, Public Relations, Christie’s Americas. Previously, he was Executive Director of Public Relations for The New York Times Company since 2001. Mr. Usnik was the Director of Global Communications at Razorfish, a firm specializing in digital technology consulting services. He has American Express as director of international public affairs, in administration at World Education Services in New York and at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania respectively. Mr. Usnik received his B.A. from Hampden-Sydney College, an M.S. in university administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M. Phil. degree in international and comparative education from Columbia University.
Expert Guest


In our final conversation for our Executive Education in Sustainable Fashion online series, titled “Doing Business Responsibly,” we speak with Toby Usnik author of the newly published, The Caring Economy: How to Win With Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Toby’s has had an incredible high-profile and prolific professional background. In our interview Toby speaks with us about the companies inspiring him through their CSR efforts, the future of CSR in companies and organizations and how to begin to think about implementing a CSR strategy no matter what kind of organization you have.

Doing Business Responsibly

In his interview with WeDesign, expert and author of The Caring Economy Toby Usnik speaks with us about a number of inspiring sustainable and responsible companies, initiatives and campaigns. Among them he mentions Loop, a grocery delivery service from Terracycle in partnership with major consumer labels which uses reusable packaging and for which these labels take responsibility for end of life recycling. He references Patagonia’s Wear Worn program which repairs product for longer life and use, Legos for their inclusion of equal women participation in leadership roles, and additionally Levi’s, which has in its CSR efforts, taken a strong stand against gun violence in the United States. He extolls Tencent’s “99 Charity Day” which on its WeChat platform facilitates micro-donations to charity and which he says has “inspired a generation of consumers to give back.” He references the good work of JD, one of China’s largest internet retailers, citing their efforts to promote the rural economies in China and for its use of drone delivery technology to deliver provisions to areas needing relief aid for which alternative means of delivery is rendered difficult or impossible. In addition to this, WeDesign CEO and co-founder mentions inspiring examples such as China-based Paris Station and Milan Station which are pioneering a model of and culture shift to resale or second hand luxury goods in China. He mentions companies such as The Body Shop, who were at the vanguard of CSR long before it was a widespread corporate practice. More than ever before, companies are working to “do business responsibly,” in their operations, supply chains, and among their employees and customers. Our conversation suggests that there is much more activity ahead in the area of CSR of which both companies and customers are a part.

Masterclass Intro

“We are living in the most global, connected, [and] creative time in history. Consumers have the information at their fingertips and they are making informed decisions. And they are going to make even more informed decisions. So the companies that don’t want to confront or deal with these larger issues and find solutions to authentically, and in an inspired way contribute, they are not going to be around."

Toby’s Key Steps

Towards CSR Implementation

Start with a “Listening Tour”

“The good news is you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You start with a listening tour. Talk to your employees. Start to ‘test drive’ what [your employees’] collective understanding of corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability might be.”

SWOT Analysis and Identify

“Do a SWOT analysis [of your company’s current CSR practices]. It doesn’t have to be with [a famous consulting firm]. It doesn’t need to be overwrought. [A SWOT analysis is:] Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You’ll start to identify [the CSR activities] you’ve been doing all along. You can just start to [formally] package your CSR.  [You may be] doing great things already…”

Utilize Existing Frameworks and CSR Campaigns as a Guide

“Then start to look at, for example, [existing frameworks such as] the [United Nations] Global Compact, the [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It brings efficiency to ‘the caring economy’ because you can see what are the [existing] causes [and] issues and [learn about] which brands are already [advancing their CSR] in those areas. [You can discover] which organizations are doing things around environment or equality [for example]. And then you can start to not ‘reinvent the wheel’ but work with those existing resources and partners.”

Start to Scale Up

“We’ve got to do something here. We’ve got to scale this up. We’ve got to share the message. We’ve got to evangelize.... This is where the world is headed. And if we can help… I think then we are really helping to solve the problems that are facing the planet.”

Keep on Iterating

“And then iterate. Just keep on trying [different efforts] on a small scale… Just keep iterating and campaigning. Because it’s never done.”

key steps

Ask Yourself

  • Which companies inspire you with their efforts in CSR?

  • How can your company and organization implement CSR into your operations?

  • As a consumer, is it important to you when a company is committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices?

Continue Your Learning

  • To order Toby’s book, The Caring Economy: How to Win With Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), please visit

  • The UN Global Compact is “the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative,” helping companies to align business activities to “universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. Visit their website at:

  • The United Nation Sustainable Development Goals “are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.” Learn more about this global agenda at:

  • Patagonia’s “repair-as-service” Worn Wear “celebrates the stories we wear, keeps your gear in action longer and provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments when they’re beyond repair.” Check out this program at their website:

  • Nudie Jeans also hosts a repair-as-service for their product:

  • Mud Jeans denim rental (they have retail also):

  • Atacac, a clothing company who developed a pricing model that aims to avoid inventory waste. They share their model open source at their website:

  • A U.S.-based outerwear/ sportswear brand, Voormi, whose model is to maintain their local, distributed manufacturing model:

Further Learning
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