The casino industry may not be where you would first expect to see praiseworthy corporate social responsibility efforts. But the Caesars Entertainment executive in charge of CSR and sustainability, Gwen Migita, says, “We like to be the unusual suspect.”
In an interview with Yahoo Finance at the IEG World sports sponsorship conference in Chicago, Migita said her department at Caesars is now “core to pitches” for new partnerships, “including the NFL.”
In January, the NFL named Caesars the first ever “official casino sponsor” of the league. This was after the NBA, MLB, and NHL all went with MGM for their first casino sponsorships. While a great deal of different conversations surely went on behind the scenes for Caesars to score the partnership, to hear Migita tell it, Caesars’ seriousness about CSR played a role.
The NFL, Migita says, “were interested in working with veterans, for example. There are supportive clubs around the NFL Alumni Association.” Diversity hiring is a key pillar of CSR, as well as in ESG (environmental, social, and governance), another acronym becoming more popular these days for big companies to demonstrate conscientious business.
“We actually started looking at this about seven years ago when we were mostly private [Caesars went public in 2012], and we came up with an ESG roadmap for the company as we were setting up our investor relations arm,” Migita says. “I think a lot of companies are really in catch-up mode. So the typical board member might say, ‘Governance is about the board, it’s not part of sustainability.’ But in fact it really is—there’s so much influence that a sustainability arm, if core to the business, if core to policy, can really drive results and governance.”
Indeed, last month Martin Kremenstein, the head of ETFs at investment firm Nuveen, told Yahoo Finance the key reason Kraft Heinz didn’t make the cut for Nuveen’s ESG ETF was governance: “The board is stacked with 3G executives, Berkshire Hathaway executives, and ex-Kraft executives. There’s no independent effective oversight.”
In addition to governance, Migita’s purview includes everything from green meetings to “representation, diversity, responsible gaming, and empowerment targets.”
All of that may sound like jargon, but prioritizing such efforts (or, a skeptic might say, convincing partners that you’re prioritizing such efforts) is becoming a need, not a nice-to-have, for publicly traded companies—especially if they’re looking to woo a potential big league partner.
Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.