Exploring intersection of social work and business

Social work is good business: One alum's journey in Corporate America, MSW could be the MBA of the future

A decade ago, many corporations wouldn’t have offered a social worker a position on staff. However, as companies are being asked to address the environmental and social impacts of their operations, social workers are ideally suited to help address stakeholder concerns. This is where Brandon Tidwell, MSW '02, found himself in 2007.

Brandon has always been fascinated with the intersection of social work and business operations. Over the last 10 years, Brandon has served in corporate social responsibility (CSR) roles at FedEx, Darden Restaurants, Blue Shield of California and now SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

"When I worked for the New Memphis Institute, my role was to identify emerging leaders from business, non-profits and government agencies. The program immersed these professionals into the community and then asked them to use their skills and talents to build the capacity of non-profits in Memphis."

It was here that Brandon found himself at the intersection of three sectors, learning how business leaders could begin to address social and environmental issues.

Brandon Tidwell

“That’s when a friend recommended me for a job at FedEx, working in their charitable giving department. My role was to shape and deliver programs that engaged FedEx’s people and resources to solve social and environmental challenges," Brandon said. "We supported the development of improved transit throughout Latin America to reduce congestion and enhance the quality of life for citizens. We also invested heavily in conservation projects to improve the quality of the environment.”

After five years in CSR, Brandon began his MBA at the University of North Carolina to gain further insights and experience on how to make the case for social and environmental programs. He moved to Darden in 2011, where he focused on seafood sustainability, environmental programs, and finding opportunities to address social and animal welfare issues. Here he was able to use his background as a social worker and community organizer to leverage corporate resources to solve social challenges and creating new opportunities for the business.

Brandon moved on to healthcare reform and helping Blue Shield of California live out its non-profit mission. Brandon helped re-engage the workforce in addressing community needs, created a renewable energy strategy to reduce health impacts and costs, and identified community-based programs that to improve health and connectivity for low-income individuals throughout California.

Today, Brandon has begun a new role as the director of Corporate Responsibility at Sea World. From the start, he’s used his experience as a social worker and business professional to help the company navigate how they can best address stakeholder concerns while growing the business and advancing animal welfare and conservation on a global scale.

"My passion is to tell the story about how social workers can make a positive impact in the business world," Brandon said. "Businesses can make a positive impact on the world, not just make a profit, and we can be a part of that movement! There is a role for social workers in the world of business, a set of skills not taught in business schools."