There is a stronger and stronger belief that businesses should participate in solving global and societal issues. In the panel “Redefining Corporate Practices for Good” moderated by Professor Rajesh Chandy at the 2015 Philanthropreneurship Forum, speakers explored ways in which corporate stakeholders can contribute to social good and how these actions can also have a positive impact on their business performance.
Senator George Mitchell, Chairman Emeritus at DLA Piper, and Ms Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, discussed how pro bono legal work can bring stability and promote rule of law in communities, improve growth and well-being for the company and the society at large. Senator Mitchell also mentioned how these goals attract high-achieving, forward-thinking employees. “It has become a great recruiting tool because young people want to act in ways that we do well, but also do good”, he said.
Senator Mitchell added as well that if corporations still have a hard time in realising the impact philanthropy has on the communities they live in and for their own employees within the workplace, “all you have to do is to identify some degree of self-interest for the corporation (…) Branding is important and if you can enhance your brand by doing good things, you can satisfy yourself that doing good is doing good business too”.
Ms Hadeel Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and Mr. Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, then underlined the importance of the professional development of employees. “Before you talk about corporate social responsibility, make sure the way in which you do business is consistent with corporate social responsibility” said Ms Ibrahim. She reminded that this implies that businesses should not only create jobs to be completed by people, but to provide a career for their employees. “Imagine what companies could do if they cleaned up their inner supply chain”, added Ms Villa.
The panel members moved on to emphasize the importance of collaborations between corporations, governments and NGOs. In order to work better together, the panellists agreed on the particular force of NGOs in bringing creativity and a strong vision of social good that oftentimes is not obvious to companies. The latter, on the other hand, have the ability to think efficiently about outcomes and scale.
“If both sides stick to their knitting, you can have brilliant collaborations,” pointed out Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, Chairman of the Electrum Group and Chairman, Panthera.
Ms Ibrahim said that she believes the collaborations need to be much more efficient in terms of figuring out real needs and coming up with long term solutions. Instead of NGOs asking blindly for money and corporations financing only what interests them and only too little, she made a call to action to humanitarians and businesses to work better together. Most of all, she underlined the frequent reluctance of the private sector to get involved in “messier issues”, when corporations could actually offer a remarkable capacity to address pressing challenges.
“122 million people needed life-saving assistance last year (…) The budget that we used to look after these people was 25 billion dollars. 1% of that budget came from the private sector. Probably less”, she said.
The discussion ended on a more hopeful note as panellists looked to the future. Mr Clifton talked about how he witnessed an evolution of what people define as life goals through Gallup surveys.
Ms Villa added that she has personally seen change in the people she hires – cohorts of employees who want to achieve something with their lives and leave corporate law firms to work for foundations. “There is a new generation of people to whom purpose is at least as important as money”, she said.