Today’s corporate leaders believe businesses are better equipped to create social change than charities.
But can for-profits really become for-more-than-profits?
When we think of businesses acting in the community, several images may come to mind: fundraising in the office for a charity, colleagues getting active with a day out volunteering or pro-bono services, or maybe a product line that ties sales to giving something to those in need.
Increasingly, however, today’s corporate leaders think their social action should become less about “giving” and more about “acting”–moving corporate activity into what was previously firmly charity or government turf.
A delivery service can use its infrastructure to transport goods for purchase, as well as to link up with charities and rural delivery systems to create a new network for delivering supplies for medical relief. A freight management firm can use its expertise in risk avoidance to minimize costs, as well as to consult with local government and NGOs and build a mutually beneficial partnership for improving road safety.
In a recent poll commissioned by our organization, The Social Investment Consultancy (TSIC), an overwhelming 91% of U.K. senior business leaders stated they believed businesses acting in such ways that use their core strengths would be more or effective in creating social change as compared with giving to charity. Only 9% felt charitable donations would be the most effective way for businesses to contribute.
While a stunning statistic on its face, in a sense it is not surprising that business leaders have moved towards thinking they can best contribute to social change through applying what they do best to the problem. This viewpoint fits with current thinking in corporate social responsibility practice, which has evolved significantly over the past decades from being primarily reactionary, to seeing real shareholder value in pursuing economic and social progress together.
The idea has gone mainstream. A recent Forbes Insights study of global executives found that 93% believed their company could “create economic value by creating societal value.” Furthermore, 84% agreed that “companies need to evolve their giving programs from simply giving money to broader social innovation.”
Yet while executives’ aspirations clearly have moved towards wanting to innovate in their approach to community engagement, are businesses actually doing this? And more importantly, are those who are doing it doing it well?
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