Giving Thanks: Rethinking Corporate Social Responsibility
As we approach the US Thanksgiving Day and the winter holiday season, it is a natural time to reflect. This has been intensified this year by my recent experience in Spain. Having spent the better part of last week in Madrid for our customer conference, I was surrounded by the warmth and hospitality of my European colleagues, partners and customers, and the Spanish people. This was set against the harsh backdrop of protests – some of them violent – and the rash of suicides caused by Spain’s rigid foreclosure policies.
Double digit unemployment is becoming more the norm across Europe and we are experiencing a mounting debt crisis here in the US. The world needs to create over 500 million new jobs by 2020 to manage the growing unemployed, under-employed, and the new workforce of young people entering the market. The tension caused by an inability of this half billion who cannot find work to support themselves and their families is spilling over into violence and has an indelible impact on the “conscience of the world.”
I think we would all agree that unemployment is just one part of the miasma of high-impact global issues – ranging from epidemics, clean water, food shortages, global warming, over population, human slavery and *** trafficking, and any number of other attention worthy issues.
It is, then, a fantastic time to consider what corporations are doing to solve these issues and take a leadership role in their resolution. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has now moved into the forefront of many significant global organizations as a way for the collective force and resources of a large scale company to make significant inroads to tackle these problems. What used to be a “public relations whitewash” for many companies is now a strategic initiative. What used to be a scatter shot approach across a multitude of worthwhile charities and causes is now a laser focused program to create considerable value.
Brittany Lothe, Global Head of CSR for SAP thinks of it this way: “We started seeing a trend over the past 4-5 years that companies were become more strategic with their direction. It was less about “doing well by doing good’ and more on focusing on where the business is strong and helping to create real value for society.” This becomes the practice of “shared value.” Instead of practicing corporate giving in isolation, organizations focus on where they can naturally make an impact. GE was a notable first organization to think of shared value. They rebranded with “Ecomagination” and showed that they could not only push for environmental change, but they can drive society and – through that innovation – they can drive profits.
SAP’s Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative
SAP has realized that it needs to work collaboratively to find solutions to help the underserved youth and unemployed to compete in this new global economy. Focusing on education ensures that youth have the skills required to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy while working with emerging entrepreneurs helps to drive new ideas and business opportunities.
Lothe continues, “For our signature global initiative – the Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative – SAP will provide support to entrepreneurs and will work to strengthen entrepreneurial infrastructure in key emerging markets through access to our technology, talent and targeted grants. These future leaders are driving businesses that have proven proof of concepts, they have the ability to scale and utilize technology to grow, and their purpose is both responsible and sustainable. We see enormous opportunity to utilize our technology, our employees’ skills and our other core competencies to create business impact, leverage core expertise and ultimately generate lasting impact on society to improve people’s lives throughout the world.”
We face a litany of serious issues around the globe. No longer can well-resourced organizations turn a blind eye to their role in addressing these issues.
Have a similar story to tell for your organization? Connect with me on Twitter @toddmwilms or LinkedIn at any time. I will be covering this topic in 2013 and would love to hear and possibly tell your story.