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Corporate Heroism

Heroism is not a word commonly associated with corporations. But it should be. Henry Miller says, “The ordinary man is involved in action, the hero acts.” Today, corporates involve themselves in action to impact social issues, mainly through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They lend their vast profits and resources to offer assistance to solve some of the world’s complex problems, like poverty, child welfare, sex trafficking, global warming. But imagine the transformative power of a Fortune 500 multi-national corporation choosing to not only be involved in the solution to social or environmental issues but to challenge one issue head on and fully commit to its resolution.

The ability of corporations to change the world is real and truer than ever before. The amount of power and resources at their fingertips – billions of dollars, celebrities, branding, advertising, political clout – is greater and more interconnected than the pre-Internet, pre-Citizens United days. Combining all of these not only easily convinces consumers to buy into something for a good cause but is also the formula to make change in society.

Plus, corporations have arguably reached an all-time high level of awareness of their significance in the global efforts toward solving social issues. This is urged in part by the UN’s Millennium Development goals to enable “a world with less poverty, hunger and disease, greater survival prospects for mothers and their infants, better-educated children, equal opportunities for women, and a healthier environment.”

But it’s not only corporates who are aware. Increasingly, consumers, investors and the public are beginning to expect social action from big business. We want corporates to use some of our patronage, which increases their economic power (and makes rich people richer),to help eradicate global poverty, hunger and disease, be environmentally responsible and to give back to the communities where they work. Consumers can easily research how corporations spend their profits and decide whether to buy their products based on responsibility alone. Investors want the same thing. Why invest in a company with a bad reputation rather than one that is socially responsible and environmentally sustainable?

We call on big business to choose to resolve one social issue and bring us along for the fight by integrating it fully into its corporate DNA. This is the only way to truly capitalize on corporate social responsibility. To put it simply: we implore corporations to put their dollars and resources behind a problem and then commit to solve it. The power of unwavering focus will surely bring about major change. And don’t worry; there are plenty of issues to go around.

There are some organizations that do this well. For nearly 40 years McDonald’s Ronald McDonald House Charities, practically tantamount with the omnipresent McDonald’s fast food chain, has directly improved the lives of children. M.A.C.’s VIVA GLAM cosmetics – from which every penny of the sale price benefit the M.A.C. AIDS Fund to support those suffering from HIV and AIDS around the world – is  another.  M.A.C.’s VIVA GLAM has made its company a trailblazer in CSR raising over $224 million dollars since 1994. Both companies are almost synonymous with the one issue they choose to effect – rendering their impact practically sonic. But these examples are simply too few and far between.

We also call on non-profits and NGOs to step it up. We need to engage corporations more and develop funding models that are mutually beneficial. Here at PDT, we don’t take the words “Corporate Social Responsibility” lightly and have developed a highly successful corporate engagement strategy to optimize the corporate presence in the developing world.

Through power and influence corporations are the only institutions that have the brawn to rapidly change the world. And with great power comes great responsibility. Sage advice from a legendary hero.

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1 Comment

  1. James says:

    Is the solution necessarily for corporations to start up new charity wings, or for many to adjust their standard operating practices? Not to say it needs to be an either or, but for many multi-national corporations, the big issues are how the extract resources abroad or treat labour. So for example while technology companies donating malaria vaccines and inner-city youth programmes is good, enforcing strict rules on how they source minerals for parts in conflict zones that the don’t further fuel conflict, treat their workers with good labour standards, and are environmentally sound in their extractive processes, to me, is far more important. Dell informing their customers on how to properly dispose of old parts so that toxins don’t get into local water systems would be a great contribution. In many ways, it’s not what many corporations can offer, it’s what they can change about what they are already doing. In the end, it will fall back on the consumer to pay a little bit more, and the consumer can just run off to the guy who didn’t play by the rules. It’s great that a company that has nothing to do with AIDS does put money towards helping those suffering, but so much more could be done if major pharmaceuticals stopped restrictions on generic drugs or allowed their patents to be turned over to a common cause. A lot could change in this world if business as usual would change.


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