As governments around the world struggle to provide traditional safety nets and engender trust, a new generation of professionals sees hope in corporations
By Jeff Somers, Mediaplanet Editorial Team
This piece was originally published in Mediaplanet's Business for Good 2017 campaign on 7/21/2017
Around the world today, governments are pursuing a more conservative approach to expenditure on social impact initiatives. As a result, people are looking more to corporations to fill the void. One effect of this is that the “triple bottom line” is now evolving into a model whereby passion and purpose drive business profit. The business case for “goodness” is so strong that companies today must burnish those credentials in order to attract not just the best employees, but also market share.
Goodness at the core
“There are a lot of companies realizing that doing good for society and doing good for their business can, and should, be one and the same,” Danielle Silber, director of strategic partnerships development for the American Civil Liberties Union, points out. “The sustainable approach,” she says, “is not just greenwashing and marketing, but having those principles incorporated in the DNA of these companies.”
One of the ways companies are achieving this is by empowering their employees through modern workplace giving, volunteer and community investment programs. “Today’s businesses are looking for transformational ways to create a greater sense of purpose in peoples’ work by being a positive force in society,” says Bryan de Lottinville, founder and CEO at Benevity, a B Corporation that helps companies engage their stakeholders around “goodness” to drive business and social impact.
“Benevity is helping companies infuse a culture of goodness into their DNA by better engaging a diverse workforce that is pursuing work-life integration instead of work-life balance,” de Lottinville continues. “Bringing activities like giving and volunteering under the employer brand can therefore be a powerful force that bonds the employee to the company, while creating social impact. If you want a really powerful cocktail for social and business impact today, your employee giving and volunteering programs need to have choice, convenience and user-centricity at their core.”
Passion and purpose driving profit
Lara Birkes, VP and chief sustainability officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, sees the changes in a broad context as well. “In the face of global political uncertainty, businesses are increasingly emerging as stewards of sustainability and social impact, driven by customers and employees who want to engage with a company that aligns with their values.”
Recent events underscore this. After the so-called “travel ban” executive order earlier this year, Google employees raised $2 million for refugee support in less than 24 hours after the company pledged to match their efforts. And nearly 60 tech companies joined an amicus brief filed against the order.
Silber says the ACLU has witnessed this shift firsthand. “We’re seeing companies coming to us at the local, state and national level to ask for our advice on how they can better protect their employees and customers or to ask where they can apply their advocacy muscle because they know that these initiatives will also hurt some of the main stakeholders that make their company work.”
Technology platforms like Benevity’s market-leading solution, Spark, are crucial to to engaging employees in workplace activities that align with corporate values. “We recognize that we can make a bigger impact on the communities in which we operate and harness the skills of our employees by contributing time and talent to local causes,” says Birkes, citing the company’s employee-generated volunteer communities as an example of the company’s user-centric and choice-driven goodness philosophy.
One thing is certain: The new reality is employees and customers increasingly demand that roles traditionally filled by governments be willingly taken on by the corporate sector.