Conferences always stir new insights as dialogue leads to a rush of new perspectives. Recently I had the opportunity to attend two great conferences: a partnership event put on at the United Nations through ECOSOC (the UN’s Economic and Social Council) and BCLC’s Environmental Symposium entitled Bricks and Sticks (on the man-made and natural worlds). Both events contained interesting dialogues relevant to research.
Damned Lies and Statistics
At one point during BCLC’s Environmental Symposium, a panelist made an argument supported by “fact-based evidence.” In response, another panelist joked: “you can find ‘fact-based evidence’ to support all positions.” Delivered well, this quip brought a laugh from attendees. While certainly meant as a joke, I think this view struck a chord. Most people seem to believe that you can find a fact to support any opinion.
When I used to teach introductory statistics to undergraduates, one of my favorite exercises was to have the students try to lie with statistics. I gave them a social science database filled with hundreds of variables, and asked them to create spurious connections. Try as they might, the students quickly learned how hard it was to create misleading facts. Correlations failed to be significant. Groups were too divergent to slot into the right places. Never once did a student come to me with a slam-dunk – most could only muster weak, unconvincing relationships.
BCLC just launched the nomination and application cycle for its 2013 Citizens Awards. These are important awards for the field; companies, local Chambers, and NGO partners are well served to go through the submission process.
For the past few years I’ve had the privilege of serving as a first round judge for the “Citizens,” as they are called (one day will this slip off the tongue as easily as “The Oscars” ?). The application and evaluative criteria call for companies that take a strategic approach to social challenges. This means businesses which define, create, and measure “shared value” outcomes and which integrate responsible practices into business strategy.
In the past, my role in reviewing applications has not only exposed me to inspiring corporate initiatives, but has also offered a window into the struggles of how companies frame and communicate their corporate responsibility (CR) practices.
The Citizens look for companies, like last year’s Corporate Stewardship Award winner, nutrition and life sciences company DSM, that are on the journey to make CR the way they do business. For DSM this means innovating products, services, and business models...
A coalition of organizations that provided relief in Port-au-Prince following the Haiti earthquake have joined together to systematically apply the lessons learned from past disasters. They have created the Port Resiliency Program, or PReP, a public-private partnership that aims to work with Caribbean and Latin American airports and seaports to strengthen their ability to respond to and recover quickly from a crisis.
Strong, resilient airports and seaports are at the heart of effective response and recovery following a hurricane or other natural disaster. The tragic aftermath of Hurricane Georges demonstrated just what happens when ports fail. In 1998, category 4 Hurricane Georges swept across the Caribbean, devastating Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and the United States, causing 604 deaths and nearly $6 billion in property damage.
Sadly, severely damaged ports greatly complicated the distribution of relief supplies and personnel, slowing the pace of life-saving humanitarian aid. Incapacitated or poorly-functioning ports further delayed the recovery of fragile island economies, creating a ripple effect that deepened the distress of stricken communities.
PReP facilitates significant, cost-effective improvements by focusing on fortifying current...
It’s challenging enough to uncover business leads, maintain excellent customer service, create and introduce new products or services, deal with daily business and manage operational issues. Who has time to think about crisis preparedness? But the best time to think about a crisis is before it happens. Why? Because crisis planning can help mitigate the damage in a sensitive or crisis scenario or even help avoid it entirely. So, what should you do?
Identify and assess your vulnerabilities. A critical step is to look within your organization, its industry, and the business world in general to identify which types of crises could happen and the likelihood of their occurrence. After identification, prioritize risks in terms of their probability and develop a plan to deal with them. Also, identify whether any of the vulnerabilities be dealt with now and if you can establish safeguards to ensure these issues won’t escalate.
Proactively manage your reputation. Organizations with an excellent reputation are those who cultivate trust and credibility through open communication and honest business dealings. These companies can leverage their positive image can be leveraged in times of trouble; when these companies speak,...
Last year, at the July 18 Role of Business in Environmental Innovation Working Meeting, BCLC and Shell gave a preview of the Environmental Innovation Map. At the time, the map displayed only 25 projects, and the projects were deemed innovative based on a case-by-case evaluation.
Over the past year, with the help of the Institute for Sustainable Development, we are proud to share that we have added a robust and detailed process for discovering and validating projects for the map. We began by identifying over 25 sustainability blogs and an additional 25 Google search terms to search routinely for interesting ideas and products. Using these sources, we assembled a large collection of potential projects for the map.
Once we had identified potential projects we ran them through a strict validation process. To be considered for the map, a project had to meet at least one of nine criteria – which included...
[Editor’s Note: BCLC and Richard Crespin will be continuing the discussion on non-profit capacity building at the upcoming Weekend in Boca IV. To learn more, visit www.officedepotfoundation.org/weekendinboca.]
When Capital One bought ING Direct last year in the first big bank acquisition since Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act, the deal was subject to a high level of scrutiny. While regulators poured over the facts and figures, what they really wanted to know was could Capital One be trusted?
"We had hearings with the [Federal Reserve] in three different cities. Numerous nonprofits testified on our behalf about our corporate character," said Carolyn Berkowitz, Managing Vice President for Capital One Bank and President of the Capital One Foundation. “They all said, ‘...this is a company that’s going to add to our community, not detract from it...’ That kind of commitment doesn’t come from just writing a check.”
Milton Friedman famously said, “the business of business is business.” Corporate responsibility skeptics often ape Friedman, asking how these programs impact the bottom line. But for most publicly traded firms, over 80% of their market...
In a world where standing still is never an option and the only thing certain is uncertainty, non-profit organizations face huge challenges as they seek to serve their constituents and fulfill their missions.
The non-profit Office Depot Foundation, which serves as the charitable giving arm of Office Depot Inc., has long recognized the unique set of circumstances in which non-profits conduct their business. For the past five years, one of the Foundation’s key areas of emphasis has been helping non-profit organizations to operate efficiently and effectively - or, as its strategic priorities state, “building the capacity of non-profit organizations through collaboration and innovation.” An essential element of this strategy is the Weekend in Boca Civil Society Leadership Symposium, which was presented for the first time in 2007 as a collaborative effort between the Office Depot Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC).
The sixth annual Weekend in Boca will take place on May 17 and 18 at Office Depot Corporate Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. The Symposium will give non-profit professionals, board members and volunteers the rare opportunity to pause, reflect and re-energize and – as has been the case from the...
With the launch of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps in 2008, IBM combined the vision behind President Kennedy’s Peace Corps with the philosophy of corporate social responsibility—developing an even more global workforce in the process.
The Corporate Service Corps is a global pro bono IBM initiative that sends hundreds of IBM’s brightest employees into emerging markets every year. These experts share their
knowledge and professional skills with small businesses, non-profits, non-governmental organizations, and educational institutions, to help improve local conditions and
foster job creation.
IBM sends employees with skills in technology, scientific research, marketing, finance, human resources, law, and economic development to emerging markets to tackle economic issues, promote entrepreneurship, and suggest strategies for each client’s success.
By mid-2012, the Corporate Service Corps had sent more than 1,600 IBM employees based in 50 countries to complete assignments in nearly 30 countries around the world. The IBMers are engaged for a total of six months: three months preparing for the trip, one month on location, and two months back at IBM sharing their experience and maintaining new relationships. Each team typically comprises 12 members.
The benefits from the Corporate Service Corps are threefold: First, the...
The most lucrative and safest investment in the world – almost guaranteed to deliver outstanding financial returns as well as improving civic well-being and economic development – is to invest in the economic and social empowerment of women.
Last month for International Women’s Day, BCLC, together with the Ford Foundation and the United Nations, hosted How Women’s Economic Empowerment Strengthens Business. The conference left me thinking that if I had only one dollar to invest, investing it to create more opportunities for women is undoubtedly how I would use it.
This amazing investment opportunity arises from the most tragic of circumstances. The world – across developed and developing countries alike – persists in negligently under-valuing or outright disempowering half of its population. If we changed our perspective and did the right thing the economic outcomes alone would be mind-boggling. According to various speakers:
- Globally, women consumer spending is expected to grow to $28 trillion in 2014 – a 40% increase from 2012.
- Asia could add $46 billion a year to their economy by investing in women’s economic empowerment.
Poverty levels are well documented in India, and it is estimated that the country is home to at least one-third of the world’s poor. Furthermore, up to 87% of the poorest households in India do not have access to credit, and there are potentially 250 million to 380 million people in need of microfinance services in India. The urban poverty of the country is extreme, but it is actually the country’s rural poor who are the most isolated from financial services that could enable them to work their way out of poverty.
Over the past five years, UPS has contributed $945,000 to Opportunity International to support programs including its transformational microfinance work in India. Through this partnership, Opportunity India has implemented a new social investment strategy that supports the growth of Indian microfinance by partnering with, and investing in, povertyfocused microfinance institutions (MFIs) and encouraging start-ups that operate in India’s most underserved areas. As a result, more than 1,600 new clients have received loans—averaging $136 for the first loan—and accompanying counsel, positively affecting nearly 7,000 people.
In 2011 The UPS Foundation also supported the provision of 1,134 school fee loans that were disbursed to families to keep young girls in school, bringing education within reach for children in struggling...