Doing good by doing well, make CSR part of your enterprise core competence

Thesis: Cloud Computing for Inclusive Business

All enterprises have a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program. In the main, though, these tend to amount to little more than a chapter at the back of the annual report; a feel-good marketing trick. There are, however, a number of companies that take their corporate social responsibilities seriously. Unilever, for example, has its 2020 program – a publicly stated ambition to double its growth and halve its carbon footprint by  2020. Another example, TNT, sponsors the UN World Food Program and uses its business expertise to help the Program improve its operations. Many of the multinationals that I would consider to have worthwhile CSR initiatives are members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Inclusive Business’ is social business with a capital ‘S’. The term Inclusive Business was coined by the WBCSD and SNV (Netherlands Development Organization), and refers to the practice of improving the wellbeing of people at the income Base of the Pyramid (BoP).

C.K. Prahalad, well known with his book, ‘Bible for co-creation’: ‘The Future of Competition’ (2004), wrote the acclaimed book ‘Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ (2006). In this, he puts forward many cases of multinational enterprises investing in developing countries. The enterprises in the book address the low-income sectors of the population. They develop businesses that are both successful, and, at the same time, serve to improve the ecosystem of the BoP. This book opened my eyes to the amazing notion of to ‘do good by doing well’.

Later, in 2009, I had my first real encounter with salesforce.com. It was 2009 and I was attending the Cloudforce event in London. I was taken aback to see that a representative from the Salesforce Foundation was among the first people on the speaking agenda. Not clients, not technology people… but people talking about social good. This had a profound impact on me and made me feel that this was truly a company that had CSR as one of its cornerstones… and not simply an afterthought. This for me represented the start of a journey of discovery. As I have helped clients reap the benefits of salesforce.com the technology, I have learned more about the ethos and people behind the Salesforce.com the company. As I outlined in a previous post, my admiration for Salesforce runs deep and, to me, Marc Benioff is an inspirational example for all CEOs. By weaving CSR into the very core of his business, he is providing a shining example to existing and aspiring business leaders of what social responsibility can, and should, mean.

My enlightenment on the potential of marrying business success to social good took another step forward in 2011, when I was invited to organize a cloud computing event with Capgemini Netherlands and  the Nyenrode Business Universiteit in the Netherlands. The university has traditionally been focused on business – not technology – issues. However, as the true ramifications of what cloud computing means for business were becoming more apparent, it was clear that a type of tipping point had been reached. Technology, so often driven – and forced to react – by developments in the business world, had itself become a regular driver of business decisions.

This realization and a particularly enjoyable and satisfying collaboration with the university led to the creation of a graded course titled ‘Information and Innovation’. Thanks in no small part to this, Nyenrode was recognized by the Associaton of MBAs as being among three most-innovative Business Universities in the world.

The aspect of ‘doing good by doing well’ was part of our joint agenda. Through this collaboration with Nyenrode, I met with Peter Bakker, former CEO of TNT, ambassador of the World Food Program, and current president of WBCSD. For those of you who don’t know who Peter is, I advise you to Google him. He is a truly inspirational character in the field of business for social good, and the story of the CSR actions he took after becoming CEO of TNT makes for great and inspirational reading.

In 2011, I also had the opportunity to meet SNV through Salesforce Foundation. SNV is a Dutch headquartered global NGO and a beneficiary of Salesforce Foundation (they receive free-of-charge access to salesforce.com). SNV and WBCSD jointly developed the concept of Inclusive Business. When I met the people from SNV, they were using their free-of-charge salesforce.com licensing but were by no means extracting full value from the technology. We organized workshops to address this and help incorporate cloud and social media into their vision of ‘Inclusive Business’

I have been fortunate enough to be able to put the knowledge and experience I have
gained to good use by providing mentorship as part of the Nyenrode program. I’m proud to say that, this month, Mr. Mackensie Masaki, a smart, young Kenyan Nyenrode International MBA student and somebody I have been mentoring, received a score of 8 for his thesis ‘Cloud Computing for Inclusive Business’. This is a remarkable achievement as very few people achieve scores higher than 8 or 8.5. The score itself is a great achievement, but even more important in this achievement, is the social relevance of the study. I advise all of you to download and read the thesis.

Mackensie Masaki defending his thesis

This topic is very dear to my heart and is one that I am truly passionate about. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Mackensie and am truly appreciative of the role played by Nyenrode, Prof. André Nijhof, and Prof. Désirée van Gorp in enabling this highly relevant study to reach a wider audience. Let’s hope this is just the start and there will be time and opportunity to build on this fantastic start.

It is my dream that more multinational enterprises make Social Business (doing good) part of their core strategy. Imagine, for example, if large companies used the incredible knowledge and capabilities that have enabled their business success and used that power to try ‘to make this world a little better’, just as companies like TNT have done, and just like Salesforce does. Inclusive Business is a fine example of how this can be done. Cloud computing, and, more specifically, social enterprise collaboration can be a catalyst for this. This is one of the key findings of Mackensie’s thesis, and one that I wholeheartedly endorse.

Url to download the thesis: Mackenzie Masaki Thesis Nyenrode-Capgemini 2012

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2 Responses to Doing good by doing well, make CSR part of your enterprise core competence

  1. Andre Nijhof says:

    A few years ago I read in an annual review of Lifeworth – written by Jem Bendell that “The most important work today is both deeply personal and highly systemic”. I think this totally applies to this blog and the work mentioned in it. It builds upon some of the main systemic changes of these days like the rise of ICT and the need for Social Business. But it all starts with people who can make the difference. Great to read how you are working on this!

    Andre Nijhof

  2. bleenman says:

    Thank you very much Professor Nijhof, I really appreciate your feedback: Thanks for this compliment!

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