Voices of Influence: Original and Guest Blog Posts from Around the World

These blogs provide insight into the latest issues, challenges, advances and debate around CSR and sustainability. Original and guest blog posts highlight differing perspectives and context.

3BL Blog

We Can Do More Good With a For-Profit Model: The Lesson of Speed

I used to consult with nonprofits as part of a firm. What I’m about to write comes from my observations doing this work.

We can do more good and do it more quickly with a for-profit model.

Nonprofits aren’t bad, their model just has some flaws. A nonprofit has two tasks: to serve its cause or constituents and to raise money. A for-profit’s only task is to satisfy its stakeholders. The by-product of doing this well is making money.

A nonprofit doesn’t get to the ‘good’ fast enough. There’s a lot of preparation to get started on fighting the cause or delivering services. Nonprofits paid our firm to tell them how and where to raise money. They paid us to do the research and write the proposals. But they weren’t off the hook for time. They still needed to spend time with us on their programs, budgets and contacts. They still needed to woo grant-makers, find new ways to grab donors’ attention and write follow-up reports. All this time took them away from their mission and the cause they were fighting.

Think of a guy who decides to take up running. He spends the first weekend researching and shopping for running shoes. The second weekend buying running shorts, the third weekend mapping the perfect route. On the fourth weekend he goes (but only if it doesn’t rain). That’s how I see the nonprofit survival model.

Compare this to the guy who decides to take up running. He grabs the closest pair of shorts that he probably slept in, laces up the shoes he has lying around and walks out his front door. He’ll move his legs like runners do and figure the rest out from there. That’s how I see for-profit start-ups. Able to get to the mission quickly and willing to course correct along the way.

Know Women, Know Sustainable Consumers

There is more than meets the eye in what we know about how women buy (poetry not intended).  And, fortunately for us, that means we’ve got a lot of information at the ready to help better serve the sustainably minded consumer.

My argument has always been that marketing to women was not a “whole new, complicated thing” compared to marketing done before we acknowledged women’s particular ways of buying.  Instead, marketing to women encompasses an understanding toward fine tuning the smartest marketing to the toughest customer.  Today, marketing to women continues to be a foundation...

Atlas Shrinks

Once upon a time in a far off land of sea monsters and fairies, there was a man named Adam. Now Adam was not the First Man. He was, however, the first man in his society to write down his ideas of man controlling his own economic destiny without the heavy hand of kings. Adam was a moral man and wrote that one’s “enlightened self-interest” and innate moral code should guide him in all matters of money and commerce.

Yet man is a funny beast, Adam knew, and in case of a lapse in reason a guiding hand, “The Invisible Hand,” existed to override his less intelligent and unjust impulses....

Kids, Soccer Balls and the Unintended Consequences of Good Decisions

Several years ago, I attended a forum in Washington, DC on supply chain responsibility.  At the time, I was managing corporate social and environmental responsibility communications for two different clients, both with vast, global supply chains.  Supplier responsibility was an area of constant focus and opportunity for these companies.
The forum was a quiet, routine affair as these things go, and polite.  I saw a few participants looking a bit sleepy at the end of one session in particular – where representatives from three Fortune 500 multi-nationals spent the better part of an hour outlining the steps their companies had taken to eliminate child labor from their supply chains (the inspections and audits, on the ground partnerships, tracking and reporting).
Everything changed when, during the Q&A period, a young woman in the audience stood up and posed a question to the panelists.  She worked for a small NGO with operations in India, and noted that many families there desperately rely on the income of all family members – parents, grandparents, and yes, children.  She spoke briefly but compellingly, painting a picture of poverty and need that most in the room couldn’t comprehend.  The panelists look puzzled, and there were murmurs of surprise and disbelief throughout the audience.

Mixing It Up On Nonprofit Boards: Diversify or Fail

I love Scott E. Page's book, "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies." First of all, he is a kindred spirit, talking about joy, diversity, and Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk (my favorite). He also opens his chapters with delightful and illuminating quotations from an eclectic array of historians, rock stars, writers, comedians, philosophers, and others.


Non-Profit Service: A Key to the Executive Suite?

According to Harold ("Terry") McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO, The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP), nonprofit board service is a key qualification for any executive he might hire or promote. In a private interview with me, Terry McGraw explained that "If I don't see that [board service], I'm discouraged about the candidate. I want to see how complete a person is. Board participation tells me a lot about someone's interest and experience in teambuilding and openness toward coaching. A candidate who doesn't serve on nonprofit boards is...

Top CSR Companies. Or Not.

Corporate social and environmental performance is all the rage in today’s investment environment. With increasing frequency, analysts are monitoring, evaluating, and ranking that performance. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) lists – ranging from Corporate Knight’s Global 100 to Ethisphere Institute’s Most Ethical Companies and Corporate Responsibility magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens – grow more plentiful and visible each day. Publishers...

Leveraging Good Will: New Data Reinforces That Nonprofit-Corporate Partnerships Are Win-Win

The latest Cone Trend Tracker reports that 59% of American consumers "are more likely to buy a product associated with the [nonprofit-corporate] partnership," and that 50% of consumers are "more likely to donate to the nonprofit" when nonprofits partner with companies. By leveraging their good will, companies advance their own...

Want a CSR Job? Read This First.

With just over two months left until I graduate from business school, I’ve started to reflect on what I’ve accomplished over the last two years.

Without a doubt, the most fulfilling experiences of my MBA program have been the chances I’ve had to engage in real-world consulting projects for corporate and nonprofit clients.

In the last four semesters, I’ve worked on some pretty terrific marketing and corporate social responsibility projects – including brand audits, marketing research plans, stakeholder communications strategies, and social media tactics.

But perhaps my most satisfying consulting project was a sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement plan for Praxair, a $9B Fortune 300 industrial gas manufacturer in Danbury, CT. I’ve talked about this project in past posts, and I was thrilled to see that Boston University recently issued a press release about this engagement (including a quote from yours truly!).

These consulting projects have been the most rewarding part of my MBA, but they’ve also been the most challenging and time-consuming. In the end, though, I’ve signed up for all of them without hesitation – in large part because I (and many of my fellow MBA classmates) believed they’d serve as proof of our experience to potential employers come recruiting season.

For the Love of Business

We stand at the threshold of a moral crossroads in American business. Which way will we turn in the new decade is the dilemma before us. Do we retreat to old and tired patterns of indifference? Or do we find the courage to cut a new and hopeful path to the common good?
The heated debates of healthcare, bailouts, banking reform, financial regulation, usury laws, consumer protection, home loan modifications, small business support, social assistance programs-all point to one fundamental issue - the battle for a moral framework. What do we value in America? Easy Money or Hard work? Self-interest or Community? Vengeance or Forgiveness? Indifference or Compassion?
Do we continue to let 45 million Americans suffer without healthcare as long as we have access to it ourselves? Should we protect unsuspecting or reckless consumers or leave them at the mercy of profit hungry scams? Do we let the jobless and homeless fend for themselves because we are comfortable under our own roofs?
In the end, all of these economic debates come down to one thing: love. Love for our neighbor, love for ourselves, love for the planet, love for humanity. Love for those who are starving, hungry, desperate or forgotten. Love for those whose only hope of relief from suffering comes from you and me and our generosity.
Michael Moore’s latest movie was called, Capitalism: A Love Story. At first, the concept seemed hostile and sarcastic, yet the more I pondered its irony, the more I recognized its truth. Capitalism in its current anarchic state is all about love or rather the lack of it. Love in the Ancient Greek agape sense of the word.