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Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing Good While Doing Well

April 10, 2018

“Do good because good is good to do.”  – Author Unknown

It’s a common misconception: a company has to choose between doing well and doing good. But the two are not mutually exclusive. Many very profitable corporations – IBM, Starbucks, and Chipotle, to name just a few – are proving that corporate social responsibility (CSR) isn’t just good for society; it’s also good for the bottom line.

“You can do good, while also doing well. Companies like IBM, Starbucks, and Chipotle are proof.”Click to tweet  

Corporate social responsibility is a commitment by a corporation to make a positive difference in the world. Whether it’s making a difference in the local community or across the globe, these companies work to effect social change through business values, practices, and finances.

CSR comes from the top of the organization – the Board and the C-suite – and starts with socially responsible people. Global business leaders are entrusted with authority, governance, and influence over people and profits. More importantly, they’re entrusted with responsibility and accountability. Their actions hold great power, which is why conducting business as ethical global citizens is paramount.

Corporate social responsibility starts with socially responsible people.”Click to tweet

That’s our philosophy at Thunderbird: Global business can be done responsibly, and it should be.

Codifying shared beliefs and values

One of the key elements of every effective corporate social responsibility program is a sense of shared values. Everyone within the organization needs to be on the same page about what the company believes in – and doesn’t. The easiest place to start is to codify those beliefs and values in a CSR policy. At Thunderbird, we’ve done something like that with our Oath of Honor, which is a bit like the medical profession's Hippocratic Oath, but for global business leaders.

The Oath is recited at every commencement ceremony and binds each Thunderbird cohort:

As a Thunderbird and a global citizen, I promise:

I will strive to act with honesty and integrity,

I will respect the rights and dignity of all people,

I will strive to create sustainable prosperity worldwide,

I will oppose all forms of corruption and exploitation, and

I will take responsibility for my actions.

As I hold true to these principles, it is my hope that I may enjoy an honorable reputation and peace of conscience.

This pledge I make freely and upon my honor.

The Oath of Honor isn’t the be-all-end-all, of course. But like a good CSR policy, it’s a guidepost we can all look to as we engage with each other and the world.

Learning to do well while doing good

When Fungai Mandaza’s older sister was ready to pursue a master’s degree with a focus on corporate social responsibility, Thunderbird was her easy first choice. But for younger sister, it was not so obvious at first. “My sister is more into saving the world. I like to make money,” Fungai says with a laugh.  Before Thunderbird, she had no idea the two could go hand-in-hand.

Fungai credits the core curriculum at Thunderbird for showing her that good business can be good for the community. “Before, when people would start talking about healing the world, I would run, because that wasn’t me. Now I see it differently. I see how everything gels together. If you’re passionate about something, then make it into a business and help the community. It’s simple math.”

“If you’re passionate about something, then make it into a business and help the community. It’s simple math.” – Click to tweet

Changing the world one entrepreneur at a time

Effective CSR programs have the buy-in and active participation from the top of the organization to the bottom. In contrast, in developing markets, the most powerful change agents are not the companies who come in with clean water or vaccinations or solar power – though those contributions can be vital. The most powerful change agents are the people themselves, and in many cases, the women themselves.

Thunderbird student Faduma Mohamed said it perfectly: “Being independent, making your own money – that’s a gift that anyone would be forever thankful for. Helping or giving aid is one thing, but what if you can teach someone how to start their own business and provide for themselves and their families? That’s priceless.”

“Teaching someone how to start their own business and provide for themselves and their families – that’s priceless.” – Click to tweet 

Through Thunderbird for Good we have been privileged to work with women change agents from developing countries around the world. And we have seen firsthand the power of entrepreneurship to change the life of a family, and even a whole village.

From the gilded halls of Western corporations to the thatch huts of the developing world, individuals are showing how doing good and doing well go hand-in-hand. And that’s good business. 

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