How Companies Can Think Differently about #GivingTuesday


How Companies Can Think Differently about #GivingTuesday

By Doug Balfour, CEO of Geneva Global

Tuesday, December 3 marks the second annual #GivingTuesday, a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

While much of the day’s focus draws attention to the nonprofit community, it provides an opportunity to reflect on the role that companies can and do play in creating transformational social change.

As members of the CRA, we can appreciate that CSR efforts improve our communities, create a more engaged and diverse workforce, and minimize the strain on our planet. As CEO of a company that helps firms think through and implement their CSR and philanthropic programs in developing countries, I’m pleased to see more companies undertaking CSR efforts and evolving their programs to be more strategic, transparent, and results-oriented.

However, what gets me even more excited is the growing interest from companies to develop and sell their products and services in a way that generates both economic and social benefit. Whether you call it Shared Value, Social Purpose, Blended Value or any of the other terms coined, the fact is that more companies are starting to explore how they can grow their business by taking into account social development.

For example, we’re working with a multi-national technology company that sees enormous market potential Africa. Among its initiatives is to support application software that could transform the African rural health market.

Similarly, there’s a diamond mining company in Africa sourcing diamonds and gold from its own environmentally- and socially-responsible artisanal mine. By fairly sourcing and manufacturing their products and investing their profits back into the mining community, the company is playing an important role in the economic development of the community. And they attract consumers searching for gems that aren’t contributing to an opaque and oftentimes corrupt and harmful system.

While these and other examples are creating new ways of business growth along with social transformation, we still have a long way to go. From my years working in and visiting sites across Africa, Asia, and South America, I’ve seen a lot of initiatives that have been unintentionally exploitative. Creating “shared value” is hard, thoughtful work and there will be a lot of lessons learned along the way.

However, for the companies that see the value and get it right, I believe there’s the potential to create even greater rewards—for the company, for its employees, and for the world. And that’s something we can all appreciate and commend—not only on #GivingTuesday, but each and every day.

Doug Balfour is the CEO of Geneva Global, an international consulting company that helps companies, foundations, and individuals maximize their social impact.

Posted November 11, 2013 in CR Blog