Corporate Social Responsibility

Business and Society: Taking Responsibility

This is not going to be a long post, because you know what you need to do and what your responsibilities are - both as part of business and part of society.

Recently, I was asked to update a White Paper I wrote a few years ago for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants on corporate reputation. Part of what I was asked to update are the case studies - and that got me looking closely at what had changed in the years since I first wrote the thing. And that got me looking at Goldman Sachs.

Did you know that within a month period Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman's CEO, gave an interview where he explained that people were going to have to lower their expectations of the government help they receive (everything from Medicare and Social Security to Veteran's benefits, Disability and Food Stamps) because the Government simply can't afford it and made the decision to pay his executives their 2012 bonuses a month early so that they would miss the tax increase that was occurring as of January 1, 2013?

The optics of the decision were bad enough.

It's the fact that he preceded it by telling those who can't afford multi-million dollar homes, let alone multi-thousand dollar suits, that they have to change their expectations...because people like him were going to make decisions making sure that others' living expenses couldn't be met...that makes it worse.

Because it didn't matter. Not to him and not to his company.

That has to stop. Business leaders - at all levels from micros- and SMBs to multi-nationals - in all industries and sectors need to recognize that they have a greater responsibility to society than just making their businesses a success.

That shareholders are societal stakeholders, too - and that the other stakeholders who don't hold shares are directly and immediately impacted by the financial and other decisions that executives and board members make.

There's nothing wrong with making money. In fact, there's nothing wrong with making lots of money if that's what you want to do.

But this is more. This is a business industry-driven social change that looks beyond the next day's profits or next quarter's analyst meeting and recognizes that there really is such a thing as a greater good that business - more than any other entity - is designed to achieve.

Do that. Look at the decisions you make - from employee benefits to environmental impact and beyond - to see exactly what impact you and your business are making on your world every day.

Then make it better.
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Reputation: Why It Matters and How You Can Manage It (CIMA original version - I'll let you know when the update is live)
Reputation and Profits: The "Good Corporate Citizenship" Question (llk)

Reputation and Profits: The "Good Corporate Citizenship" Question

In the world of Buzzword Bingo or your standard corporate blah-blah-blah, one of the favorite expressions that marketing and PR folks like to use for their clients - especially their Big Boy clients - is that they're "good corporate citizens."

Just so you know how 'true' that is, Enron was one. Their marketing people said so.

It's an interesting question, though. What, exactly, is "good corporate citizenship"? What do you have to do to be a "good corporate citizen"? And why should you bother?

The reason why you - and I mean you, personally - should bother is because it's all about your reputation. Your image in the larger society in which you operate - whether you're the local dry cleaner or a global player - is greatly impacted by how you're perceived to treat the area and people in which your organization exists.

But, you say, we're a Big Boy multi-national? We're everyplace. How are we supposed to really do the "good corporate citizen" thing...and why should we?

Take a moment and think about Jack Welch, the so-called "legendary" former CEO of General Electric.

Did he accomplish amazing things in his company? Yes. Did he create shareholder value that exceeded anyone's dreams? Yes.

Did he, by fighting regulators for over 10 years after it was found that GE was polluting the Hudson River with the cancer causing agents, PCBs, not only put the population of the area but his company and its reputation at risk...as well as taint his own reputation? Yes to that, too.

So much for good corporate citizenship and the renowned Mr. Welch. Even now, over a decade later, when Jack Welch puts himself forward, someone remembers the Hudson and what he didn't do.

It's a good thing for GE that Mr. Welch's successor, Jeff Immelt, understood and acted upon the good image and good business of being a "good corporate citizen" - because he turned around the hit that GE's reputation took, both locally and globally. His smart decisions and 'green' strategy, put them back on track to be a trusted partner and corporate provider.

But it doesn't take a giant effort like GE's to make the "good corporate citizen" difference. You achieve just as big - if not bigger - gains by simply showing your support in your local area.

And for that, let's look at Larry Ellison, yet another "legendary" CEO - who founded and runs Oracle.

Ellison's reputation is as a near wild man - and he seems to thrive on it.

That's okay, because his company does things like support the local community where they're headquartered by being a major sponsor of a money-raising effort to ensure that music continues to be taught in the schools.

From the locals' perspective, that makes Oracle a good company. What that turns into, for all the IT managers, business executives and SMB owners whose kids go to those schools, is that Oracle becomes a preferred provider.

What does this mean for you?

It means it's time to start taking your role as a "good corporate citizen" seriously. It's time to go beyond using the pretty words and put your money where your marketing mouthpieces are saying you are.

It doesn't take a lot - but it does take a decision. Your decision.

What do you want your and your company's legacy to be? How do you want to be seen now and in the future?

More importantly, how do you want to use your good corporate citizenship - your investment in the betterment of society through business - to make a difference in people's lives...and your company's profits...now?

It's time to do something different. Business isn't only about profits. In fact, in your company and on the larger scale, profits are simply there as fuel for growth. Yours and society's.

Be a good corporate citizen by doing real things that make a difference. A real difference.

That's what you'll be remembered for - even as everyone who sees what you're doing make their decision to buy what you have to offer now.

Genius or Sucker? The Dilemma of Being a Goldman Sachs Client

So there you are - a bazillionnaire. Or, possibly, someone responsible for overseeing the bazillions of others. Like the investment manager of a pension fund.

You're always being approached by the Big Boys - from investment banks to private equity houses. They want your money. And why wouldn't they? After all, their job is to turn your money into more.

But for whom?

That's the big question - now more than ever - if your bazillions ever touch the corporate shores of Goldman Sachs.

All because of Greg Smith.

If you've missed the excitement, Mr. Smith resigned from Goldman in a big way. Fifteen minutes after emailing his resignation to management, his NY Times Op-Ed piece was published.

That one little piece of personal journalism led to media hordes over-crowding outside Goldman's portals, innumerable articles being written on every conceivable platform and medium and commentators of all kinds (yours truly included) talking about the lessons learned and yet to be learned.

Which brings us back to our bazillionnaire Goldman client - because, let's face it, Goldman only deals with bazillionnaires. Even the low end of the 1% isn't that interesting to them.

The question for this person, based on all the media coverage, is: So? Are you a genius or a sucker for doing business with these guys?

Why that has become just as compelling a question as the hue and cry that Mr. Smith's writing raised is because it makes one wonder.

Here's a company that has been indicted and settled with the Government (to the tune of $550 million) as a result of their 'questionable' practices toward their clients. Like selling an investment instrument to their clients that another client developed specifically to bet against the suckers who were doing the buying.

Nothing like having your cake and eating it, too - especially because Goldman was making money on all sides of the deal.

And that's just one case. There are others still pending.

Because what everyone learned is that rich people are just as big suckers as everyone else when they get just the right pitch from just the right person. Or company.

Which leads us to the clients - anonymous and otherwise, individual and institutional - who are telling anyone who's willing to listen that they know what Goldman is doing. That they've known it all along. That there's no surprise there.

And that means, of course, that even as they were doing business with Goldman, they didn't trust them as far as they could throw them.

Or so one hopes - especially if that client is a fund manager who has just dumped a good portion of what will be your retirement into Goldman's - or, to be fair, most any other investment bank's or broker's - hands.

Where does that leave us?

The answer is: With a system that is gamed by the institutions that pay big bucks to hold the cards by pushing legislation exactly where they want it to be. On their side. With no accountability in sight.

Until that changes, all the Greg Smith's and unhappy bazillionnaire clients will just have to take it as it comes.

As suckers.

[This article was published on Technorati.]

Lady Gaga's Social Studies


When I was a little girl and my brothers or I were behaving badly, my mother used to warn us not to be little monsters.

Little did I know, years later, that I would proudly accept that title - and recommend it to as many others as possible.

Because now, if you're a "little monster" it means that you're part of Lady Gaga's fan base - which is the same as being part of a social movement.

Lady Gaga has no hesitation in using her celebrity to do good. Of course she does well. In fact, she does amazingly well with sales that keep setting records. Good for her. Because she uses her nearly 11 million Twitter followers and all her fans worldwide as a means of moving society in a more tolerant, caring direction.

I knew of Lady Gaga, simply, as a pop music icon who was so much a part of a different generation than mine that she was barely a blip on my radar. Right up until she used her celebrity to support the repeal of the "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" legislation that was then being reviewed by Congress.

Using her celebrity specifically to speak on behalf of an underserved and still actively discriminated against population - no matter what the cause - made her different from her colleagues and contemporaries. More courageous. More willing to use her success to do good.

More recently, with her record-breaking "Born This Way" song and album, she has escalated that philosophy by making sure that her "little monsters" all know that they are perfect. That they need not feel disenfranchised - because they're not a mistake.

That they can - and should - live their lives proudly.

In a world where bullying in schools has taken peer pressure to new heights, that's a message that neither can nor should be ignored.

Then, when Clarence Clemons, the 69-year old saxophonist from Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band who performed with Gaga on her new album, suffered a sudden - and ultimately fatal - stroke, she mobilized her troops to help in his recovery by making and sending get well videos.

Think about it. Here's a 25-year old superstar who is getting her worldwide fan base which start in their 'tweens, if not younger, to pay attention to and help a senior citizen. That's so good on so many different levels it almost defies description.

Lady Gaga gets a lot of grief for her supposed mimicry of Madonna. The pundits who keep putting that forward are wrong. Because what Lady Gaga has known from the first and Madonna never demonstrated is that there is a beauty in doing well and doing good simultaneously.

In these troubled economic times - particularly when investment in education is being severely reduced across the country - it's even more important that those who have celebrity recognize that they have a responsibility that comes with their success to support a greater good.

So, monster paws up, everybody, because we're all Little Monsters now.

(An earlier version of this article appeared on Technorati.)

KevJumba: Putting the Social in Social Media

Listen to the social media gurus - from Gary Vaynerchuk to Guy Kawasaki - and what you'll hear is that social media is all about building community.

That people are looking for connections. For purpose. To be heard. And seen. And acknowledged.

Why else would Facebook have grown to over 600 million users in such a short period? Or Hebbo at over 200 million, Bebo over 113 million - or China's QZone with over 480 million users?

Because in an online, disconnected world, people are looking for human connections.

Watch the social media space, however, and what you see is that - like any business model - it's all about converting those connections into money. Especially as LinkedIn set the tone for over-subscribed, high payout IPOs.

That's why, when a social media superstar like, KevJumba, answers the call from a socially conscious organization, like The Supply Education Group, you see the importance of how social can and should be social.

The Supply Education Group put out a YouTube challenge to KevJumba to teach a class in Nairobi, Kenya. Class 5, to be exact.

In this delightful video, you see the kids of Class 5 doing their best to charm KevJumba. And it worked.



Only KevJumba went one better. Not only did he do that visit - now, with his over 1.6 million YouTube followers in hand, KevJumba has committed to helping build a secondary school in Nairobi so that when Class 5 graduates from their K-8 school, they'll have a high school to attend.

Because at the moment they don't.

So, with that purpose - and making social truly social - KevJumba is asking his followers this weekend as he celebrates his 21st birthday to give $21 each to raise the $50,000 needed to build a school and create hope and opportunity for society's future worldwide.

KevJumba is giving back as part of The Supply Education Group's "Blessed to be a Blessing Campaign" and, in the process, showing just what social media can and should be doing for society.

So what is your social media strategy doing to help build society?  Think about it.

(An earlier version of this post was published on Technorati.)