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Big Business, Bigger Impact
“Let us bring the invisible heart of markets to those the invisible hand of markets has left behind,” said Sir Ronald Cohen during the Skoll World Forum opening plenary on Wednesday night, stressing that business and social good go hand-in-hand.
Of particular interest to me within that paradigm was a session called “Big Business, Bigger Impact: The Pursuit, Peril, and Power of Partn....” Participants tackled questions like, “How can entrepreneurs and businesses alleviate pressing social issues together?” and “How do you convince a multinational company to fund your social innovation?”
These and other questions were discussed on a panel featuring Robert Annibale (Citigroup), Mark Davis (The Body Shop), and Kavita Prakesh-Mani (Syngenta). Among the audience were representatives from Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Oxfam and more. In this room – full of suits – I was pleasantly surprised to hear panelists discuss the importance of integrating innovative and long-lasting solutions into every day work instead of sidelining social responsibility within Public Relations or Corporate Social Responsibility arms.
To me, this is indicative of a new discourse at the executive levels–ten years ago, this discussion was unheard of. In fact, several of the executives in the room had social programs in their portfolios but had deliberately chosen not to label them as such out of fear that shareholders would remove funding; or – as one of the panelist phrased it – would end up as a ‘ghettoized segment’ of companies that are doing good.
Advice for nonprofits
Below is a simplified summary of the tips that were shared during the panel.
Understand their situation: If you want to change the way they think, show them that you understand their markets and their customers – “you need to understand the beast.”
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