Can Business Save the World? Some Recommendations

Superman-TruthReady to roll up your sleeves and dig a little deeper into the topic I’ve been exploring in past two posts? Last time I shared the four steps described in the HBR article, “The truth about CSR” (Corporate Social Responsibility), which the authors recommend for developing a CSR program that makes sense.

The first recommendation, “Prune existing programs to align with the firm’s purpose and values,” surprised me because having a single focus typically is recommended for philanthropic activity. “Aligning,” they write, “is not about putting all your eggs in one basket, though that sometimes helps. It is about collecting activities that are consistent with the company’s business purpose and that have a valuable social goal that the company cares about.”

If you know my company or are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already are aware of the Intertech Foundation. For years, the Foundation focused on a single mission: relieving financial stress for families with terminally ill children. Our employees also have been involved in hosting many birthday parties for seriously ill children and their siblings staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis.

How does helping families in unimaginable distress fit with our business purpose? We make software not medicine after all. A local reporter asked me this question once and, for me, the answer was simple and logical: “Business should give life, not take it.”

That simple philosophy underlies how we run our company, treat our people, and engage with our community.

The authors’ second recommendation, “Develop ways of measuring initiatives’ success,” appeals to my logical right-brain thinking (I was a software developer!), but that can be tricky when your goal simply is to reduce some of the stress in parents’ lives when they are losing a beloved child. There is simply no way to measure or quantify that “success” because the ultimate outcome always will be unbearably sorrowful. And, yet, we continue to feel that this is a valuable aspect of how we give back to our community.

The final two recommended steps: (3) Coordinate programs across “theaters” (CSR program components) and (4) Create an interdisciplinary management team to drive CSR strategy are logical for large organizations and major corporations.

For small- to medium-sized companies like Intertech, it’s a whole lot simpler. We do work to ensure that our firm “gives life” by creating a work environment that is flexible, rewarding and fun. And, in recent years, we’ve expanded our philanthropic focus to include grants for students involved in science projects and, most recently, a college scholarship for budding computer scientists.

Beyond the obvious good feelings that come from CSR activities, why do businesses engage in them? That’s just what I’ll discuss in my next post.