CSR: An act of doing good or a marketing trick?

2 september 2020, 06:00
CSR: An act of doing good or a marketing trick?
CSR: An act of doing good or a marketing trick?
The first time I walked into a corporate building, I was expecting a lot of grey suits and stiff faces. A dusty and dark environment filled with old, white men carrying briefcases to their large, wooden office desks, reading piles of documents and making difficult decisions from their ivory tower. Decisions based on rational and logic. No room for emotions and fun. I imagined it to be dead-quiet, with just the sound of fingers aggressively touching the hundreds of pc's to kill the silence. Ok… I might not have thought it was that bad. But you get my point.
Big, bad corporates
I can understand if people aren't aware of what's going on inside a corporate. And thus I also get why some people don't understand how corporates could possibly have a foundation. A foundation that is actually focused on doing good. And not because it increases their profit margin, but because of intrinsic motivation to do the right thing. Do you not believe this is possible? Allow me to explain and decide for yourself.
Now, I won't start "name dropping", especially not in my first blog, but as you might have guessed, I work at a corporate. Comparing my day-to-day working experience with some of the stories on the news about "big, bad corporate machines", there is one critical difference which is often not mentioned: it's people. Actual human beings. 7000 of them actually, at the corporate I work for.
One human's story
Let me tell you a story about one of these human beings in our "corporate machine". Let's call him Burt. So, Burt is your typical corporate guy; "good lookin' fella", a family man, drives a nice car and worked his way up to the top. One day on his way to work, he drove past a young girl. Usually he wouldn't have noticed anything unusual, but this time something caught his eye. This girl - and she must be about 10 years old - was trying to balance and carry an enormous pile of school books. She looked as if she'd just seen a ghost, rushing along the street with her eyes full of tears and as Burt's car passed, one of her books dropped off her pile and onto the floor.
Burt doubted for a second. This was none of his business, right? There's nothing he could do about this situation, right? Wrong.
Abruptly, Burt stopped his car and rushed to help out the little girl.
This sounds like the start of a cool heroic story, right? It's about to get even better…
Later on at work - back in the ivory tower - he tells his team about the girl. Apparently, she was looking for a more quiet place to learn whatever was in those books because she couldn't do so at home. She wanted to become a doctor, but her parents didn't believe she could do that and wanted to throw her books out. Therefore, she was running away to study in secret.
Let's pause for a moment to take this all in… 
The future of this girl depends on the environment in which she is raised. Even though she is brave enough to dare to dream bigger, she is being held back and will therefore have a lesser chance to succeed than children growing up in a different environment. And to be frank.. she is not the only one in this situation. In The Netherlands only there are hundreds of thousands of children growing up in similar situations.
Burt and his colleagues were shocked to learn up close, how important it is for children to have great role models so they can turn into the happily successful adults they could potentially be. If only they show them the world is full of possibilities, teach them how to set goals and help them plan the accomplishment of their dreams. As professionals they would be more than suitable to share their experiences and inspire these children to go for it. Based on this idea, they started an initiative in the neighborhood to give children the extra educational support they needed.
One thing led to another…
As Burt saw what a difference his initiative was making within the neighborhood, he talked to his colleagues at the top of the organisation and soon the initiative was rolled out across all corporate offices nationally and after a pilot period it even scaled up globally to 150 countries. Then, all these global corporate colleagues invite all their client organisations and all their milliards of employees to step up and make a difference in children's education. And that's how real change started.
Now, in case you hadn't noticed, all Burt wanted to do at first was to help that one little girl he ran into on the street. His story inspired the enormous corporate network and all the people in it to join and do the same, scaling the initiative and increasing the impact to reaching millions of children worldwide!
Let's be honest: this is a great story but it does sound more like a film scenario than it does real life. I mean… not all people stumble upon a societal issue like this and think about wearing their "hero cape" to solve it, right? 
On the contrary actually. A lot of people are trying to find their societal purpose. They are looking for a way to contribute to the world and make a difference in people's lives. These people - including my 7000 colleagues  - need tools, ideas and initiatives which enable them to make a difference in the world.
The purpose of corporate foundations
And that… is what corporate foundations are for. Not for marketing purposes, not to increase shareholder value, but to help and support their employees in doing good. To use their smart minds, a bit of time and perhaps even a bit of money and make an impact in society.
Perhaps all of us should step out of our bubble once in a while. Take a look into society and see how we can help others. Why? Because it's simply the right thing to do.
Are you curious to read more about life ‘Inside a Corporate Foundation’? Follow my channel and I’ll keep you posted.

Laura Grootenboer is werkzaam bij een corporate foundation en schrijft blogs op persoonlijke titel.
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