Business and Altruism: Towards Corporate Social Alignment

Was fortunate to share the stage over lunch today at The Advertising Research Foundation’s Re!Think 2016 session with some very bright folks. Sharing a few of their comments I found most interesting and a few follow-up questions that brand marketers or those who help tell stories for big companies might consider. This shorter note is a follow-up to my piece from last week previewing my thoughts for the session, The New American Dream: Building Corporate Social Alignment for Millennials.

Key takeaway from Re!Think so far: spending a day with hundreds of folks whose literal job is inspiration is, well, inspiring. Blown away by the overall quality of those at both brands and their partner collaborators, especially by the laser-like focus on new models of listening to customers.

Stephen Wolfe Pereira, VP Brand Strategy & Marketing Solutions at Oracle, moderated the panel. His comments on the role of B corporations in the future of business resonated strongly with me. The notion that many existing companies would make social values and societal impact in a formal way is exciting! Fascinated to see the implications on consumption and talent. Will we one day see B as the default organizational structure?

John Osborn, CEO of BBDO New York, spoke about working with some of his largest (and most storied) clients to architect a plan for resonating and building authentic relationships with a new generation of consumers. His comment that brands today need a unified story for which social purpose is a key building block made tremendous sense to me. What brands are doing this really well today? Who hasn’t yet realized that this matters? Key watch-outs?

I focused primarily on the transition from “corporate social responsibility” to a more uplifting/less remedial vision of “corporate social alignment”, telling the stories of both my company, HourlyNerd and that of ArtLifting, one of our (smaller!) customers. We connect talented business professionals with five to twenty years of post-MBA work experience with leading global brands for critical work and insights, flexibly, on demand. We allow experienced corporate leaders to align their professional journey with their desired personal life. ArtLifting is a marketplace for artwork by homeless and disabled artists. It allows talented artists to create flexible income streams and share their craft with the world. It’s organized as a public benefit corporation and run by a tremendously passionate entrepreneur, Liz Powers, and backed by luminaries of corporate social alignment including Blake Mycoskie, whose company Toms revolutionized doing well by doing good. What other companies have successfully built a social mission into their daily execution?

Jeff Buchan, who helps lead Global Industry Relations for Google, focused primarily on a theme well-understood at HourlyNerd: aligning work with a sense of social mission and purpose. He had two great sound bites worth sharing: first, a new breed of workers wants to focus on “cool things that matter”. And, as he mentioned, Google holds as a core value being responsible with the cutting-edge technologies it is producing. As Jeff paraphrased from Spiderman, “With great innovation comes great responsibility.” Other than Google, what companies have done a great job of aligning employee output with social impact? Who is responsible at a large enterprise for considering the outcomes of new technologies?