How do we get corporates to take their role as global citizens seriously?

14th April 2016

“The traditional view of the corporation as simply being a vehicle for maximising shareholder wealth is surely starting to become outdated. In this model, customers, employees and local communities are to be “looked after” to the extent that it benefits corporate profits and ultimately the owners of the firm. In today’s public companies the pressure on senior management to perform is intense and often this comes at a cost. That cost being the wider role of corporates in helping to make society a better place to live in, both within this country and outside.

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The Global Goals, which came into effect this year, provide a framework for responsible global citizens to take action. Many corporates are beginning to accept their responsibility as part of the solution to many of the world’s problems. After all, the resources that many have at their disposal dwarf those of individuals and NGOs.

The problem is that many corporates only start caring when it affects their bottom lines. And this tempts some into cutting corners that can backfire. Recently a number of high profile car manufacturers have been accused of green-washing, following false claims of environmentally-friendly emissions and fuel consumption. This behaviour should not be tolerated. These organisations need to be taking a hard look at how they do business.

Education is increasingly playing a significant role in driving change. The world currently has the largest youth population in history. More than ever, young people are aware that they can be a force for good, and that the world can be changed for the better. These people don’t want to work for organisations that squander all of their profits into the pockets of shareholders without recognising their roles as good corporate citizens. They are not interested in shallow claims of environmentalism or charity when it is simply being done to tick a box or improve a corporate’s profile to get back in favour with shareholders.

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Raleigh is helping to drive this change by working with young people to deliver programmes in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Borneo, Tanzania and Nepal. Raleigh’s work contributes towards the Global Goals. Specifically, they look to alleviate poverty, and ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation in rural communities.

After visiting Tanzania to see some of the work that Raleigh is doing, I am amazed by the energy, passion, commitment and leadership that young people are showing in the achievement of these goals. These young people care. They are determined to make a difference.

Young people have a choice as to who they want to work for. Many of the volunteers on  Raleigh programmes today are the workers, managers and leaders of tomorrow’s corporates. In an increasingly competitive labour market those corporates that continue to pay lip service to their roles as global citizens will trail their peers. And as they continue to bumble along they will eventually fall behind as the world around them changes.

As business leaders, we all have important questions to answer. While we are focused and driven to deliver the bottom line of market share and profit, how do we ensure to keep within our vision the wider global issues that affect us all? As corporate citizens in our community, it is time to honour our responsibility to our staff, their families, and ultimately the next generation.”

This blog has been written by Jeremy Fish, a Raleigh International trustee and alumnus.  If you are a Raleigh alumnus and would like you contribute to our blog, please email alumni@raleighinternational.org