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D. Talks: The Changing Corporate Dynamic: Shifting From Charity to Smart Investment
On February 13, 2013, Amir Dossal, the Founder and Chairman of the Global Partnerships Forum, presented at Dalberg’s New York office as part of D. Talks, a Dalberg series featuring experts and innovators within international development. To discuss the changing corporate dynamic, Mr. Dossal drew upon his experience brokering global partnerships that address economic and social challenges and shared tactics to encourage corporations to make smart and socially beneficial investments.
The presentation began with setting the landscape of charitable giving in the United States, stating that Americans gave approximately $298 billion in 2011, with approximately 5% from corporate giving. On the contrary, foreign direct investment totaled to approximately $419 billion in 2011, almost thirty times greater than corporate donations. These figures speak to the opportunities for corporations to identify and create opportunities to promote social outcomes. Furthermore, corporations are shifting their “corporate social responsibility" (CSR) efforts from traditional models of charity to making smart and socially conscious investments.
In one example, Mr. Dossal and his team worked collaboratively with the Coca- Cola Company in preventing the spread of infectious disease in Sub-Saharan Africa, realizing that long-distance truck drivers play a major role in transmitting HIV/AIDS. Rather than discussing local health outcomes with Coca-Cola, Mr. Dossal and his team made a case in terms of costs incurred due to lives lost to HIV/AIDS among their employees. Working with the leadership of UNAIDS, they emphasized how Coca-Cola would benefit from changing business practices of ‘investing’ in their workers, rather than relying on the persuasiveness of the social issue or their own beliefs. Moreover, they brought in MTV as a key media partner to reach to young people across the world to promote education around better health and HIV prevention. The result was that Coca-Cola invested more in HIV/AIDS education and prevention, which resulted in a substantial reduction in the incidence of HIV/AIDS along trucking routes. This in turn improved health of their workers and thus reduced absenteeism.
Mr. Dossal pointed out that companies are increasingly looking to address social causes from a business prism. Private sector leaders are becoming more conscious of their societal responsibilities and are thus focusing on strategies which help their companies do well and do good. A case in point was Royal DSM, whose Chairman and CEO, Feike Sijbesma’s approach is to address People, Planet and Profits in a cohesive manner. As a result, DSM has established a Sustainability Advisory Board to look at some of these challenges in a people sensitive way.
Amongst a group of approximately 70 young professionals in the international development field, Mr. Dossal challenged the audience to identify opportunities where there is potential to building partnerships within their own work. With the partnership landscape changing, there are new ways to bring together the private and public sector and move beyond traditional charity-focused CSR. Impactful partnerships can achieve objectives beyond any one organization’s current capabilities, encouraging local entrepreneurship and facilitating innovation. Even after theMr. Dossal’s presentation and Q&A session, participants continued their conversations on how to merge their diverse backgrounds in the private and public sector to strategize and create successful social investments and partnerships in an increasingly globalizing world.
“If you want to engage corporations in social change, you need to understand their perspective and identify why they should work with you,” Mr. Dossal explained. “It’s similar to looking for a job: you tell a potential employer what they would get from hiring you – not the reasons why you want a job with them.” He reminded participants of the need to address the question for the other side: “What’s in it for me?”
Mr. Dossal presented at D. Talks, a forum that brings together the development community in each city where Dalberg is located. D. Talks drive dialogue and critical thinking on global development issues and provide networking opportunities within the community. Dalberg has designed incentives for private sector partnerships to address food insecurity and, in 2011, authored a guide for businesses seeking to form transformational partnerships with the UN. For more information on Dalberg, please go to www.dalberg.com
The Global Partnership Forum sincerely thanks Dalberg New York for hosting the event on February 13, 2013. A very special thanks to Angela Rastegar and Dan Zook for all their efforts and support in coordinating and organizing this successful event.