By Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft Corporation
Here’s a question:
The greatest way to change the world is… ?
Last evening here in Portland, Oregon, KPMG’s Global Head of Citizenship and Diversity posed that question to more than 2,600 of the next generation of leaders attending Net Impact’s 19th annual conference.
The answer was simple – overcome cynicism.
From Wall Street, to Main Street, from the halls of academia to the halls of Congress, from corporate board rooms to everyone’s living room, we have become a nation - and sadly a world - of cynics. And many of us believe with good reason.
Rather than continue down that dark and depressing path, let me share an alternative route provided by Liz Maw, Net Impact’s Executive Director to the Net Impact Board during our meeting yesterday.
It is estimated that workers in the US spend 250 billion hours working each year. Imagine if just 2% of those work hours were used to address a purpose – a social issue or a cause. That would translate into 4 to 5 billion hours of social change work each year and that’s just here in the US.
I am not talking about volunteer time. I am not talking about taking time off from your job. I am talking about doing your job. I am talking about meeting your responsibilities, being accountable; meeting and exceeding your commitments but also taking a moment to look at your job through a wider more empowering and more responsible lens.
We should think about the small things. How about less printing or printing on both sides of the paper; recycling your coffee cup; using Skype rather than taking that flight – the list goes on. But I am also talking about the big things. A software engineer developing an application for Windows Phone to measure the carbon foot print of our homes; a HR professional helping employees chart career paths that meet the needs of the corporation while increasing the employees sense of purpose through their job; a privacy attorney working in partnership with governments, advocates, and companies to protect free expression on line, the list goes on.
How many times have we heard friends say, “my job is fine but it is just a job, I’d like to do more. I would like to make a difference.”?
Well I believe that we can and we should do more. Each of us has the opportunity each and every day. We just need to think differently. We need to look at our jobs differently. We need to look at our jobs and our companies as agents of social change.
One small step we have taken at Microsoft is by forming the first Net Impact corporate chapter. We are now over 275 Microsoft employees strong and growing. The Microsoft Net Impact members have identified internal projects and are moving ahead in using the power of business to make social change.
I am incredibly proud to be a member of the Net Impact Board, I am proud to be a member of the Microsoft Net Impact chapter, and I am proud to work for a company like Microsoft that embraces the premise that business can be an agent of social change.
The greatest way to change the world is to overcome cynicism – making that happen is up to each of us!