Building Better Businesses and a Better World

By Steve Lippman, Director, Corporate Citizenship

One of the great benefits of working for Microsoft is the wide range of authors, researchers, and policymakers who come to our campus to speak. This week we had the opportunity to hear from Alice Korngold, a well-known blogger and author who writes on topics of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and corporate governance. (In fact, The Guardian newspaper named her among the 30 most influential sustainability voices in America.)

 Alice recently has written the book A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot. She had a wide ranging discussion on that theme with Dan Bross, Microsoft’s senior director of Corporate Citizenship.

In their conversation, Alice pointed out that businesses have the scale and resources to make transformational change addressing global problems in ways that most Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) do not. She also observed that NGOs and businesses are not only increasingly collaborating, they are converging in some of their characteristics. She see many NGOs becoming increasingly businesslike and some leading companies becoming more oriented towards social missions.

Indeed, Alice noted that while Microsoft is a for-profit company, our corporate mission statement to “help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential” could easily be the mission statement of an NGO. She believes that the most successful corporate citizenship initiatives are those which are tied to a company’s mission and enable them to grow their business and profitability. She was unapologetic in saying that good corporate citizenship should help companies’ business interests as well as societal needs, since those are the efforts that will be sustained and expanded over the long term. She cited Microsoft’s CityNext initiative to provide cities with technology solutions that increase their competitiveness and sustainability as a good example of aligning business and social interests.

Finally, Alice talked about the passion of so many corporate responsibility practitioners she met while researching her book. She consistently saw their excitement in working collaboratively to tackle big societal challenges with other companies, NGOs, and governments. That fit with the overall theme of Alice’s talk that there is a growing sense of shared responsibility among business for building a better world….and that building that better world also results in better business for companies.

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