This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.
The next time you have a Mars, Twix, or Snickers bar, you’re going to remember this article, because the parent company for these treats is doing something important: providing support, technology, and training to farmers in Indonesia and West Africa to certify its entire cocoa supply. Teaching the farmers how to triple their yields in three to five years helps the company lock down the most important ingredient for its confections—but that’s not all. It also helps farmers lift their families up financially and gain access to essential services such as education and health care.
This is a good example of “total societal impact” (TSI). It’s an initialism you’ll be seeing more frequently, and it’s the sign of a company’s commitment to making a difference in the regions where it does business.
“Total Societal Impact—A New Lens for Strategy,” a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), notes, “Today, it’s not enough for companies to pursue societal issues as a side activity. Instead, they must use their core business—and the scale advantages it offers—to create both positive societal impact and business benefits. The result can be a more reliable growth path, a reduced risk of negative, even cataclysmic, events, and most likely, increased [corporate] longevity.”
Indeed, BCG says that the bottom line, holding all other factors equal, is that “companies that outperform in important social and environmental areas achieve higher valuations and higher margins.” That’s only part of the good news. A strong TSI also helps attract workers and motivate employees.
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Corporate responsibility is a concept that’s woven into the corporate DNA at Flex, a leading Sketch-to-Scale solutions company that designs and builds intelligent products for a connected world. The company’s global mobility vice president, Paul Onitsuka, notes that Flex has made corporate responsibility a part of the business—and the brand.
“A company’s global citizenship is significant to their brand,” Onitsuka says.
“It plays a part in why a consumer chooses one product over another. And increasingly, it’s impacting why a job seeker chooses one employer over another. At Flex, we have a global footprint as well as a regional focus in all our different business areas. We’re always checking to be sure we’re doing the right thing as a global citizen. For example, in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and India, we can help companies develop products in one low-cost region and ship them to a higher-cost region. And as the world develops, we’re tracking even more closely as we ask sustainability questions like ‘Where is that material or are those products coming from? How is it being used? How much waste is created by transporting that product?’”
Companies can have a significant impact on equalizing the workforce as well. Consider the low participation of women in the workforce in India: The World Bank estimates that only 27 percent of working-age Indian women have paid jobs. That means there is a large pool of potential workers going untapped; yet it is important to countries that all the most able citizens can enter the labor force—that’s how economies thrive.
Onitsuka says, “In India, we have people being bussed for hours into remote regions like Chennai and other locations that we’re developing. We’re making a point to reach out to women, and we offer them the opportunity to learn and work in a safe environment. They know that the buses that transport them are secure and that they won’t face harassment. We’re now able to apply analytics to measure how we’re improving lives in different regions and seeing evidence that a family’s earnings have increased exponentially, compared to the income they lived on prior to employment with us.”
The long-term benefit goes beyond financial compensation. “Being able to match work with workers in-region means we’re moving people into a different class and lifestyle, where they can actually take care of their family,” says Onitsuka.
“They’re proud of what they do. Of course, they’d like to work where they live, but they’re willing to sacrifice and work at a distant facility, because they see the job is an opportunity for the betterment of the whole family. When we’re doing this with thousands of people in one place, that’s considerable change we can bring to one region.”
Marrying the company’s purpose with its talent goals is part of the workforce strategy at Sealed Air Corporation, which develops packaging solutions such as Cryovac and Bubble Wrap to help customers achieve sustainability goals in the face of today’s biggest social and environmental challenges. The organization views corporate sustainability as a business imperative and is committed to the proposition of “improving the lives of people around the world by addressing pressing needs in the communities where we and our customers operate.”
Director, Global Mobility and Executive Compensation, Julie Molloy says, “We are conducting business in a world where the concepts of sustainability, technology, and business are converging, and it’s prompting every company to think about and transform the way it approaches sustainability.
Read the rest of this article in the October 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.