Inclusive Growth

3 Ways the Private Sector Can Act as a Sustainability Catalyst for Globalization 4.0

The problems of the world are too big to be solved by traditional philanthropy. We can and must do more.

By: Shamina Singh

January 07, 2019

The problems of the world are too big to be solved by traditional philanthropy. Check-writing alone can’t end poverty, solve climate change, close the gaps of inequality or surmount barriers to exclusion.

That’s not to say private sector companies and foundations shouldn’t try to make a dent in these problems by ‘sharing the wealth,’ so to speak. But if we are to make a meaningful difference on the great challenges of our times, we have to put our hearts, minds and talents where our money is. We have to commit to a strategy of doing well by doing good by doing what we do best.

We know that inclusive and sustainable growth are imperative for the health of our planet and for the continued success of our enterprises. We know that business cannot succeed in a failing world. And, when we look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – a.k.a. the “Global Goals” – many companies see 17 aspirations to be the change we wish to see in the world. At Mastercard, we also see 17 objectives against which to measure our progress. Finally, we know that our shareholders, employees, customers and the public, writ large, want us to stand for something, to have a point of view and to lead with our values.

Understanding our place in the world and our ability to be forces for good, many private sector leaders have adopted a model of corporate sustainability built around environmental, social and governance approaches to creating positive impact. We are reducing carbon footprints, building diverse and inclusive workplaces and putting in place ethical and responsible standards across our firms.

Here are three ways for the private sector to further catalyse social impact:

1. Lead with our strengths.

Figure out what we’re good at and then leverage the core assets and competencies of our organizations to achieve positive outcomes.

2. Align sustainability with strategic growth.

Understand that sustainability may be about breaking even (or even taking a loss) in the short-term. But, if done correctly, it can be profitable in the long-term. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

3. Collaborate across sectors.

Big problems require big solutions, and that takes collaboration. We’ve got to get out of the silos of my sector and your sector in order to get to things done.

So, what does this look like?

First, when it comes to philanthropy, we need to be as generous with our talent and technology as we are with our treasure. Look at your workforce and think about the expertise that every member of the team brings to his or her job. How can those same skills be put to work for social good?

Can your marketing team help a local non-profit organization create compelling collaterals for potential donors? Can your data scientists work with social sector partners to build their data capacity – unlocking the power of their own data sets to improve decision-making? Beyond employees, what products and tools does your company have or make, and how could those assets be put to use in order to advance philanthropic goals?

Second, the best causes are those that align with your core business strategy, creating a pathway to be both purpose-driven and sustainable. If a philanthropic effort is just a pet project of an executive, there may be a lot of passion behind it. But there will also be uncertainty. What happens when that executive leaves? Will the recipient of your generosity suddenly have to look elsewhere?

Mastercard’s guiding vision is “A World Beyond Cash.” It is the roadmap for our business, promoting growth precisely because it addresses society’s needs. A world beyond cash is a safer world — a world with more inclusion and less corruption. It is a world where everyone can contribute to the global, digital economy and where the benefits of that economy are broadly shared. That’s a healthy economy, one where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.    

This article was originally published on the World Economic Forum's website.