What Does Corporate Global Citizenship Really Mean?

by Luiza Oleszczuk

Corporate global citizenship is the new buzz word. The World Economic Forum claims that “Corporate Global Citizenship is anchored in (its) mission.” Tech giants like HP or Xerox, financial corporations like Morgan Stanley, and an increasing number of global companies have their own corporate global citizenship programs. These programs are increasingly acknowledging that the umbrella of their stakeholders also includes local communities in often distant and underdeveloped countries where they operate.

Microsoft sign at the entrance of the German Microsoft Campus in Unterschleissheim, Germany. Photo: Johannes Hemmerlein. 14 Jul. 2005

Microsoft sign at the entrance of the German Microsoft Campus in Unterschleissheim, Germany. Photo: Johannes Hemmerlein. 14 Jul. 2005

But what specific practices hide behind that term – “Global Citizenship”?

The Global Sourcing Council recently asked leaders from two corporations, Microsoft and Chrysler, and a non-profit entity, The Rockefeller Foundation, what the term “global citizenship” means for their organizations and what resulting practices it urges them to implement.

“Doing no harm” is No Longer Good Enough

Global corporations are beginning to understand that the rule of “Do no harm” cannot be their only goal. In order to build truly sustainable supply chains, global companies have to reach out to the communities they encounter, understand their needs and problems, and help empower them. That, in return, creates a healthy supply chain that, according to multiple experts, also brings greater financial gains.

Microsoft is a known leader in reaching out to the communities that the company operates in.

“Microsoft has an enduring commitment to working to fulfill our public responsibilities and to serving the needs of people in communities worldwide,” reads the mission statement of the company’s Corporate Citizenship program. “Fundamental to this commitment is the role we serve as a responsible global corporate citizen.”

Tim Hopper, the Responsible Sourcing Manager for the Microsoft Global Outsourcing’s Service Providers, was a panelist at the GSC’s recent Web Meeting (Global Citizenship: Building the Global Supply Chain for the Local Impact).

He presented to the audience some examples of the programs that Microsoft has created to fulfill its “corporate citizenship” mission. Among these is the Scorecard that the organization keeps, ranking its suppliers’ CSR and sustainability capabilities, as well as the Community Technology Center Program, which provides the foundation for teaching basic to intermediate technology skills and is designed to be used in community technology centers (CTCs). The program’s curriculum provides educational content for its stakeholders in the most underprivileged communities.

Through these and other programs Microsoft is aiming to help “people and businesses around the world to realize their full potential,” Mr. Hopper said during the panel.

“Do No Harm” cannot “be your entire mission,” agrees Todd Yaney, member of the Corporate Sustainability Core Team at Chrysler Group. One of the things that the term “global citizenship” means to Chrysler is “recognizing the global community and the responsibility that we have ourselves where we are doing business,” Mr. Yaney said on the GSC panel.

As one of its practices, for example, Chrysler established a “supplier code of conduct,” checking if its suppliers’ practices are socially responsible and sustainable.

But “sustainability for sustainability’s sake really isn’t very sustainable,” he added, reminding that each company has responsibilities towards all of its stakeholders, and that includes developing in a way that allows making profit. Profit and purpose can indeed meet in the corporate world.

For the Rockefeller Foundation, a global philanthropic organization, the idea of global citizenship has been part of its 100-years of development work around the world. The question, according to Eme Essien Lore – Associate Director in the foundation’s Africa Regional Office, is: “Is there demand on the side of the corporate world to pursue Impact Sourcing?” Ms. Essien Lore remains optimistic that there is.

The organization is pursuing its goal of spreading the practices of “Impact Sourcing”. “A nascent but growing arm of the global business process outsourcing (BPO) sector that intentionally employs poor and vulnerable individuals,” according to Ms, Essien. Impact Sourcing-based operations make it possible to serve the companies’ clients well while improving local communities, for example by educating and helping recruit affordable talent in Africa, Ms. Essien Lore, who leads such a program in Kenya, explained on the GSC panel.

Summing up, the World Economic Forum believes “that corporate global citizenship is fundamentally in the enlightened self-interest of global corporations since their growth, prosperity and sustainability is dependent on the state of the global political, economic, environmental and social landscape.”

Individual corporations seem to understand this too. Many of them, such as Chrysler, are still learning and looking up to the more experienced pioneers such as Microsoft.

“As more and more organizations become global and as outsourcing becomes a standard practice in today’s corporate world, traditional roles in supply chain management depart from its original charter of purchasing and logistics,” said Dr. Wanda Lopuch, Chair of the Global Sourcing Council. “The definition of stakeholders also evolves, embracing diversity of the global workforce performing its functions in a variety of non-standard working environments, local communities in which employees live and businesses operate and the availability of resources and environmental needs.”

To view the entire recording of the GSC Web Meeting – “Global Citizenship: Building the Global Supply Chain for the Local Impact” – click HERE

Luiza Oleszczuk[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” ]Luiza Oleszczuk is Development Director at the Global Sourcing Council. She is also a freelance journalist and a sustainable development enthusiast, as well as a part-time business research consultant specializing in the Eastern European markets. She holds a Master’s degree in English from University of St. Andrews. Among Luiza’s interests are international supply chains and CSR, the role of technology in social innovation, globalization and social issues related to it, policy and economics, and women in business and politics. Her articles have appeared in The Economist, Globalization Today, Outsourcing Magazine, Fox, The Christian Post and other publications.[/box]


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