MTV Live Stage: Movement towards socially responsible business

Businesses are operating in an environment where focusing on social responsibility won’t be an option anymore. Social entrepreneurs Jessica Jackley, Anni Vepsäläinen and Pekka Hyysalo sat down for a pre-lunch briefing with MTV Live Stage host news anchor Peter Nyman to unpack their ideas about how today’s companies can include social drivers in their corporate strategies.

Jessica Jackley, co-founder of the micro-finance non-profit, Kiva, said that the notions of operating for-profit while advancing social goals are no longer mutually exclusive ideas.

“The world is changing so quickly it won’t be an option anymore. You will have an impact, good, bad or ugly. The organizations that get out and talk about it and tell stories about it will be the ones that get ahead,” she declared.

At the end of the day, however, companies will have to take a stand and make choices about how they operate. This will throw up hard questions that may scare many, but they will have to be addressed, she said.

Founder of the non-profit Fightback Pekka Hyysalo is a former freestyle skier whose career was tragically cut short when he suffered severe brain trauma during a training run. He is the embodiment of his company’s ethos and is helping others to do the same.

He was not as precious about the dividing line between making money and helping others, but has adopted a version of the “by any means necessary” approach to his outreach program.

“There may have been some conflicts in terms of helping others and doing business. But I don’t pay attention, I try to get business benefits and take them to charitable base,” Hyysalo explained.

As one of the co-founders of the Finland-based NGO Women’s Bank (Naisten Pankki), Anni Vepsäläinen said that her organization’s mission is to leverage the business skills of its 4,700-strong network of professionals to help financially empower women in Africa and the developing world.

Not only can corporates embrace social imperatives in their work, they can also learn much from the NGO sector, the panelists said. Referencing the storytelling aspect of the event’s marketing theme, they pointed out that many non-profits have been able to create compelling narratives and that could serve as an example to the business sector.

Vepsäläinen encouraged companies to reach for accessible options such as offering employees time off to engage in community projects – tree-planting, for instance.

However, Jackley stressed the need for a holistic approach to corporate social responsibility programs.

“Is concern for the environment just an add-on where people spend three hours a year or do they look at supply chains and sourcing?”

Jackley noted that capitalism is in any case in a transition phase, and corporates – as well as entrepreneurs – will need to think bigger and differently to find other ways to do business.


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