When I was growing up, I heard Bill Clinton say, "There is nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what is right with America." Today this pithy aphorism largely sums up how I feel about business. If companies are powerful enough to slurp up the world's fossil fuels, create the iPhone and put 50 different types of toothpaste on the shelf, perhaps they can save the world, too.
That may sound a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I and countless others are working to make it sound utterly realistic. I truly believe that we can harness the power of business to tackle the world's hardest problems. That is why I started Goodness500, a social enterprise that ranks the largest companies in the world based on corporate social responsibility. Our mission is to bring more consumers into the conversation about CSR and encourage companies to adopt more ethical business practices.
Making CSR remotely interesting can be a challenge. "CSR" sounds rather drab and complex (and it most certainly can be). But many of its underlying elements are issues that people are extremely passionate about -- such as philanthropy, diversity and environmentalism. Armed with some creativity and a healthy dose of social-media savvy, we work to resolve that disconnect.
The focus of our work is reaching the hearts and minds of busy people. We educate consumers about CSR by leveraging beautiful user interfaces and avoiding industry jargon. Our approach is admittedly more MTV than WSJ. You'll notice the anthropomorphic kitten in a suit on our home page. But beyond our attempts to bring humor to a number-intensive website, we place an uncompromising importance on making our data visually and emotionally accessible, with the help of Dublin-based Contrast.
From our perspective, CSR rankings should be not the end of the conversation but the beginning. We want to foster a more enlightened discourse based on data that people can relate to. For example, we help consumers learn things -- such as which companies donate the most cash, employ the highest percentage of female executives, have the best policies toward LGBT employees, produce the most toxic waste or use the most renewable energy. When consumers are empowered to evaluate companies based on data rather than preconceptions, companies have a business case to compete with their peers on social responsibility.
Early signs suggest that we are striking a nerve with people from around the world. I love reading random tweets like this one from London: @Goodness500 Very glad you exist. Have always thought something like your site has been badly needed." But with millions more people to reach, our work is just getting started.
The agency world has a special role to play if business is to save the world. There are practical things you can do at your agency today to help push the CSR movement forward. For example, you can try to have a constructive conversation about "greenwashing" with some colleagues. Or you can seek out a client that inspires you with its innovative approach to doing well by doing good.
Above all, the CSR movement needs your core competencies. It is your creativity that can sound a fresh note over the information cacophony of mass media. It is your strategic masterstrokes that can transform ideas into cultural juggernauts. The best "good" businesses will not prevail without your best work.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Michael Mossoba runs Goodness500 and does digital strategy at GeniusRocket, a crowdsourcing-based ad agency.