By Leeann Yu
Students from the Spring 2010 "Integrative Leadership: From Theory to Practice" course, taught by Professors Jay Kiedrowski and Paul Vaaler, will post their reflections on integrative leadership throughout the course of the semester on the Time to Lead blog.
There is much debate these days as to whether or not businesses should participate in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Milton Friedman states that the only responsibility a business has is to its shareholders, while Edward Freeman argues that a business has a responsibility to all of its stakeholders. Personally, I came into the class believing that CSR was a necessity for any business and this class only strengthened my belief. It is through integrative leadership that we as a society will be able to conquer the biggest problems facing our neighborhoods, our countries, and ultimately our entire world. The problems are numerous and the burden is far too great for any one organization or sector to take on the task alone. As a result, it is imperative that businesses participate in CSR initiatives.
Regardless of whether or not one believes in CSR, consider the fact that CSR activities allow the business community to create cross sector partnerships that tackle much larger societal issues like hunger, education, or climate change. Cross sector partnerships allow each organization to not only utilize their own strengths and networks, but also leverage the strengths and networks of other organizations. Ultimately each organization is utilizing their competitive advantage and outsourcing everything else, a concept that is commonly accepted amongst the business community. The examples of partnerships around the world are endless. A few examples are Novo Nordisk and the World Diabetes Foundation, Johnson & Johnson and UNICEF, Hewlett Packard and the World Wildlife Fund, or General Mills and Feeding America. Corporate partners bring a sense of credibility to an organization and can create a larger impact by simply leveraging the company's brand credibility.
At the beginning of 2010, Disney and the Hands on Network launched the "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" promotion as a way to inspire everyone and anyone to spend a day volunteering for hundreds of thousands of organizations around the country. In return, each volunteer would receive a one day pass to one of Disney's theme parks. Disney provided the tickets and the advertising power, while the Hands on Network provided the infrastructure for connecting volunteers with various organizations. Within a couple of months, volunteer registrations had already reached the allotted 1 million tickets, but the website still encourages visitors to volunteer with one of the many organizations. Sure one could be cynical and say that Disney ultimately profits from additional park revenue (although every company needs profits to function), but think of the impact 1 million people can have across the country. 8 hours a day times 1 million volunteers equals 8 million hours of community service! This is the power CSR and integrative leadership.