In the age of CEO activism, NGOs find unlikely support
The age of social media can be both boon and bane, especially for people in executive positions.
It is bane because, in this day and age, technology makes it possible for information shared on both personal and professional levels to escape confidential boundaries. People and companies can be exposed and be vulnerable to public scrutiny.
It is a boon for the same reason that we now have enough information to help us decide which basket to put our eggs in, drawing smart conclusions, and eventually offering our support to individuals and companies that we truly believe in.
Moreover, it is this kind of information revolution that has brought about into our consciousness a unique breed of leaders that are not just brilliant in the business sense but are also politically and socially involved in relevant global issues. These leaders are known to be the proponents of CEO activism, a game-changing movement that’s altering the way we perceive today’s businesses.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, for example, champions not only the success of his company in his workforce but the success of the community where they belong. To ensure that his employees understand its importance, part of their onboarding process is to first showcase the comfort and convenience of their offices before they are tasked to do volunteer work in the afternoon in homeless shelters, schools or hospitals.
This introduction, he said, is part of the company’s core culture. It makes them feel good about their jobs, but at the same time also allows them to believe that they have a higher purpose and responsibility in the community that they are a part of. This mindset has resulted in Salesforce’s certainty in a system that pays fair wages for both male and female employees.
CEO activism can also be associated with Apple’s very own Tim Cook back in 2015 when he openly opposed an Indiana law which allowed business owners who opposed homosexuality to refuse service to LGBTQs on the grounds of religious belief.
In a tweet that was shared more than 16,000 times, the Apple CEO showcased his disappointment and called on then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence to veto the law. The law has since been revised.
Last year, Merck CEO Ken Frazier, resigned from his position as part of U.S. President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, as a protest to violent movements involving white nationalist and neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal," Frazier said in a statement.
The resignation led to other leaders leaving their post, which eventually put an end to Trump’s manufacturing council.
Exponential Inc’s (XPO2) founder and CEO, French-American entrepreneur Dom Einhorn, is yet another excellent example of CEOs going outside the mold of being just a leader behind his desk.
Genuinely believing that a leader should not only be a thought leader but someone who is willing to roll up his sleeves and get down and dirty to get the job done, he goes out of his way to disrupt the NGO industry, turns it upside down and leads his company to success.
“I am of the firm belief that run of the mill NGOs will never accomplish their task. Otherwise, issues like child hunger or animal abuse would long be a thing of the past. I have no doubt that only for-profit (social) businesses can truly administer solutions that are deliverable at the scale needed to make a true dent. Without the inclusion of corporations, we are missing out on the most significant firepower—as evidenced by our cashless contribution model, which is 100 percent supported by e-merchants,” Einhorn said.
Taking into heart lessons from one of his favorite writers, Jules Verne, Einhorn believes that anything is possible and that people in business could impact the world in a meaningful way. This has given him the drive to support impact investing—business ventures that first adhere to “return on society” before “return on investment”—although the two are deeply connected in the business guru’s point of view.
I have no doubt that only for-profit (social) businesses can truly administer solutions that are deliverable at the scale needed to make a true dent.
This business ideal has led to XPO2’s promising success. In the first three months of its operation alone, the company was able to give support via impact investing to 12 NGOs, which meant significant aid to orphans and homeless children in countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as financial assistance to terminally ill seniors in hospices.
This achievement brings to light a new dimension to how non-government offices work. Whereas before, social significance supported 100 percent by dollar contributions became the whole core of most NGOs, Einhorn goes out of the box and tackles his organization like most successful businesses—by being innovative. The CEO has since come up with a unique crowdfunding and impact investing platform which makes contributions systematic and which encourages and rewards active participation.
This puts a spotlight on Einhorn’s “fundraising disrupted” concept, which changes and sets a new benchmark on how NGOs should be run. By disrupting the status quo of foundation operations, the groups get to help themselves, making the system more solid and sustainable in the long run. This concept works through XPO2’s innovative strategy that drives incremental fundraising revenue on behalf of vetted, small- to mid-sized NGOs, charities, and associations located all over the world.
With leaders like Einhorn, Benioff, Cook and Frazier, it is now easy to decide which leaders to look up to and follow.