Tag Archives: clare melford

What is the role of business in achieving development goals post-2015?

By Clare Melford, CEO, IBLF

In the period since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established business has made a considerable impact on poverty reduction. In the second edition of ‘Business and the MDGs: A Framework for Action’, published in 2008, IBLF identified the three spheres of influence though which the positive impacts of business occur: core business, community investment and engagement in public policy. 

One of the many ways business has contributed to the MDGs is by work to create an enabling environment, by which we mean one that roots out corruption. Responsible business practice, which is essential if business is to contribute to positive development outcomes, must include effective anti-corruption and bribery compliance systems consistent with the tenth UNGC Principle. The $1 trillion a year corruption ‘industry’ disproportionately affects the world’s poorest who often have to pay bribes for everyday services. Collaborative cross-sector action such as IBLF’s work in Russia, India and China are building strong groups of people from business, government and civil society who are taking real steps to reduce corruption.

While great examples, these initiatives are not enough and there is plenty of work to do to get more of the private sector engaged. We need to apply the maxim of ‘think global, act local’ with local cross-sector networks that can leverage the full force of the private sector to the maximum advantage of the poor and under-served.

We need a concerted effort to communicate the business case for sustainable development and engage more companies. We also need much more widespread support to help them partner with the other sectors that are vital as implementing, intermediary, capacity-building or knowledge partners.

There remains the serious challenge of how to make cross-sector collaboration happen systematically, at much greater scale and with much greater effectiveness. This doesn’t occur by accident – it takes active brokering. By working together in effective partnerships, trust will be developed and confidence will be built. Basic partnering principles must be established up front, especially equity, transparency and mutual benefit. Without these principles, partnerships fail.

We have identified three things that need to happen:

Firstly, the development of a global network of highly-skilled, brokering or intermediary organisations or hubs which are capable of bringing together the different sectors and facilitating robust, effective partnerships much more systematically. We propose that MDG8, arguably the least effective of the MDGs in terms of outcomes, be re-invented with a specific remit to establish in all developing countries an effective, performance managed local network brokered to focus on specific, measurable, locally relevant targets which are identified priorities for all sectors of society in that country – including business. This will draw in more companies because of the local relevance, and will ensure the effort is focused on the relevant issues.

Secondly, collaboration competencies need to become like financial competencies: a standard part of every MBA, every masters in international development, every organisation’s professional training.

Thirdly, our companies and institutions need to be internally more ‘fit to partner’ to have the leadership, strategy, incentives, systems and capacities to be a good partner.

There is widespread consensus about the need for cross-sector partnerships. Now a concerted effort is needed on all sides to turn the rhetoric into reality: to drive, widespread, effective transformational partnership at country, regional and global levels.

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Filed under Business standards, Cross-sector Partnering, CSR, Inclusive Business, Leadership, Poverty, Sustainability

Corporate social responsibility: Measuring its value – A response

By Clare Melford, CEO, IBLF

The following comment is in response to Shanaz Musafer’s piece on corporate social responsibility on the BBC website (Corporate social responsibility: Measuring its value, 22 October 2012).

In her piece on measuring its value, Shanaz Musafer presents corporate social responsibility as an industry. The reality is that corporate social responsibility, practiced properly, needs to be embedded throughout an organisation’s operations. It should not be a separate industry, but industry’s core business.

This is why the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) works directly with CEOs and Board level executives to drive change across their companies and networks. We seek to drive widespread and effective collaboration between civil society, government and companies to redefine growth to be sustainable. Businesses that are not socially and environmentally responsible are not sustainable in the long-term.

Furthermore, many businesses partner and share the proceeds of economic growth more equitably. To reduce the economic inequality that ultimately results in social instability, forward-thinking businesses look to include the very poorest in their value chains. They partner with non-government organisations, for example those working with smallholder farmers, to ensure these farmers can improve yields and hence revenue. None of this is counter to the economic success of business as it creates a high-quality, shock-resistant supply chain.

A sustainable business should be able to increase revenues and/or reduce costs. Companies that do good do better.

 

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Filed under Cross-sector Partnering, CSR, Inclusive Business, Leadership, Poverty, Sustainability

IBLF in China

By Clare Melford, CEO, IBLF

I spent last week in China at a range of events including the World Economic Forum’s Meeting of the New Champions, otherwise known as Summer Davos. 

The WEF summit was dominated by the game of “what did Premier Wen really mean in his opening speech”. Wen Jiabao used the occasion to list his litany of achievements during his ten years in office before he steps down next spring. This was interpreted variously as “typical politician trying to justify his record”; “terrible consolation prize for having made no liberalising reforms towards democracy in his ten years”; “a warning shot to the next generation of leaders not to take China’s economic progress backwards”. It seemed clear that he was this year targeting his own party rather than last year where he had clearly sent warning messages through the speech to the political leaders of the US and Europe for not resolving their economic malaise while stressing that China’s growth needed to become sustainable.

The other big question at WEF was the whereabouts of Xi Jingping, the next leader, who has not been seen for several weeks and has cancelled a number of high-level meetings for a “back problem”. The answer to the question of “where is Xi?” is, according to WEF wags, “Hu knows.”

I had a great opportunity of speaking on a very high level panel called “China Globalisers” with the vice Chair of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) and the CEOs of TCL (one of the largest electronics groups) and Trina Solar (a solar panel maker currently under investigation by the EU for dumping).  It was an ideal topic for IBLF to be associated with as there is increasing concern in China about the challenges Chinese companies face abroad. The calibre of my fellow panellists demonstrates that IBLF, through the China Business Leaders Forum (CBLF), is beginning to be accepted and perhaps respected by the Chinese business and government community. This was reinforced by a private meeting we were able to secure with the Vice Chair of SASAC.

The week concluded with a dinner in Beijing with the Unilever CEO Paul Polman and six or seven Chinese business leaders. Mr Polman had agreed to do this for CBLF as he wanted to meet a range of Chinese business leaders in a more intimate setting than he is usually afforded given his status. He was particularly interested to share experiences of trying to make companies sustainable. The conversation was very progressive, with all the Chinese CEOs expressing admiration for Unilever’s strategy and a shared view of the importance of social and particularly environmental sustainability.  There was shared frustration around the table at the lack of progress of governments in supporting sustainable development. In China this takes the form of a lack of enforcement of the regulations (which are fairly progressive, such as compulsory CSR reporting for state owned companies). There was much talk of the powerlessness of the central government to enforce laws in regions.

Another high impact event for CBLF and one that will stand us in good stead with several Chinese companies we had not previously met.

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Filed under China, Leadership, Sustainability