Corporate giving to the next generation
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The persistent ethical debate about corporations giving money to complex, global issues is a tough one. On one end of the spectrum, you can argue that simply handing over cash isn’t going to solve anything. However, you can’t expect every for- profit organization to perform the work of a not-for-profit? I believe we can compromise to mutually benefit those giving and those receiving.
After further research about the community relations of major corporations, such as Nike, Exxon and Walmart, I’ve found that a lot of good is done. Sure, these businesses may be for-profit and primarily sell goods and services, but the causes are legitimate.
On the topic of the well being of children, why not let them contribute to the cause? Maybe the managers and CEO’s aren’t traveling to the third world counties they are funding, and maybe one purpose is to create a positive public image, but what does it matter? Let them pump millions of dollars into underdeveloped areas that need it. I just have one condition: Make sure it’s done correctly.
Money given to charitable organizations and causes shouldn’t be thought to solve all of the issue’s…well issues. A two million dollar check does not necessarily feed a county if it is used unethically or irresponsibly.
In the book, Getting it wrong, Making Corporate-Community Relations Work, written by Luc Zandvliet and Mary B. Anderson, some reasons for failed community relations programs include: They do not know how communities define success and whether company definition matches the community definition; they lack a baseline to measure changes against; and they measure the wrong things (Zandvliet & Anderson, 2009, p 207-208).
By these standards, corporate companies lack the knowledge of the locations they are supporting. It makes sense; how can you feed a village in South Africa is you don’t know what they want to eat?
Now, not every company is like-minded. Some are exploring the regions and adapting their programs to their cultures, at least their PR staff is. But the unsuccessful campaigns, the ones that are covered by the media and associated with ‘impersonal’ capitalism, fail because they assumed they knew the solution. And you know what happens when you assume.
I’m only a student, so you may be asking what I know about the issue?
For the last two months, I’ve been learning about the culture, religion and values of Gabon, Africa to prepare for a service trip in January. The team and I are told that our job is to do what is asked to follow the Gabonese cultural norms in order to create positive relationships with local residents in the villages.
This is parallel to the standards every corporation has to meet. There are serious consequences when this rule is broken. On a more immediate level, the trust is gone. Going into a foreign country without substantial cultural training and knowledge is not only ignorant, but a deal breaker.
On a larger scale, the loss of the communication results in a failed community campaign and a potential loss of customers. What is the socially responsible consumer going to think when you can’t keep the peace with Kenya?
So the real issue isn’t what the corporations are giving, although I personally believe the best policy is giving funds and labor, it is companies not doing their research and giving money to put a Band-Aid over a deeper problem. The best community relation campaigns are extensive, thoughtful and intricate. As long as those requirements are met, I say let them give what they want.
Chloe, 21, Falmouth, MA.