Back in the 1990s, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream coined the term “caring capitalism” to illustrate their corporate stance of maintaining a social conscience in company decisions. Flash forward 20 years to other corporations finally catching onto this concept. The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that Neville Isdell, former chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, is calling for companies to follow a standard of “connected capitalism.” This is when companies connect the bottom line of their businesses with a social conscience. And Isdell has attracted several high-profile executives to his cause.
Neville Isdell is the son of social activists and a trained social worker who once worked against apartheid in South Africa. This year, he will travel to South Africa to a conference organized by CNN and Fortune magazine to meet with other corporate leaders. Isdell says that while capitalism can be a force for good in society, people have grown weary of the corporate greed and mismanagement that plunged the world into a recession. Instead, he proposes a “modernist view” of what makes capitalism work in the first place. After all, as he told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “[Capitalism] is the best way to take people out of poverty and to grow the world economy.”
Connected capitalism is a simple idea in a complex financial world. A company must still be able to turn a profit. But it must also use the weight of its brand, as well as actual capital, to be an agent for positive change in the world. Isdell infers that some global issues are too large for nonprofits to take on by themselves. He cites the global water issue as an example. Water is a primary commodity for Coca-Coca, and therefore water is number one priority as a social issue.
Who has Isdell enlisted into this connected capitalism campaign? United Parcel Service, SunTrust Banks and nonprofits like CARE are on board. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President and CEO Dennis Lockhart and GE Technology Infrastructure CEO John Rice have signed on. As part of their commitment to the concept, companies must pledge to focus on the communities they serve, governments and non-governmental agencies of social change, and the philanthropies and values of its employees.
Nonprofits are excited about this collaboration. As CARE President and CEO Dr. Helene D. Gayle told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “The most effective collaborations happen when [non-governmental organizations] and businesses identify where, by coming together, they can have a greater impact than each has on its own. … The resulting lift can be tremendous — for women’s literacy rates, for poor people’s access to markets and for the corporation’s own bottom line.” Hopes are that the dual combination of corporations and nonprofits can finally effect the change necessary to solve some of our world’s greatest problems.
For further reading: Connected Capitalism going global