Legitimate business case for taking care of those who buy from, supply to and work for companies, says Qiujing Wong
Q: Why should companies bother doing more than being commercially successful?
If entrepreneurs value making the best decisions based on gut instinct, I would hope they would want to take care of the very people who are their customers, employees, contributors, supporters and friends of the business. A healthy society creates good, happy, successful customers and if a business wants to be a legitimate part of that society, it needs to join in, properly, rather than just stand on the sideline and pitch in when it suits.
Q: Are there enough philanthropic New Zealand businesses?
I'd love to reframe the concept of philanthropy as "connecting authentically with our people and environment" so that it's no longer an extra thing or an afterthought.
With that lens, I'd argue, so many more businesses would value simple practices like recycling, going paperless, car-pooling, planting trees, feeding kids at the local school (they are future customers and employees), helping local charities, improving the well-being of their employees and behaving well as an employer.
Q: Do any companies put that ethos first and products second?
A handful do. Untouched World has stuck to its purpose quite well. And it's a little different but I love the Locals Trade "can for a coffee" pop-up cafe idea that Caffe L'affare has sponsored.
I think it's unfortunate that we label organisations in the way we do, though - a charity, not-for-profit, corporate - as I think this can lead to confusion over why they exist. Every organisation is purpose-led, not product-led. For some, the purpose is to save animals from extinction - WWF, for instance. Or to bring happiness to the world - Disney. And for some, it is about making life simpler - Apple. No organisation in the world exists for the product only. Tapping into purpose allows us to consider why we exist and to operate authentically and with integrity.
Q: Is there money in working for the greater good of society or your sector?
Yes, there is a legitimate business case around taking care of the people who buy from us, supply to us and work for us. The better off they are, the more likely they will be able to engage enthusiastically with us and our products and services. But I'd love to think that businesses would do it for reasons other than this.
Q: What are some ways companies can improve people's lot?
• Join the board of a charity and offer your professional skills.
• Volunteer at a local school or sports club.
• Contact a cause you care about and ask what it needs that you might be able to supply
• Do something good for the environment.
• Be more accessible.
• Help out in crises, such as providing support to typhoon victims in the Philippines.
Qiujing Wong is chief executive of Borderless.