Two palm oil harvesters go about their day. Palm oil is a leading industry in Colombia and a vital piece of the country’s economy.
By Jaime Arteaga
Colombia has had significant achievements despite being home to one of the longest-running internal conflicts in the world. The country’s economy has grown steadily for several decades, without significant fluctuations or crises, while maintaining a low inflation rate thanks to a strong and disciplined monetary policy. Despite having endured nine civil wars over two centuries, Colombia has managed to maintain a stable democracy. In fact, it is the only Latin American country that has had uninterrupted election cycles since 1830. Remarkably, it is the only country in the world that has initiated reparation processes for victims while conflicts are ongoing.
Bringing bananas to market, another vital crop for Colombians.
Therefore, the historic peace agreement, signed in December 2016 by the Colombian government and FARC rebels, removes one of the last obstacles on the country’s path toward economic development. The peace accord creates boundless opportunities for private investment in a number of ways. First, it opens vast expanses of territory that were isolated while under the guerrilla group’s control. Second, the peace agreement permits the state to redirect tremendous economic resources, previously destined for national defense, toward investment in regional economic development. Also, the accord allows society to focus on institutional reforms needed to combat corruption, strengthen the government’s role, and promote economic growth throughout the country.
Podcast guest Kalsoom Lakhani
On this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Invest2Innovate (I2I) CEO and Founder Kalsoom Lakhani talks about the trends, opportunities, and challenges that entrepreneurs face in Pakistan and the report that I2I just launched that looks at the environment for start-ups and investors in the country. Lakhani traces her work today back to her childhood in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and to her early interest in conflict resolution that stemmed from hearing about her family’s experiences during the Bangladesh War of 1971. The stories she heard as a child still resonate today as she seeks to increase understanding around the world about what everyday life is really like in countries such as Pakistan that are often best known in the West for violence and instability. Lakhani talks about how her interest in social justice led her to venture philanthropy and to the work she does today helping shape a supportive environment for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses in Pakistan.
Follow Kalsoom on Twitter: @kalsoom82.
Download a free copy of the Invest2Innovate 2016 Pakistan Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Report.
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By Mark Horoszowski
Earlier this month at the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference, CEOs from diverse organizations gathered for a Plenary Panel titled “Lessons From the Top”. The CEOs represented a variety of industries and include the YWCA (non-profit), United Nations Foundation, and two socially-minded for-profits: Starfish Media Group and Reserveage
These are their five lessons:
Earlier this week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center’s conference The Impact Equation: Stronger Business, Greater Results, Better World gathered business and non-profit leaders committed to sharing innovative solutions on how to achieve positive change in communities in the U.S. and around the world.
This year’s event focused on results. As the Corporate Citizenship Center’s Executive Director Marc DeCourcey put it, “In today’s world, companies must ensure that every dollar spent is meaningful, that every employee volunteer opportunity is worthwhile, and that every investment shows a return. Companies must ensure that their work is driving measurable, lasting impact.”
Great speakers – including Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, Stan Litow, President of the IBM Foundation, and Carolyn Berkowitz, President of the Capital One Foundation – emphasized that point throughout the conference. The focus on results was also reinforced by a study presented by Global Impact, Giving Beyond Borders: A Study of Global Giving by U.S. Corporations, showing that effectiveness in producing results is by far the most important factor influencing corporate partnerships with non-profits.
Here are a few other highlights from that report that I found particularly interested from the Center for International Private Enterprise’s perspective centered on international projects:
A recent CEO study on sustainability conducted by the UN Global Compact and Accenture – the third one of its kind – reached out to more than 1,000 executives from 27 industries in 103 countries around the world, asking for their views on the past, present and future of sustainable business. This largest-ever CEO study on sustainability offered a mixed picture of global movement in the positive direction juxtaposed with the frustration over slow progress.
In the previous edition of this study, conducted in 2010, CEOs were optimistic that sustainability – understood as the active management of social, environmental, and governance issues as a part of core business – would soon become a norm embedded into operations of companies worldwide, with leadership on sustainability incentivized and rewarded. In 2013, 63 percent of CEOs still expect sustainability to transform their industry within five years and 76 percent believe that embedding sustainability into core business will drive revenue growth and new opportunities. However, the predominant feeling is that global business efforts on sustainability may have plateaued, and despite deeper awareness and commitment levels many business leaders deem the pace of change and the scale of impact insufficient.
Participants on a panel at the BCLC event.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), or corporate citizenship, is not a new concept. The idea that businesses should be responsible and engaged members of their communities, both locally and globally, has been around for quite some time. However, the understanding of what that means in practice and what the larger significance of good corporate citizenship is has evolved over time. Today it is more important today than ever before.
Recently, I had a chance to participate in two great events that explored this topic in depth: CSR: Business Solutions for Emerging Markets conference organized by the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) and Corporate Strategic Responsibility: What’s Next for CSR? organized by Partners for Democratic Change, together with the GE Foundation and the International Finance Corporation CommDev Office. They both attracted excellent speakers and active participants, asking key questions about what makes corporate citizenship successful and why it should be a key element of a company’s strategy.
These are the themes and new concepts that I took away:
In a world where sustainability has become a global buzzword, companies are reassessing how their business impacts local, national, and international communities. Companies are also taking a proactive approach and thinking about what role they can play in a building better and more sustainable society.
While all that sounds nice, what does it really look like in practice? What does it mean to be a good corporate citizen?
Good corporate citizenship starts with good corporate governance. According to a guidebook recently published by CIPE partner the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia (ADFIAP), corporate governance “is an internal set of rules that ultimately focuses on accountability of the business to its investors and stakeholders.” In other words, an organization must ensure good business practices, sustained growth, and risk management before it can be accountable to its community.