Below is a blog posting that originally appeared on FSG’s Corporations and Society blog. It is an important perspective from Greg Hills, Managing Director at FSG Social Impact Consultants on Oxfam America’s Poverty Footprint work with The Coca-Cola Company and SABMiller in the context of a broader discussion on creating shared value. The piece raises some important questions about what companies actually know about how their practices affect social issues and why it seems they say they’ll be responsible, but then act differently.
Lifting the Veil…to See Your Own Face
Why do companies say they are responsible, but then act differently? Is it lip service, green washing, and double-speak? Or does this happen for a different reason?
The answer is that most companies are less sinister than skeptics might think, but often they don’t know what they don’t know. Good managers with strong values make bad decisions because they don’t see opportunities to make a difference on social issues. From the outside, they appear to be acting irresponsibly, but often it’s simply a reflection of in-line managers being uninformed about the intersection of their business with society.
I want to share a glimpse into the future of how companies will seek to understand and address social issues. Last week I jumped on a train from Boston to New York City to attend a launch event for the results of a “poverty footprint” study conducted by Oxfam America. This new study looks at the operations of Coca-Cola and its local bottler SABMiller in El Salvador and Zambia and the effects of those businesses on low income communities. The event was a lively and candid panel discussion of representatives from Oxfam America, Coca-Cola, SABMiller, and the UN Global Compact to share the two-year journey of conducting the research and developing the report.