Selective Corporate Altruism - How Important Are You Before I Care?

As we all know, Haiti was recently devastated by a hurricane leaving more than 1000 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.  More than 1000 people dead – children, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandmothers, grandfathers.  Facebook did not switch on the ‘safety check’ feature for Haitians.

As we all know, Paris, Brussels and Orlando were home to the recent appalling attacks that left hundreds dead and injured.  Facebook did switch on the ‘safety check’ feature and was there to show solidarity, support and to stand united whilst we mourned those taken so cruelly and so unfairly.

Did you also know that in Nigeria, Boko Haram (classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the USA in 2013) has killed more than 15,000 people and close to three million people have been displaced as a result of their military activities?  Maybe yes, maybe no. We won’t even mention Syria.

And this gets us to thinking about the recent criticism thrown at Facebook as it arguably ‘selectively’ showed its altruistic side and lent its support to people displaced or hurt or gone due to circumstances beyond their control.  But only for people it deemed worthy of receiving this support.  European.  American.

So how can a corporation be so selective? Why bother with corporate altruism in the first place?

Let us take a step back.  Recently it was ‘discovered’ that altruism is good for business.  As though we were all working in a vacuum and suddenly human beings are being affected by what we do.  Of course altruism is good for business.  It starts in your own backyard – your own office.  Do you share an emotional connection with your employees?  Would you help if one was injured?  If they were sick?  Would that help them feel that they belong? That they are cared for? That they mean something to you and the business?  Would that help them to commit and give the business all they’ve got? Let’s hope the answer to those questions is yes.  So how can you remove your business from the world you live in and believe that it has no effect?  You cannot.  It is naïve to think that profit making and success do not go hand in hand with corporate social responsibility and altruistic integrity.  But it is a ‘new’ leap and suddenly people, large corporates, have understood that integrity actually creates profits.

Take a look at Tesla – Elon Musk recently sacrificed short term profits for the greater good by opening up his patents so long as they are used in good faith.  Why?  To benefit more people by the creation of sustainable transport and a sustainable world – Tesla’s mission and vision.  And yes to make money from the infrastructure needed around the sustainable transport whilst servicing the end consumers in a positive way.

It is easy to forget that when we are in business, we are in business doing something for someone.  Whether we are brewing coffee, drafting a document or designing a car, we are doing it for a fellow human being.  We are serving each other.  We are utilising our unique knowledge, skills and abilities to leave each person we interact with a little better off.

And we have no right to be selective in this role.  Therefore, we either role out our corporate social responsibility plan to include every human being it may affect or we don’t bother and step back into an archaic mind-set that profits can only be achieved if we sacrifice our social responsibility.

Whilst Facebook is not alone in its questionable approach, it is important to note that neither is Tesla in receiving praise and it is in our hands to ensure that when we implement our own corporate altruism it is fair, equal and built on integrity for our employees, clients and customers – our fellow human beings.