Reading books like Brotopia and Lab Rats (both excellent books if you want to understand the level of abuse in Silicon Valley) is critical to our understanding of the problems being created by many of the younger tech companies right now. Other firms, older firms, are stepping up to provide a needed counterpoint and showcasing that you don’t have to be bad to do well. During this holiday season, Cisco has been stepping up to improve the world. Previously, it had set aside $50M to help end poverty near its Silicon Valley headquarters and now is sponsoring the Global Citizen Festival with emphasis on the Mandela 100.
During this holiday season, I want to focus on companies that are doing well by doing good. Cisco is one of the strongest examples of this. Its Corporate Responsibility efforts, led by Senior Vice President Tae Yoo, have set a stunning example of how a company should behave.
It is interesting to note that millennial customers are beginning to demand that the companies they use demonstrate strong social responsibility. This is ironic, given that most of the firms being highlighted as behaving badly are largely run by millennials.
Let’s talk about this latest effort, the Mandela 100.
The Mandela 100
One of the most interesting aspects of the star-studded Global Citizen Festival event is that, unlike most of the others I’ve seen, you don’t get to attend by paying money; you get to attend by demonstrating that you have personally made a difference in the effort to end global poverty.
The event uses status to drive good behavior because the headliners include Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Cassper Nyovest, D’banj, Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Femi Kuti, Pharrell Williams and Chris Martin, Sho Madjozi, Tiwa Savage, Usher and Wizkid. All these stars are focused, along with the corporate sponsors, on ending global poverty.
The goal for the effort is to rally $1B in new commitments, half of which is specifically targeted at improving the lives of 20 million women and girls all over the world. The global goals for the effort, in addition to ending poverty, are ending hunger, assuring good health and well-being, assuring a quality education, promoting gender equality, assuring clean water and effective sanitation, and assuring ocean health.
Mandela was chosen as the example because he showcased that just one man with passion and focus could change the world simply by repeatedly, and regardless of hardship (some of which was extreme), standing up and aggressively being counted. He believed, and I agree, that poverty is man made and that if enough people use their voices and commit to taking individual action, poverty can become obsolete. And, if it becomes obsolete, the world could become a far better place for all of us.
Cisco isn’t the only high-profile tech sponsor for this effort, either. Sponsors include Vodacom, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and HP. Efforts like this, driven by Global Citizens, have secured 29 major commitments totaling $2.9B, which are expected to positively afect the lives of 500+ million people by 2030.
On top of sponsoring the event, Cisco has 10 employees, who exemplify Cisco’s passion for making a difference, attending the event. These employees are called Bridge Award winners (Cisco’s logo is a bridge and the current marketing campaign is called the “Bridge To Possible”).
Finally, one of Cisco’s strongest programs is the Networking Academy, where the company aggressively trains people to make a living in technology which, once again, helps reduce poverty and helps the deployment of necessary technology in developed and under developed countries.
Wrapping Up: Doing Well by Doing Good
During this holiday season, it is easy to become disgusted by the bad behavior of others. I think we should instead focus on companies that are “Doing Well by Doing Good.” Cisco and several other tech firms are stepping up to help eliminate poverty on a global scale. I think if we all spoke about things like this, it would help other firms pivot from being bad actors to good actors. You see, I think the path to sustainable success is through making the world a better place, not screwing your fellow man. This is something I wish a lot more firms, particularly younger firms, would finally realize.
We all have choices. Let’s all work to make better ones.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+