by Ross Delano
The trends in business these days are all about social responsibility and sustainable technology. Many technology companies prioritize global sustainability or start their own charity. The philosophy of corporate social responsibility hasn’t changed much since The Gilded Age: turn over a profit and then support a cause. The companies at the leading edge of integrating corporate social responsibility have done so at a cost to their bottom line. The question is: how does a corporation integrate triple bottom line concepts while at the same time remaining viable? How do you continue to make a profit while actually providing a more intrinsic benefit to your customers, not merely a product to them? Lourenço Bustani from Mandalah Conscious Innovation, visited Pratt Institute’s Design Management and Arts and Cultural Management students to discuss building social value into organizations. Fortunately for those interested in corporate social responsibility, Bustani’s company Mandalah specializes in providing this kind of insight for companies large and small.
Lourenço was calm and straight forward as he told his story, the story of his company and the ideas behind them. What first struck me was his idea of growth as it pertains to organizations. We think of growth generally in one way; as a for-profit organization succeeds it naturally becomes a bigger, more complex institution with a larger market share. This growth model accounts only for profits, as profits are what allows the company to afford to continually improve. A common belief held by business people is that any company that deviates from this model is doomed to remain in the void that is a small business, like a potted plant that is limited to the size of the pot. This is why traditionally, according to Lourenço, companies could either choose between being profit driven or purpose driven in regards to their business model. Lourenço believes that this line is already blurring into one cohesive model as organizations realize that their customers are beginning to expect at least some sort of corporate social responsibility. He feels however that growth can also be achieved on the basis of quality not only quantity. He believes that companies can benefit greatly from weaving CSR into the fabric of their operations and this is where Mandalah has found a niche.
Mandalah has worked with some very big names since being founded in 2006. The companies that they list on their website include HSBC, Natura, Petrobas and Nike as well as smaller ones that are based primarily in Brazil and the United States. He went into depth about the recent partnership with Nike and their preparations for the World Cup. Lourenço detailed how, through his company, they were able to convince Nike that a traditional advertising campaign was not effective anymore. Mandalah encouraged them to work from the ground up and explore the culture of the place where they planned to launch this massive project. Nike listened. They began a campaign that included revamping neighborhood soccer pitches and skate parks. The company sponsored local championships. This is an interesting idea for a large company who has the capacity to inundate a location with swooshes. Lourenço dubbed it “brand infusion,” or a more symbiotic form of doing business with clients. Appreciating cultural and traditional nuances specific to a country or region, allows businesses to develop more meaningful products and services. Just as important, this model creates a more loyal customer base by creating a stronger connection between brands and people.
Lourenço believes it is only a matter of time before this balancing of revenue and responsibility becomes universal among brands. I believe that we are all slowly waking up from decades of shortsightedness about making a profit and finally looking further down the road; to understand that building value means more than just adding features.