Neville Isdell served Coca-Cola for forty years – the final four as Chairman of the Board and CEO. In his memoire, Inside Coca-Cola, Isdell begins by setting the scene. A boy, from a Protestant family, living in Northern Ireland. The story essentially begins with this statement:
The “troubles” as they were called were subdued in those days and would not resurface for two decades. Yet I would encounter these types of human conflicts for the rest of my life. The ability to understand them and get past them was a key business skill that served me well throughout my career at Coca-Cola.
Much of his job involved the logistics of getting the product to location and mediating the human element within diverse cultures to get it done. “Many people think the power of Coca-Cola is the strength of the brand. Yet it’s the route salesman who is the unsung hero…”
Now here’s the thing about memoires. The protagonist is never the villain. If you have not read Isdell’s story you might read into the quote above, another cliché. But all the stories he tells throughout all the places he’s worked in, all lead to a chapter called Connected Capitalism.
And here’s where a message from an old guy, doing old-fashioned logistics has a message that is relevant to the next generation of leaders:
People are motivated
when they see
what they do
I was lucky enough to sell work boots in a place where I didn’t have to worry about meeting commission. It allowed me to suggest product based on customer needs and I always felt good about that.
Connected Capitalism is about Corporate Social Responsibility. For the benefit of business; for the benefit of all. Here’s a fact I found at Terry O’Reilly’s radio podcast, Under the Influence.
“Almost 70% of us prefer to do business with companies that commit to causes, and almost 90% of us would switch from one brand to another if it was associated with a good cause. Those are numbers no smart corporation can afford to dismiss.”
O’Reilly is talking about Cause Marketing, where brands sponsor a cause related to their business interests, and both parties benefit. Take his example of KaBOOM!
In 1996, this non-profit challenged itself to build a thousand playgrounds in a thousand days. The Home Depot was looking to connect with people in newly built neighbourhoods as they opened new stores. Through the partnership, KaBOOM met their goal and “The Home Depot was able to announce their entry into new communities by helping build playgrounds… [T]heir staff felt the goodwill of working for a company that supports an important cause. It was a synergetic meeting of needs.”
But these things also work both ways:
Edun is Bono and his wife’s charity clothing line that, at inception suffered of low quality and was bleeding money. Even Bono, it seems, doesn’t have bottomless pockets. He realized he needed to see black ink on the ledger to make the charity viable. The business plan became to license a logo, “Product RED”, backed by Bono, to corporate brands. The logo, which would appear on corporate products from Starbucks to Armani, represented ethical business. Bono generated massive publicity through earned and shared media. His charity was able to send a portion of the corporate windfall to Global Fund programs, which fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa.
Lets for a moment, keep those people in mind. Each individual person: they could have been you or I, who really benefit from such life-giving aid. Lets think about them as I tell of this – this just perfect headline I saw at Business Insider from January 20, 2014.
Greame Wearden, of the Guardian followed up by painting this image:
The world’s wealthiest people aren’t known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.
I don’t claim to understand economics, but it seems to me that if the billionaires of the world are sequestering their treasures and pelf into tax havens, then they are hurting the global economy. Having all that capital just sitting there helps nobody. What are they saving for anyway?
But, that’s one thing and this is another. Responsible corporations and their leaders can set the example to the corrupt, the oligarchs, the party officials, and the just plain selfish.
For the record, I read in Wikipedia that Neville Isdell earned over 21 million dollars in the four years he served as CEO. He knows his family could live in spleandour with a fraction of that wealth. This is why his vision seems to be something well beyond the idea of Cause Marketing:
My vision for Connected Capitalism advocates to go much further to create a melding, a true marriage between government, nonprofits, and global corporations to fight disease and poverty, heal the planet, improve education, and, ultimately, boost private sector profits.
I don’t know how that works. But surely we can work something out.
Thanks for reading!
NASA mathematicians calculate the “collapse of civilization” in the coming decades.
If you’re under thirty years of age, and especially if you’re not,
we (me, you, them)
need you (me, we, us)
There is a solution during these Quintillion Times.