This is a guest post by Christine Bader, author of The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil (bibliomotion books + media; March 25, 2014).
I joined BP in 1999 as a summer intern between the two years of my MBA. I was young, idealistic, and convinced that working in business was the way to make my mark on the world.
At the time, then-CEO John Browne had recently broken ranks with his industry to become the first head of a major energy company to acknowledge the reality of climate change and urge action. This was a different kind of oilman who seemed to be creating a different kind of oil company.
I fell in love with that BP. And BP loved me back, giving me the opportunity to live in Indonesia, working on the social issues around a remote gas field; then China, ensuring worker and community safety for a chemicals joint venture; then in the United Kingdom again, collaborating with colleagues around the world to better understand and support human rights. BP was paying me to help the people living around its projects, because that in turn would help its business.
Then BP broke my heart, with a string of horrible accidents that culminated in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
By then I had left the company to serve as an advisor to the United Nations special representative on business and human rights, and was looking back on my time with BP with nostalgia. But the disaster in the Gulf made me wonder whether my nine-year relationship with the company – during which I came to believe that the interests of business and the interests of society were well-aligned – was nothing but a sham.
Trying to reconcile the public profile of BP that emerged in the aftermath of that disaster with the BP I thought I knew so well, I interviewed many of the people I’ve gotten to know over the years pushing for safer and more responsible practices from inside the world’s biggest and best-known companies.
In my new book, I share the stories and reflections of this global army of Corporate Idealists, who believe in the positive potential of business, but also know the serious risks to people and planet.
These Corporate Idealists are trying to prevent the next Rana Plaza factory collapse, the next Deepwater Horizon disaster. Sometimes, obviously, we fail.
The Corporate Idealist community sees both the challenges and the potential of big business. We realize that we can’t save the world—we can’t even save every finger and toe. We can expound upon but not fully explain the disasters of our companies and industries, which is deeply unsatisfying to those who want simple answers and assurances. But we can nudge our companies toward a vision of a better future, one in which “responsible business” and “fair trade” are redundant, not novelties or oxymorons.
Are you a Corporate Idealist?
Despite the fact I had polio, or perhaps because of it, I work out at World Gym about five times a week.I often gaze at parents who bring their little kids in for daycare , and think how different things would have been years ago.
It would be completely ghastly and unimaginable for these young, peppy mothers to imagine their kids not in ballet or soccer practice, but instead in heavy, clunky braces and framed in awkward crutches from polio.
In that other generation, mothers knew their children’s innocent years may be lost, and their future as adults limited, at best.
And grimly, they knew it had been their responsibility to protect their kids. And, somehow, they failed.
I mention this because all this came to mind when I gave the eulogy at my mother Iris’ funeral years ago. I realized how the polio mothers were very much victims of the disease, and rarely are even acknowledged for their lifelong devotion.
So I wrote a memoir of her silent commitment, and it was published from Palm Springs (I live nearby) to Los Angeles to Peoria (where I had my therapy) to Paris (where I once worked) to Taipei. Based on the overwhelming emotional response I received, I wrote a novella, TOO EARLY FOR FLOWERS: THE STORY OF A POLIO MOTHER.
It had to be fiction, because my mother would never talk about the immediate years after I got polio at the age of two. There was no Oprah nor Facebook for support. Her self-taught strength came from within.
In writing the biopic, I continually envisioned it as a movie, something like I REMEMBER MAMA and THE THORNBIRDS saga.
The young actress Ksenia Solo read the work after I approached her. I had seen her in ‘The Black Swan’ and in her SyFy series, ‘Lost Girl’ and was moved by her beauty, sensitivity and fragility, yet somehow infused with a hint of grit and fearlessness.
She wrote me that as a young woman she had no knowledge of the million dead mothers and their selfless quest, and she also saw the film potential for polio awareness : A way to tell the world through entertainment about those noble, unsung heroines, and the courage of the little victims.
She will produce ’TOO EARLY FOR FLOWERS’ and star as Iris.
Also, she has become an advocate herself, and has written and spoken about polio several times to her important world-wide fan base, putting a young face to an old disease:
You see, my ebook is not just about the fact that Mom devoted her early life to my exercises. It was through daily encouragement, where optimism had to balance with pragmatism. She told me that the whole world is out there waiting for me, that God chooses only the bravest boys to suffer so much, and that my future is unlimited because He would always look out for me.
So I lost my braces, and after college graduation headed out, to the furthest place I could from Streator, Illinois: Sydney Australia. And then I traveled the world several times over for years.
Eventually, word came that Mom had a stroke, and she called out to me. She had been widowed twice over, and I was her oldest surviving son. It was no duty: It was a privilege.
So I returned to her, and helped her exercise and gave her words of encouragement, and told her of the world she could never see because of her devotion to me.
Life came full circle for us both.
Tragedy can inspire triumph, and Ksenia and I want to tell the world.
This is a guest post from Steve Kirsch, Founder and CEO, oneID
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to give size-able donations to political and charitable causes. And, because of that, I regularly get email requests to make donations to great causes I believe in and want to support.
But I don’t most of the time. Like most everybody else, my life can behectic and I don’t generally have time to stop what I’m doing to fill out all the “paperwork” necessary to make the donation. So, more often than not, I skipped it in the moment. And,often times,I forgot about it completely. But, that bugged me. I knew there had to be a way to overcome this and make it easier for people on-the-go to give.
As someone who lives and breathes technology, I have seen the mind-boggling progress it has made to make our lives easier and more convenient. But I did not understand why most nonprofits still make me complete a form to give them money.
I’m kind of like a dog with a bone, once I start gnawing on something—in this case an idea—I don’t let it go. I wanted to know why nonprofits don’t take advantage of online giving. I wanted to know what was preventing them from making it simple for me (and others) to give. Here’s what I learned:
So, what conclusion did I come to? Organizations aren’t making it as easy as they could for the more tech-savvy to give.
Being a problem solver, and having recently developed oneID technology that makes it secure and easy for people to share their personal information, I realized that I could make more of a difference than just giving dollars…I could use oneID to help nonprofits significantly grow online donations.
That was just a few months ago. So where are we now? We recently rolled out QuickDonate—an online donations solution that enables 1-click donations across all devices.
Nonprofits can integrate it easily by plugging into existing platforms, payment processors, and CRM solutions. Just a line of code or so and they’re up and running.
Early roll outs are showing remarkable results, with nearly 70 percent opt-in rates. We are just getting started, and I’m keen to get it rolled out so nonprofits across the country can start to significantly increase their donations.
Brands for the People is a branding agency for social entrepreneurs launched by branding expert Andrea Shillington.
On March 21, 2014 at 5:00 Eastern, Andrea will join me for a live discussion about her firm’s efforts to help the helpers.
Tune in here then to watch the interview live.
Andrea gave up the corporate world to pursue her passion to help Do Good startups become world famous brands. Before creating Brands for the People, Andrea was a brand consultant for several years in the Middle East, Europe and North America. She worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from rebranding the UAE’s federal governments to re-branding hospitality groups.
After returning home to Vancouver, Andrea re-discovered the startup community and wanted to find a way to make strategic branding affordable. Going much deeper than logo design, Brands for the People was born to help startup businesses with a vision to change the world. Brands for the People is the world’s first online branding agency serving big-hearted entrepreneurs with world changing ideas all over the world.
Microfinance lenders financing loans in the developed world and lending in the developing world create tremendous currency risk for themselves as they scale.
MFX Solutions is a mission-driven business focused on identifying and managing the peculiar risks associated with microfinance companies.
On Friday, March 21, 2014 at 3:00 Eastern, Brian Cox, CEO of MFX Solutions will join me for a live discussion about the way his firm is shaping the microfinance world to enable more effective lending to the poor.
Tune in here then to watch the interview live.
Prior to starting MFX, Brian ran the Europe and Eurasia Division at the U.S. Treasury Department and oversaw a $70 million fund supporting bank-based microfinance in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He also served as Executive Vice President of the US-Russia Business Council, as a consultant to microfinance investors, and as an analyst in a venture capital firm. As an entrepreneur, he started a company building houses in Eastern Europe and Africa. Brian has a BA and MBA both from Stanford University. Brian is fluent in French with basic Spanish and Russian.
Freewaters is a social venture investing in clear water and preserving the environment by selling eco-friendly shoes.
Tune in here then live then to watch the interview.
After graduating from the Art Center College of Design’s prestigious Industrial Design program in 2000, Eli spent the next eight years pushing the limits of wetsuit design as Senior Designer for O’Neill in Santa Cruz, CA. In 2010 he co-founded Freewaters and is responsible for all branding and marketing. Freewaters is based in Laguna Hills, CA and Eli currently lives nearby in the mellow beach community of Encinitas.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
In recognition of World Water Day, Saturday, March 22, 2014, I’ll be visiting here live with John Taft, the CEO of RBC Wealth Management-US, about RBC’s Blue Water Project. Through the project, RBC has committed almost $46 million to improve access to clean drinking water and to fund related research at universities.
The Blue Water Project has committed $38 million to 650 charitable organization working to preserve watersheds and improve access to clean drinking water. Another $7.8 million has been committed to universities.
Water is increasingly having impact on business as demands for water increase along with global populations. RBC has indicated a desire to play a role in developing sustainable water policies.
John Taft, RBC
On Friday, March 21, 2014 at 1:00 Eastern, Taft will join me here for a live discussion of about RBC’s efforts with regard to water.
Mark your calendar to tune in here then and listen while you work.
RBC Wealth Management ¬ U.S. John is CEO of RBC Wealth Management, the seventh largest full-service retail brokerage firm in the U.S. He has worked in the financial services industry since 1981. He has been active in the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) where he served as chairman-elect in 2010 and chairman in 2011. He has published articles in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, and Forbes, and authored ³Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street² (John Wiley & Sons 2012). As a LinkedIn LNKD +2.07% influencer, John is among the prestigious invitation-only group of industry leaders who provide ongoing thought leadership blogs. He graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University and earned an M.A. in public and private management from the Yale School of Organization and Management.
Inspired by Tom’s Shoes, World Housing claims to have created the world’s first one-for-one housing program. While developing condos in North America, the company is donating housing to deserving families in developing companies.
By focusing on communities surviving in and around garbage dumps, World Housing is addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor. Working through carefully vetted NGOs, World Housing says it ensures that recipients get quality housing and that they employ local workers. The NGOs work to carefully choose families for housing that will serve as role models in their communities.
On Friday, March 21 at noon Eastern, Peter Dupuis, founder and CEO of World Housing will join me for a live discussion about the program.
Tune in here then and listen while you work:
About the World Housing Founders:
Peter Dupuis and his World Housing Co-Founder Sid Landolt have been business partners since 1982. They have earned a reputation as innovators and industry leaders in the design, marketing and sale of resort and luxury real estate. After a chance encounter on a flight between L.A. and Vancouver with TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie, Peter and Sid began exploring the concept of one-for-one gifting and social entrepreneurship. World Housing is the result of that work, the world’s first one-for-one real estate gifting model.
Would you like $100 for your favorite charity and $100 to keep? The Your Mark on the World Center is running a contest to build our audience so you can enter to win multiple times by “joining the cavalry,” following us on Twitter and Facebook.
If you work for or otherwise support a nonprofit organization in the U.S., please share this post with your friends and other supporters of your charity to encourage more people to sign up who’ll choose to support your organization.
The winner will also receive a copy of my book Your Mark on the World. Another three copies of the book will also be given to runners up in the raffle.
Throughout the entire day, we’ll be streaming a live show from Gallivan Center to celebrate and promote Love UT Give UT. We’ll have professional broadcasters for hosts throughout the day. I’ll be “producing” the show.
We’ll have nonprofit leaders and dignitaries join us throughout the day. Here’s the schedule:
Watch at LoveUTGiveUT.org.