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Altruism is a good investment

Filed on August 19, 2012
Altruism is a good investment

How altruistic are you? How about your business? Times are changing and business isnít just about making money or getting ahead by taking advantage. In todayís business climate, what you give back is becoming just as ó if not more ó important than what you earn or make.


Social media has flattened the globe and your business reputation can be made or broken in one-gone-viral posting. The interconnectedness of your relationship with your consumers has empowered them and what your business stands for is a reflection of your customer’s identity. When they choose your product or service, it’s not just because it is the best. Today customers want to deal with companies that are accountable to something more than themselves or profit. Your customers want to buy from companies that share their own ideals and values.

Geil Browning of explains that altruism is evolutionary. While some people still believe that “it’s every man for himself” in the world, the human race wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the helping hands of others. Browning reports on a Neuron article in which researchers have discovered the brain region in which altruism and empathy seems to reside: the area where the parietal and temporal regions of your brain meet. The more grey matter in this area — the more giving you are. Since grey matter is the latest development in terms of the human brain, and social processes increase grey matter, it makes sense that altruism may be an evolutionary advantage.

This advantage seems to hold true for the business world.

New York Times writer Andrew Adam Newman reports on the altruistic trend among top companies. PepsiCo, for instance, has worked with the company Good to award $20 million in grants for good causes through their Pepsi Refresh Project. Good helped Pepsi with their social media campaign for the project, which garnered kudos from Forbes magazine.

Good is a group formed for “people who want to live well and do good.” They have 100,000 Facebook followers and have helped IBM, Starbucks and Toyota to develop corporate and social responsibility programmes.

Sebastian Buck of Good tells Newman: “Customers can advocate both for and against companies, so companies have to be truly authentic.”

Not convinced?

The public relations company Edelman has conducted a number of surveys and they report that 87 per cent of Americans desire social responsibility in businesses.

Browning writes of an AdWeek statistic that states 75 per cent of consumers believe social responsibility is important and will affect consumer choice 55 per cent of the time.

Edelman’s fifth annual goodpurpose study took a look at the Middle East in terms of altruism and the UAE. Allie Holmes reports that the study found that the UAE is ahead of the global average on six important conditions of social responsibility. UAE residents want to work for companies that are involved in good causes, they are more likely to invest in such companies, they’re willing to pay more for products and services from altruistic businesses, they believe that consumers can influence companies to adopt corporate responsibility agendas and more than half believe that it is their responsibility to do what they can to better the world.

You don’t have to hire Good to improve your company’s altruism scores although a marketer versed in social media can help. Browning gives examples of what some companies are doing. You can engage in sustainable practices. You can donate or give away products or services after generating a certain amount of sales. You can donate a portion of profits to good causes. What issues can you better in the community your company is based in? The key is — consumers need to know that you’re doing these things.

Browning explains that many companies list what their core values are on their websites. This helps customers decide if what you stand for aligns with their personal values. Do you know what your company’s core values are? Are they altruistic? If not, you may need an overhaul. Altruism isn’t only attractive to customers — it affects your corporate culture and so the functioning, employee engagement and overall productivity of your business.

What good would you like to see and contribute to in the world? How can your company do this? Think on this: Browning quotes co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream Jerry Greenfield: “There is a spiritual aspect to business, just as there is to the lives of individuals. As you give, you receive. As you help others, you are helped in return.”

The writer is an executive coach and HR training and development expert. She can be reached at oksana@academia or Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy

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