In 1970, the Friedman doctrine, also known as shareholder theory, was introduced to the world. It argued that the sole responsibility for corporations is to maximise returns to shareholders. Now, more than half a century later, the theory is being debunked as the role of business within society is being redefined.
For many, the overnight shifts in the way we work and live and the challenges presented by the global pandemic led to a collective moment of awakening. There was an even stronger call-to-action for businesses to act – delivering impact for society, such as granting equal opportunities, ensuring sustainability and solving social disparities by being more diverse and inclusive.
Having good business practices can be a game-changer. A study by Accenture found that the circular economy is predicted to generate $4.5 trillion of additional economic output by 2030. Research by McKinsey suggests that the Asia Pacific region can add a collective annual $4.5 trillion by 2025 – if women’s equality is addressed.
I think the studies have made it clear: operating a responsible business is a non-negotiable business strategy. Here’s why.
A compelling business imperative for companies to do good
Over the past year, more companies and governments have stepped up to make firmer commitments towards addressing climate change and social inequity. At the G7 summit this year, nations pledged $100 billion USD a year to help poorer countries cut emissions and promised one billion vaccine doses to less developed nations in need.
One particularly vocal group pushing for change is Gen Z – those born between 1996 and 2010.
In 2019, Generation Z became the largest generation in the world, constituting one third of the global population. According to a recent study, the top-ranking UN Sustainable Development Goals that matter most to Gen Zs in Asia Pacific (APAC) are reducing inequality and taking climate action. With Gen Zs starting to enter the workforce, these are the demands they expect from potential employers. Our people managers are also observing a keen interest from young people on how we are driving positive change for society.
In January, I spoke with Simin Liu, a young Singaporean entrepreneur, on our Future Extraordinaire podcast. She co-founded Light of Hope – a social enterprise based in the Philippines – during the pandemic. The social impact start-up is helping underserved communities transition to clean, renewable energy with IoT sensors and data analytics which improve quality of life.
These are the changes these young people are driving today, and I am heartened to see various stakeholders rising to the challenge to meet these problems.
Across our ecosystem, there has been an increasing ask for companies to advocate responsible actions, whether from our customers or partners. Almost all (95%) of our top customers include social impact as a dimension when evaluating proposals and bid requests.
Reality today must be about creating social impact – because when we invest in this, we invest in the future, communities prosper, economies thrive, and the next generation leads with purpose.
Moving forward, areas like sustainability and diversity and inclusion (D&I) will only grow in importance to our customers and consumers.
Using technology as an enabler
I have always believed in the power of technology and data as an enabler. Combined, they will make the difference for humanity to make its biggest ever leap forward. According to a separate Accenture study, companies who embrace both technology and sustainability are 2.5 times more likely to be tomorrow’s leaders.
The company was founded with the idea of using technology to drive human progress. I am fortunate to be part of this journey of change.
In line with our environmental social governance (ESG) strategy and Progress Made Real social impact plan and 2030 goals, we are taking actions to accelerate the circular economy, cultivate diversity, equity and inclusion and transform lives to deliver impact for one billion people while upholding ethics and privacy.
We have been driving more such initiatives to foster digital innovation, scaling social innovation and giving in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region:
- Through the program in FY21, we have impacted 8,574,106 numbers of beneficiaries, out of which 47% are women.
- 579 non-profit partners benefitted from our engagements in kind or cash
- In APJ, in FY22Q1 over 14,000 team members volunteered a whopping 86,584 hours for various causes. Over 44% of our APJ team members participated in Employee Resource Groups (ERG).
- In April 2021, the Dell Malaysia team successfully implemented largest on-site solar panel installation within Dell Technologies at our Penang facility in Malaysia. This solar photovoltaic system will power more than 25% of the production lines at our facility, which could lower its annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 650 tonnes.
In addition, we have been working with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to save the world’s largest reef system. With only 5% of the Great Barrier Reef regularly monitored, we are helping scientists to speed up real-time data collection as part of the Great Reef Census project in partnership with the University of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science with support from James Cook University. The first stage of the project has now been completed with resounding success – over 13,000 images have been captured for analysis. We are also helping to analyse the images as part of the conservation effort.
The changes that we’re seeing in the world today will impact our business, from our suppliers and our operations, to our customers.
Corporate social responsibility today is non-negotiable, and we must go above and beyond to deliver. I believe we can drive change via people and technology for a positive, lasting impact.
There’s no competition when it comes to solving the world’s problems. Corporations, entrepreneurs, communities, and individuals – from all generations – must come together for the greater good. We all play a part, and we can emerge stronger and build back better to create meaningful impact for future generations. We must focus on creating social impact – because when we invest in this, we invest in the future, communities prosper, economies thrive, and the next generation leads with purpose.