Friday, August 12, 2016

Business and International Development: A Force for Good

After several internships in large corporations and years at a top university that steered students towards careers in the private sector, I returned from my ICS placement in Palestine with a new interest in international development.

Snowy Ramallah
I came home with an appreciation of the world’s international development challenges, such as access to healthcare, water and education, and equal access to justice. I was determined to dedicate my career to making the world a better, fairer place in any way I could.

Fast forward a few years, and I find myself working in Corporate Social Responsibility, which means working in and with companies to promote and implement good, responsible practice. This can be anything from recycling and using green energy, supply chains that abide by legal norms and standards, diverse and inclusive workforces, or tackling global health issues like HIV and malnutrition. This list goes on.

Some are cynical about companies’ CSR policies, and to be honest, this is often the case when a company aggressively pushes its CSR agenda right after – or in anticipation of – a disaster.

Some think that companies are only interested in CSR because they want to sell more. This is true, too. However, this is not a reason to dismiss CSR programmes, but rather embrace companies that engage in them.

When companies are presented with the business case for engaging in CSR, it’s hard for them to argue against: acting responsibly, if done effectively, make companies and brands more attractive to consumers, investors and markets, thereby increasing brand image and impact, and company sales and profits.

Businesses are an incredible force for change: they have the power to influence positive behaviour change and make a tangible contribution to breaking down barriers in solving international development challenges. Businesses – both multinational and local – should never be overlooked in international development in favour of grassroots organisations, NGOs, multilateral organisations and should always have a seat at the table.

Amma Greenstreet, returned International Service ICS volunteer in Palestine 

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