Across the globe, there are many issues connected to or brought about by corporations that compromise human rights. The list of infractions is long and has been addressed by many international human rights organizations. Yet, despite many efforts, these issues still prevail and in many countries, the current state suggests a backwards movement.
Over thirteen years ago, the United Nations through the Global Compact, identified ten principles that addressed the abuse of human rights by corporations. These human rights abuses impacted developing and developed nations. Thirteen years later, the United Nations is still addressing these issues and actively seeking participation from more global business leaders. Unfortunately, the numbers of business participants in the compact falls significantly short of those available to join this effort.
Yet, corporations have immense resources to bring about strategic change within our global communities. Their reach is worldwide and daily they interact with governments and in many instances shape global polities. The economic control they have is staggering.
The Power to Produce Change
Can you vision what could happen if thousands of corporate leaders collectively imagined a world of change? What if they were to vision and collectively decide to systemically change or eradicate diseases caused by the environment or the lack of basic food, water and shelter and insured that education became the linchpin to societal growth and development for all people, and poverty was addressed by paying people wages that would provide families with basic needs? Imagine if these issues were not individually addressed, but collectively through resources and leaders driving efforts far beyond what we are currently experiencing. In other words, imagine if there was a massive movement by corporate leaders working together to create these changes by systemically and strategically inculcating change initiatives into their corporate strategies and resulting business plans that significantly went beyond the typical social responsibility actions.
Everyone may not agree with the specific language or delineated tactical steps provided by the Global Compact. Religious differences can impact strategy and strategic implementation. For example, there are several areas of the global compact that are in conflict with Islamic teachings and law. Yet, few should be able to argue with the spirit of the Compact and the need to address a world that continues to spiral into crisis. If you critically examine many of the issues articulated in the Compact from the lens of your beliefs, teachings and laws, identify how the current state of those issues have strayed from your beliefs and laws, the change strategies become clear. As a result, leaders should be able to articulate a road map for change that will help them understand, internalize and shift the relational boundaries of the systems they control (Robinson-Easley, 2016).
Far too many countries are in conflict and a critical number face financial challenges. As a result, some are developing strategies designed to reshape their economy and employment outlook. Movement towards a knowledge based economy is an admirable goal that is in line with today’s paradigmatic shifts and presents an important opportunity to positively impact businesses, workers, and other critical stakeholders. Consequently, the value proposition for engaging one’s organization in this work is quite easy to state.
Corporate leaders have a unique lens. They can help educational institutions identify the critical core global competencies new workers require while at the same time engaging in scenario planning to insure that curriculum redesign and training initiatives are keeping pace with global evolutions. Corporate leaders have the opportunity to be engaged partners with educational institutions beyond the traditional advisory board status in reshaping curriculum designed to insure that country goals are aligned with global change dynamics and that respective educational curriculums are properly educating all levels of students. They have the opportunity to enhance the economic conditions of workers by aligning the wage structures with what it takes to make a livable wage, and their partnership with governments working to produce change is very important. Over the years, research results have consistently shown that when workers see their organizations engaged in and committed to systemic and strategic change, they become more productive and committed to the organization.
Yet, this work, in conjunction with running a business requires transformational leaders who are internally very strong. The collective engagement of all critical stakeholders in a well-designed change process is not a difficult task. Important members of the change team should include individuals educated and experienced in organization development. However, before leaders undertake strategic change initiatives, it is recommended that they engage in intra-personal work.
Step One: Engaging in Your Personal Introspection
The first recommended steps towards emerging as a transformational leader determined to engage in creative change is examining one’s personal guiding praxes regarding leadership, where the leader stands in his or her values and ideals regarding deep change and their commitment to social responsibility. During this first step, it is also suggested that leaders assess their critical core competencies. If this personal work is done correctly, corporate leaders develop a deeper awareness of the assumptions they make concerning change, their roles and responsibilities, as they also increase their sensitivity and openness to the conditions of our world.
A Brief Overview of Next Steps
Once a leader engages the “self”, the next steps begin with engaging the leadership team in their own self assessments. Next steps also include engaging all critical stakeholders, including individuals who can best benefit from the change in drawing a clear picture of the organization’s value propositions associated with valuing humanity and moving the human condition to a higher level. Subsequent steps also include developing a collective vision that emerges into the articulation of a comprehensive strategy. In other words, it is imperative that as many stakeholders as possible are given the opportunity to vision what change can look like for their region, their country, their organization and themselves. And, it is equally important that they understand and believe in the role that corporate leaders have chosen to take. It has been suggested that human beings are quite capable of self-directing their behaviors and possess the capacity to give meaning to their actions, when given the appropriate framework in which to explore change (Heron, 1971, Reason, 1988).
There are many organizations and their respective leaders that have internalized the commitment to make a difference in our work and are living out their ideals. But, there are many more that have not engaged in an intentional strategy to make a difference. Unfortunately, not every leader is driving his or her organization towards ideals that are consistent with valuing humanity. However, if we are to continue to grow as a productive global village that values each individual as an intricate and important contributor to our global society, there is much work to be done, which means we need organizational leaders who are not afraid to be transformational change agents.
Heron, J. (1971). “Experience and Method: An inquiry into the concept of experiential research”. Human Potential Research Project, University of Surrey
Reason, P. (1988). Human Inquiry in Action, Developments in New Paradigm Research, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications
Robinson-Easley, C. (2016). Leadership for Global Systemic Change: Beyond Ethics and Social Responsibility, New York: Palgrave Macmillan