Last week, Unilever — one of the world’s biggest advertisers — threatened to pull its ads from social platforms including Facebook and Twitter, if they did not do more to reduce propaganda, hate speech, and other unsavory content on their sites. The announcement came just a few weeks after the CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest investor, told CEOs they must deliver financial results and make a positive contribution to society. The two, he said, go hand in hand.
Both companies have outsized influence — Unilever spent nearly $9.5 billion marketing its brands last year and BlackRock manages more than $6 trillion in investments — but they are among a growing group of companies, big and small, that recognize the strategic advantage in connecting their business practices to a larger purpose.
At a time when some governments are taking a step back from leading social progress, businesses are beginning to lean in by linking their values to their value propositions. They are discovering that attending to the drivers of human advancement bring with them huge market opportunities. Such drivers include the equitable treatment of workers, sustainable agriculture, fair trade, affordable and sustainable energy, clean and abundant water, and a concern for human health, to name just some. What’s more, companies are learning that customers reward them if they live their values.
Purpose-driven companies like Salesforce and Patagonia have understood this from their start. “Companies can do more than just make money, they can serve others,” said Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO. “The business of business is improving the state of the world.”
Here at Techonomy, we believe the power of technology can and should sit at the center of the responsible growth movement, empowering new business opportunities. Technology needs to be a force for good. Of course we know that tech alone is not the answer. The smart application of technology requires thoughtful and strenuous direction and oversight. And we know there are still many companies mostly valued for their growth-at-all-costs approach.
There is much work to be done, and much to be gained by those who take it on.
This May 8th and 9th in New York, Techonomy will be hosting leaders of business, technology, and policy to think strategically about today’s emerging technologies. Our theme is “Harnessing Tech for Responsible Growth.” Machine learning, the Internet of Things, 5G networks, blockchain, and data analytics all hold tremendous promise for positive change even as they present daunting new challenges to business, government and society.
The stakes are high. As BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink wrote: “Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders.”
Technology can unlock that potential.
Don’t be left behind. Request your invitation to join us in New York.