Welcome to a new audio series, focused on philanthropy, nonprofits, corporate citizenship, and social change. Impact Audio features short conversations (and a few longer ones) aimed at adding value to your moments in-between.
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14 MIN. Join Submittable and special guests Louise Bleach and Mark Horoszowski in a conversation about the evolution of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the imperative for social and environmental change.
Good business in 2021 is about much more than quality products and services—today’s corporations are being held responsible for the impact they have on the planet and on humankind. This episode of Impact Audio features two experts in CSR and social good: Louise Bleach and Mark Horoszowski.
Listen on to learn:
Why clean water tech is more vital than you think (beer-lovers, listen up)
How social enterprises like Desolenator partner with the private sector to make lasting change
How CSR can benefit businesses, alter the global economy, and help the earth
Where and how businesses can get their start in CSR
What smart CSR strategy entails
Featuring takeaways from a longer conversation on vital issues in the evolving worlds of CSR, social enterprise, and corporate partnerships for good, this excerpt is full of actionable, insider advice. We hope it moves you.
Louise Bleach is the Development and Impact Lead at Desolenator. She is responsible for driving the lifecycle of high impact projects, from securing financing, to partnership building all the way to execution and impact monitoring and measurement. Louise is currently managing Desolenator’s flagship humanitarian project in West Bengal and laying the foundations for a second installation in Haiti. Louise also leads the development of Desolenator’s impact story and nurturing partnerships between multinational and development agencies.
Mark Horoszowski is the CEO at MovingWorlds, a social enterprise that helps companies scale their social impact programs by engaging employees. Mark is an RSA Fellow and is a founding adjunct faculty member and lecturer on Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Washington Tacoma's Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility.
Stream the full webinar featuring Louise Bleach and Mark Horoszowski: CSR Is Evolving In 2021: Trends, Insights, and the Case For Partnering With Social Enterprises
Read about social impact strategy in a blog featuring Mark Horoszowski and three other thought leaders: Social Impact Strategy: Expert Advice and Key Insights
Here are the organizations and materials referenced in the podcast:
MovingWorlds Report on CSR: Can Capitalism Lead a More Sustainable and Equitable Recovery?
Research from Deloitte: Measuring the business value of corporate social impact
On the partnership between between Desolenator and Carlsberg Beer: Beer maker backs India solar desalination plant to boost water, jobs for women (Reuters)
What is a Social Enterprise? (MovingWorlds)
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Interested in more quality content about CSR and social impact programs? Here are a few Submittable resources:
The Review (Bi-monthly newsletter by Sam Caplan)
Welcome to Submittable’s Impact Audio. I’m Rachel Mindell. Impact Audio features short conversations (and a few longer ones) with social impact experts and practitioners. We cover the world of philanthropy, nonprofits, corporate citizenship, and social change.
This episode is drawn from a webinar Submittable hosted on the evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. If you’re new to CSR, the term refers broadly to the business strategies a company undertakes in an effort to improve its environmental and social impact.
Today you’ll hear from Mark Horoszowski and Lousie Bleach.
Mark Horoszowski is the CEO at MovingWorlds, a social enterprise that helps companies scale their social impact programs by engaging employees. He also lectures on CSR at the University of Washington Tacoma. Louise Bleach is the Development and Impact Lead at Desolenator, an organization focused on an evolution in water purification, powered by the photons of the sun. She’s responsible for driving the lifecycle of Desolenator’s high impact projects.
One starting point for this conversation between Mark and Louise was a report MovingWorlds released in spring of 2021 based on interviews with over 50 CSR leaders, as well as 25 other corporate, impact investing, social enterprise, and government leaders. Here’s Mark discussing why he believes, and why research supports, the need for corporations to really engage with social impact.
Why do companies need to step change? They exist to create wealth for shareholders. Why would they care? And the research shows us (this from Deloitte), that there's five reasons that businesses financially benefit from engaging in social impact projects.
1. It creates new market opportunities. 2. It improves relationships with government and regulators. 3. It helps inspire, attract, and retain the top talent. 4. It increases value with key stakeholders—think suppliers or distributors. 5. It helps build sustainable supply chains.
There's actually a lot of economic incentive for companies to make these investments.
At MovingWorld’s side, we look at this and say, OK, if companies are going to invest, how much money are we talking about? Like, how big is this investment going to be?
Every year, just in small business transactions (right, so think like international corporations hiring like a food vendor or a travel planner or some supplies that are going to end in their supply chain), over $12 trillion changes hands every year just in these small businesses. It's a massive amount of money, right? $150 billion is the amount of money that all governments spend on aid. $790 billion is the amount of all impact investment capital currently under management. So not what's deployed every year, but just all impact investment. So the amount of transactions that we're spending every year dwarfs philanthropy and impact investing. And so often it's depleting the environment. And it's propagating inequalities.
And what we're trying to see: is corporate social responsibility going to stay as a philanthropic endeavor or is it going to move and really try and address root cause issues of environmental, lack of sustainability and inequalities
And to just kind of make this a little bit more real—and I'm based in Seattle, so we can't have a presentation without talking about coffee—if you imagine a cup of coffee that you buy in a coffee shop, 90% of that transaction cost will then ripple through your supply chain. It's going to go through distributors, big and small packagers across ocean shipping organizations. It will also go to manufacturing organizations and coffee roasters. Then, of course, there's processing. Sometimes these are smaller businesses. Sometimes they're large. And then, of course, there’s sourcing and oftentimes stretching across all of these are some type of supply chain efficacy or certification groups. So if we look at the supply chain, this can never be sustainable and equitable. Like with coffee, Starbucks can never serve you a sustainable cup of coffee until every small business along this company is also sustainable and equitable.
Louise’s work with Desolenator is especially relevant here. Specifically the partnership between Desolenator and Carlsberg Beer is a great example of a corporation pursuing CSR by partnering with a social enterprise. But first, what is social enterprise?
According to MovingWorlds, “a social enterprise is not a thing, it's a way of operating. Social enterprises can exist as nonprofits, businesses, advocacy groups, and even governmental organizations. Simply stated, it's a way of creating a sustainable impact using a market-driven approach.”
So just as a quick introduction, Desolenator is a clean tech company. We specialize in water, specifically the toughest, most challenging types of water that you can find on this planet. And our goal is to really shift the way that water is purified and produced today and to do so in a more equitable and also environmentally friendly manner.
But what on Earth does desalination and water technology have to do with beer? Well, it turns out, actually, everything. I mean, beer, as well as the laptop that I'm speaking on today, the jeans that I'm wearing for this call, every single service item that we encounter on a daily basis, has a water footprint similar to how people are starting to wake up to the carbon footprint of our food, of our transport. Every single process, every item in daily life has a water footprint.
It takes about seven gallons of water to produce one gallon of beer. Now, this is through the entire process—we’re thinking about the water used in the agricultural process to grow the hops, the actual fermentation, the manufacturing, and then also the bottling and the transport.
So without water, there is no beer. For a company like Carlsberg, water is a critical component to that business into what they’re trying to do. And Carlsberg, you may just think of them as a small beer company—they actually have global operations. And I think last year made about $1.2 billion in revenue annually. So pretty, pretty significant company with pretty complex supply chains. They are also operating in challenging circumstances. So to give you an example of the area where we're working with them is India. They have about eight breweries there. It's their largest growing market in Asia, but it's also one of the places that has the most extreme water challenges. So you can imagine working in a business like that, where you're in an environment where one of your critical components is essentially at risk. You need to start to get very strategic around your approach to it.
So how does water actually fit into the business, such as Carlsberg? Well, from an operational perspective, it represents a huge operational risk, which obviously affects their profit, but also the way that they handle their water and treat their water has planetary impact. If they're working somewhere there's huge amounts of water scarcity, you can imagine that taking water into the operations is only going to further affect aquifer drainage, freshwater depletion, and they also have to be very careful around what kind of pollution they're putting back into the waterways. So there's a profit component, a planet component, but also there's a people component. And this is where this sort of CSR approach comes in.
Next you’ll hear Louise describe a partnership project between Desolenator and Carlsberg linked to their brewery in West Bengal.
Carlsberg is working with us to essentially install one of our plants, which is going to provide water for an entire village of up to 8,000 people.
What we've done, especially for this, is we've worked with the Carlsberg group, but also bringing on an NGO partner called WaterAid, partnering to essentially make sure that we've got all of the processes and systems in place so that it's a system that really lasts and we're designing for longevity. So all of the women in the community are the ones that distribute the water. We've been involved with the local government, so the asset actually hands over to them. And after a year, the community will actually own this water. So they will be in control of their own water production. This was completely funded by Carlsberg and also with some grant money from the Dutch government to see how these initiatives can start to work with corporates where they're working in areas of really complex water stress.
I really appreciate that throughout their conversation, Mark and Louise continually step back and ask big questions, like this one from Louise.
So why does this actually matter? Carlsberg isn't the only company that's working in an industry where water is a critical component to that business. Now, the UN estimates that by 2030 there's going to be a 40% deficit in fresh water. Now, what is the role of corporates in making sure that never happens?
Well, here's another pretty interesting stat. 10 of the largest companies in the world control a third, one third of the world's fresh water. So when I say that, “control” is probably a little bit of a controversial word, but that's the amount of water that they use across the entirety of their operations. So when you start to talk about CSR, I think people are still stuck in the past, thinking that CSR is just a box to be ticked or a corporate giving money to a charity, but it's actually now so much more. It's about engaging with the challenges that you face by simply working and operating in the world. And you can imagine if those 10 companies, you know, stood up and took a stance of how they were going to change their water use, how that would actually be able to affect global statistics. So I think when we talk about CSR, we actually have to ask the question of what does it actually mean to be a corporate in the 21st century?
I asked them, if an organization is just getting started in CSR, what should they consider?
I think for CSR, it's important to really be strategic about where you're focusing your capital, your resources, why you're doing it, what is the motivation, what is the rationale, what is the strategy? And then you can go into the how. I think it's really important, I think now more than ever, to prove the fact that you can do well by doing good. And if you invest your time, your money, and resources into things which seem like community projects or sustainability projects, you can actually show that it starts to have a beneficial impact on the business, that you can show that it's not just a moral question, it's actually an economic one.
That really, really resonates with me. And I think in our research, we talked to one company who was a high tech business-to-business product and they had a CSR program. And one of the things that they were doing was helping support a very kind of impoverished school in northern India. When we were asking, like, why, like, what's the connection, right? And it was because the CEO had some personal reason for doing that. And, you know, the fear that the CSR leader had was that the CEO's interest will change. And when it does, the school’s become very reliant on us. And I think that that's kind of that older model that Louise has talked about.
So now our conversations with companies, like, what we do is we literally start with “what is your business strategy? What are you currently doing and what are your goals by, you know, pick your timeline?” You can't talk about 2022 anymore. It's probably 2025. Right, a little bit of a longer horizon. And then “what are you best in the world at?” Right and then actually look at what, as a company, are we best in the world at?
So as an example, we're doing this with the high tech consulting company, what they’re best in the world at is, yes, tech implementations. But they're also really great at other things, like training people out of college to be highly technical, proficient in a very short amount of time. Right, so what is the company best in the world at? And then looking at the sustainable development goals. Right Louise and I both spoke about that. And saying, of these sustainable development goals, if you click under the 17, there's 169 targets and saying of these 169 targets, which ones can we actually impact?
If you enjoyed these excerpts, please check out the links in our episode notes, including the full video conversation between Louise and Mark and a recent blog that Mark and three other thought leaders contributed to about social impact strategy.
Thank you for joining us. Impact Audio is edited and produced by Jordan Marvin and our crew at Submittable. Submittable is a cloud-based social impact platform designed to help your team make better decisions and have a bigger impact. We’d love to partner with you to maximize social good and create lasting change through smarter technology—find out more at Submittable.com. And until next time, take good care.
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