When reading up on global poverty and matters of social justice, it’s easy to find articles that vilify corporations for their detrimental effects on society. While those businesses certainly do exist, there are also many corporations that make a difference by working for the greater good rather than just their shareholders.
Ranging from the omnipotent Coca-Cola Company to the Swedish powerhouse IKEA, here are a list of corporations that make a difference by using their power and influence to shape a more egalitarian society.
Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola
Since 2008, Kent has held the role of Chief Executive Officer of Coca-Cola. In his tenure, he has committed the company to achieving water neutrality by 2020, in which “total water use after a development does not exceed the total water use before developing.” Meaning, if new businesses were to spring up where none had existed before, the new tenants would need to employ extreme water efficiency to ensure the same amount of water is being used as prior to the development.
For Coca-Cola, this means recycling and reducing the water its facilities use, as well as harvesting rain water to replenish any diminished supply.
They also hope to distribute the Slingshot, a vapor compression water purification machine which purportedly creates 850 liters of safe drinking water from contaminated sources and uses less power than a hairdryer to operate.
As for why they’re doing it, Kent believes that, “when there’s healthy communities, we have a healthy, sustainable business.” While not the most altruistic of intentions, Kent’s argument echoes the belief that helping developing countries will only increase business for the rest of the United States.
Peter Agnefjäll of IKEA
As the most recently appointed CEO of IKEA, Agnefjäll will continue the furniture company’s race toward high levels of sustainability, both as a means of protecting its future as well as gearing up for the millions of people in poverty they hope to help usher into the middle class.
Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard outlined IKEA’s plans to Forbes contributor Peter Kelly-Detwiler, stressing the importance of addressing all areas of sustainability as key to the company’s success.
“We’ve got emissions that have to peak by 2020, and then we need a rapid decline in order to stabilize the climate. And we are building cities like never before “said Howard. “We have resource scarcity and climate change. So you have to say ‘this has to be a transformative agenda.’ Sustainability used to be a ‘nice to do,’ like planting trees, or doing incrementally less bad. It’s about a mindset. If you’re trying to reduce impacts here and there, that won’t do –it’s when you go all in that matters.”
Again, while these may not be extremely altruistic goals, the truly philanthropic branch of the company, the IKEA Foundation, created easily assembled shelters for Syrian refugees. Five people may live in each 17.5 square meter house, which include a solar-powered USB port and built-in lamp.
Michael Kowalski of Tiffany & Co.
Michael Kowalski has been CEO of Tiffany & Co. since 1999. As the leader of an influential and high-end jewelry business for fifteen years, Kowalksi considers the power of the Tiffany brand both an “opportunity and responsibility.”
Some of that responsibility takes place in the store, where Kowalksi believes it’s the brand’s duty to deliver ethically sourced jewelry to its patrons, regardless if theythink to ask about the jewelry’s background.
“That promise begins with an assurance that the materials were sourced and crafted responsibly, including the use of recycled precious metals and a focus on mines that minimize impact on the environment and respect human rights,” said Kowalski to Forbes contributor Rahim Kanani. “It also includes an effort to provide economic opportunities beyond mining in developing countries that host mining operations.”
Among those initiatives include IRMA, the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance. The project would protect the environment, communities and workers by establishing rigorous standards evaluated by an outside, independent source.
For Kowalksi, Tiffany’s future depends upon a “healthy mining industry.” Like the previous two CEOs, he understands that the continued success of his company and the world depends on greater equality between workers and socially just business practices.
– Emily Bajet
Sources: Forbes, “Muhtar Kent”, Forbes, “IKEA”, Forbes, “CEA of Tiffany & Co.”, The Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph