Answering the call for responsive, responsible leadership

A business man rides an escalator in the financial district of Pudong in Shanghai September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: CITYSPACE SOCIETY) - RTR2RVU1

As we all navigate this new reality and its characteristic technologies that are melding previously distinct domains and impacting every facet of our lives, organizations are reflecting upon what it means to them. Image: REUTERS/Aly Song

Mark Viso
President, Pact
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Last month, business, government and civil society leaders from across the world gathered in Davos, as they have every year for almost 50 years, to discuss possible solutions to global issues of our time. While some of the challenges we face today are not new, it was clear that we are operating in a different environment, one where populism and nationalist tendencies flourish.

Despite the seeming retreat from globalization, there was a sense among the participants that we have the necessary collective will to improve the state of the world, and we have new tools and resources at our disposal to make it happen.

As we all navigate this new reality and its characteristic technologies that are melding previously distinct domains and impacting every facet of our lives, organizations are reflecting upon what it means to them.

Many people looking from the outside in view Davos as an exclusive club that is out of touch with reality; a place for grandstanding and patting ourselves on the back for simply thinking about the world’s challenges. As with any occasion and agenda of this scale, it can be hard to move from thought to action.

But in an unparalleled show of leadership, the public, private and social sectors took significant steps toward realizing a responsible, inclusive and sustainable battery supply chain that will revolutionize the lithium-ion battery market. In an industry where it is easy to pass the buck to the next person in line, to put the onus on governments, mining companies, buyers, or even the miners themselves, industry leaders, original equipment manufacturers, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) formed a coalition to respond to the labor, human rights and environmental impacts of a supply chain that spans sectors, markets and industries.

Much has been written about the private sector’s growing role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Businesses are increasingly looking to make social impact in the world. It is no longer part of being a responsible corporate citizen, but is part of their business models. Shared value is entrenched in our lexicon. The battery alliance is a clear example of this transformation in action.

As the leader of an international NGO that has been working with governments, companies and communities for more than a decade to ensure a safe, secure livelihood for miners and their families, Pact realizes the significance of this alliance.

We have long recognized the value of engaging with the private sector to lift people out of poverty. Our more traditional, project-based partnerships have contributed to significant strides in alleviating poverty. More than a billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990, the under-5 child mortality rate has been cut in half and we are close to eliminating polio from the face of the earth. The core NGO business model works. But we can, and must, do more.

For some, like my organization Pact, we have been gradually expanding and evolving our business models to include ventures that allow us to leverage our more traditional, project-based work in nontraditional ways for the communities we serve. Often seen as a reactionary force, responding to donor priorities or government policies, we are retooling our business model for added flexibility, greater scale and increased impact.

The battery alliance is one way we’ve leveraging the Fourth Industrial Revolution to affect systemic change to improve the state of the world. It is a fundamental shift in how we do business.

We do this for the people we serve around the world who are living in poverty. It is the not only the responsible move, but it will help us all be more responsive to our customers—whether that is cell phone customers in Beijing or households on Southern California’s energy grid or mining communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I invite all leaders to embrace change, dream big and join us on this transformative journey.

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