The multiple issues we globally face have the potential to result in long-term outcomes that will be difficult to endure and impossible to eradicate within a short time span. Issues occurring in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Eurasia cannot be dismissed as inconsequential to U.S. based corporations, NGO’s, and civil society organizations. Ill-timed or inappropriate geopolitical moves can have long-range impact on lives and organizations across the globe.
Your work force, if not already, will change. The typical brick and mortar organizations and employee profiles that have previously defined U.S. based businesses will continue to evolve to new levels. However, in the midst of change, we have to understand the current circumstances of our world.
Understanding the Context: The Efforts of the United Nations
Over thirteen years ago, the United Nations through the Global Compact identified ten principles imperatives that were deemed to be globally necessary. These ten principles addressed fundamental human rights; many which were brought about by corporations. It was not just developing countries that were impacted. Developed nations also faced many of these issues. And, in addition to basic human rights, the United Nations concomitantly addressed the ongoing disparities across the globe between women and men. The ten principles adopted by the Global Compact included the following:
- Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights
- Make sure that businesses are not complicit in human right abuses
- Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
- The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor
- The effective abolition of child labor
- The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation
- Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges
- Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility
- Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies
- Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery[i]
The United Nations also launched The Women’s Empowerment Principles—Equity means business, which are a set of principles offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. They evolved from collaborations between the UN Women and the UN Global Compact. The development of the Principles included an international multi-stakeholder consultation process, which was launched in March 2009.[ii]
The Principles are designed to emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women's empowerment. They are said to be informed by real-life business practices and input gathered from across the globe. [iii]
Have We Made Substantive Progress?
In 2017 we are still addressing these issues and worse yet, in some countries including the United States, there are propositions that the situations will worsen before they get better due to impending legislation and prevailing attitudes at very high levels in government. One must also wonder why there is a need for the “business case” for equity in 2017. Yet, gender bias and glass ceiling issues continue to prevail.
Augmenting these issues, the connectivity of life across our global villages continues to morph.
"The dynamics of change that now impacts organizations whose products and services reside on an international, multinational, or transnational basis suggest the organization rising (if not already) to a different level. Economic pressure precipitated what Jack Welch once called the boundary-less organization (Direnzo and Greenhaus, 2011), which multiple sectors are now embracing. A boundary-less organization seeks to blur or minimize barriers that inhibit communications and productivity across vertical, horizontal, external, and geographical organizational boundaries (2011), which results in boundary-less careers that are independent from traditional organizational career arrangements.” (Robinson-Easley, 2013, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 15)
Yet, the trauma that people across the global are currently facing cannot be dismissed. When you have a world with people in crisis, invariably organizations will suffer. We have to be savvy enough to understand and make the connections between the human condition and the productivity and profitability of our organizations.
So what does this mean to you as a corporate leader? Very simply, as leaders, we each can embrace the responsibility of being aware of this global landscape; it’s challenges, nuances and possibilities for a different
future. We also can reexamine our roles and responsibilities for producing change. Is joining the United Nation’s efforts a possibility? Or, can you embrace the principles and bring about change within your own domains and spans of control? What NGO’s and civil society organizations can you support? Are your corporate social responsibility efforts making a difference or is it time to reexamine how social responsibility is enacted within your organization? Change does not have to come from magnanimous efforts. Small changes can and do morph into major differences.
"The social circumstances of our global society have to push people to rethink how we live; a question that is fundamental to a perspective of normative ethics (Harman et al, 2014). The framing of this question is vital to understanding our values, which are defined by our moral systems. Our morality, personal integrity and resulting attitudes which frame our personal and business ethics have to come under scrutiny if we are going to change our world (2014)." (Robinson-Easley, 2016, p. 1)
"As our global village has continued to move through this millennium, the dynamics and rapidity of change have forced a re-examination of the new role and competencies required of leaders. On one level, effective leaders should have the ability to deal with the complexities of change, possess a strong sense of self, invoke productive group interaction, possess sound communication skills, and have the moral fortitude to deal with complexity." (Bisoux, 2002 as cited in Robinson-Easley, 2016, p. 127)
As leaders, we should ask, “What are our roles and responsibilities for bringing about change?” Are our current critical core competencies up to date for the challenges we will face?
Equally important, I also respectfully posit that before we can bring about change, we have to go through the process of understanding what it is we are striving to attain. A Vision for the Future
I will share with you my visions for a better world, which I believe leaders across multiple venues of organizations have the responsibility to address. Organizational leaders possess the financial means, resources and acumen to bring about significant change. The number of international corporations that have continued to work with the United Nations towards efforts of eradicating poverty, bringing about equality and addressing the other critical elements of the Ten Principles is a disgraceful number when compared to the number of corporations and other organizational entities that actually are able to engage in a collective process.
I have taken the liberty of providing an excerpt from my book “Leadership for Global Systemic Change: Beyond Ethics and Social Responsibility” that reflects my personal vision for a different world. This excerpt can be found on pages 107-108. Perhaps it can serve as food for thought.
“For people to produce change in the world, they need to be able to vision the change. When I vision a world of change, I first see the basic needs of people across the globe being met. I vision people having shelter, clean water to drink and bathe in and a total elimination of child labor along with children living happy productive lives without hurting bellies because they have not eaten for days. I vision good physical health and an elimination of those diseases caused by the environment or the lack of basic food, water and shelter. I also vision equality; an environment where the worth of people is not predicated upon preference to gender, race or ethnicity.
I also vision education being the linchpin to societal growth and development. I also vision educators having the time to spend on research at all levels of our education system and engaging in sharing that research with students to spark inquisitive minds to look further than their immediate reality. Still on education, I also see children around the world having access to educational opportunities where they learn to read and write as young children and eventually move on to collegiate studies, which are sponsored by the government (as is in many European countries already). I vision teachers who committedly teach and invest in their personal educational growth in order to stay current with emerging technologies and innovations. And, I see these teachers who are innovators themselves, encouraging young people to be innovative contributors to our society.
I see the eradication of poverty being a primary objective in this world where people can work productively and make wages that will provide them with the basic needs of food, shelter, clean water and the ability to access health care. And I vision equality where we no longer have to engage in conversations regarding discrimination, valuing diversity or the need to address any other “isms” that suggest an inability to view everyone from a lens of equality as we respect humanity.
I vision corporations understanding that there is a very important value proposition tied to paying people a living wage that will result in an increase in their productivity and the company’s profitability—a value proposition that will not only promote organizational effectiveness but will enhance organizational performance and banish the inequalities we find in today’s economies which are the result of people barely carving out a living wage. In other words, I see our moving beyond the dialogue regarding the value proposition of paying a living wage.
As I reflect on the continent of Africa and the pockets of challenged communities throughout the world, I vision an eradication of HIV/AIDS. I see young women stepping into their personal power and making intelligent decisions about their lives and their bodies and I see young men respecting their decisions as they too make intelligent decisions about their lives and bodies, regardless of the prevailing cultural proclivities.
More importantly, I vision a global society where people value their personal worth and understand that we are indeed globally linked. I also vision global conflicts being resolved differently—through understanding the micro-cultural proclivities of all actors in order to produce a different conversation leading toward resolutions. I see a very different understanding of how we engage in geopolitics—one that will allow us to respect the cultural dimensions of complex conversations. And, I see the eradication of issues associated with refugees. I see people returning to their homelands where they are free to build productive societies. Last, but clearly not least, I see an end to all forms of terrorism.
This list is just a starting point for me. There is so much more that is needed in our world. Equally important, I believe that my visions of a better world are possible. Yet, I also know that people fear what they do not understand and equally critical, people fear a perceived loss of power.
Many of the visions I have listed are already agenda items on the UN’s Global Compact. As I have examined issues associated with the Global Compact, the Ten Principles, and its strategy, I see strength in this alliance, but I also see opportunities.” (Robinson-Easley, 2016, pp. 107-108)
An evolved ethical leader will be able to move beyond the boundaries of the simple definition of social capital and in the deepest recesses of his or her heart feel the humanity
of the people that make up the social capital of our world (Robinson-Easley, 2016). This is our world and we are it's leaders. We have the responsibility for making the change.[i] http://www.unglobalcompact.org/Issues/human_rights/equality_means_business.html
Robinson-Easley, C.A. (2016), Leadership for Global Systemic Change: Beyond Ethics and Social Responsibility
, New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Robinson-Easley, C.A. (2013), Preparing for Today’s Global Job Market: From the Lens of Color
, New York: Palgrave Macmillan