PRs should hear this business perspective on the benefits of ‘new philanthropy’

I heard this great discussion on corporate responsibility on BBC Radio 4 programme The Bottom Line yesterday. Looking at ‘new philanthropy’ it discussed how modern altruism is “more about business than charity”. Participants in the debate include Sir Richard Branson (Chairman of the Virgin Group), Mike Lynch (Chief Executive of Autonomy), Doug Richard (Chairman of Library House and founder of Hotxt) and Robin Wight (Co-chairman of WCRS). Fascinating for anyone in public relations as it highlights views by CEOs on this vital topic.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “PRs should hear this business perspective on the benefits of ‘new philanthropy’”

  1. Gerard Baker gives an interesting take on this in today’s Times. He argues that PR campaigns aligning corporates with philanthropic endeavours start with the mistaken assumption that business is inherently evil: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8210-2417927_1,00.html.

    Daniel Finkelstein’s Comment Central blog adds some useful comment and contains some useful links: http://timesonline.typepad.com/comment/2006/10/lets_call_it_an.html.

    Effectively the argument is that business generates wealth ergo happiness for millions of people and is therefore an immense power for good. Yup, and so is religion but that didn’t stop the Spanish Inquisition from happening.

  2. Although businesses do provide societal benefits by their existence, the debate regarding their involvement beyond their core remit is complex – and often bound by the religious beliefs of those wielding the economic power. For example, the Cadbury family drew on Quaker beliefs as pioneers in employee welfare – but was this truly altruistic? Of course not since there were business benefits too. Should they have provided affordable housing for workers tied to employment – or paid them better?

    Although companies rarely view CSR as a communal rather than an exchange relationship, the danger is that philanthropic endeavours are entered into more or less cynically with the goal of being seen to be good. I would much sooner see organisations focus on improving the societal benefit of what their core business first – so for supermarkets, focusing on reducing packaging rather than sportskits for schools.

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