Businesses Need to Step Up!

I feel compelled to address this presidential election. It is deeply troubling on many levels— including the idea of having Myron Ebell (climate skeptic) overseeing the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency. This is akin to having a Holocaust denier oversee the Holocaust Museum. Or someone who doesn’t believe in vaccines oversee NIH.

We’ve made so much progress as a country under President Obama — financially and otherwise. We need to keep that going. Human rights are not a partisan issue for most Americans. It isn’t Democrat vs. Republican, or left vs. right. It is about right vs. wrong.

With a lot of uncertainty on what the future administration and policies will look like, it is now incumbent on private institutions to play a larger role in shaping our culture.

Along those lines, I was encouraged to read this in today’s New York Times:

Hundreds of American companies, including Mars, Nike, Levi Strauss and Starbucks, have urged President-elect Donald J. Trump not to abandon the Paris climate deal, saying a failure by the United States to build a clean economy endangers American prosperity.

Core to the Collaborative Fund’s investment thesis is that for-profit businesses can be force for good. This can come from start-up businesses that disrupt from the bottom up. But it can also come top down, from big corporations.

While usually I shine a spotlight on startups doing good, today I want to focus on a few big corporations that have stepped up.

Equal pay for equal work: The government has yet to address the gender pay-gap issue, and may not for years. So Salesforce tackled it head on by reviewing its payroll and simply adjusting salaries so that all female employees made the same amount as the men in comparable roles.

Family leave: The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in paid family leave by an embarrassing degree. Some companies have taken it upon themselves to fix the problem. Last year, Netflix became the first big company to offer a year of leave for new mothers and fathers. Microsoft, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Facebook, and Spotify, followed. Not all offer full pay during the full year. But the message is clear: You have a family. You have a life. Experience it, prioritize it, and enjoy it. And no government body pushed that. Corporations did.

Sexual orientation, gender, and identity: Starbucks recently partnered with the Seattle Police Department to turn its Seattle locations into LGBT Safe Spaces. Two thousand employees will be trained on how to help LGBT victims of violence. In a similar move, Paypal announced that it was scrapping “a plan to expand its company to Charlotte, North Carolina, after considering the state’s recently passed anti-LGBT law, HB2.”

Racial discrimination: Airbnb is fighting racial discrimination head on. It assembled a new team of engineers, data scientists, researchers, and designers whose only job is to root out bias on its platform.

Climate Change: Google is one of the world’s largest private purchasers of renewable energy. Its stated goal is to source 100% of its energy from renewable sources, and it’s well on its way. Google installed the largest corporate solar panel installation of its kind (1.7 megawatts) in 2007 at its Mountain View HQ.

This is all to say, business has played an important part of shaping our culture and has the potential to counterbalance other major forces around the world.

Let’s state this clearly, because it’s one of the most important parts: We strongly believe companies that effectively use a moral compass to navigate these challenging times will yield the best financial returns in the long run, while also benefiting society in the short run.

We at Collaborative Fund have never felt more focused and impassioned by our mission to support entrepreneurs pushing the world forward. Now more than ever, we feel a sense of urgency and a fire in our belly to succeed.


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