ARYZE spoke with Katie Hyson, director at Business Fights Poverty to discuss how companies can collaborate to solve some of the world’s largest social issues.
Katie Hyson is an expert in sustainability and joined Business Fights Poverty in the spring of 2018 where she now works as a director. After having worked within various multinational businesses’ sustainability teams, Hyson felt drawn to deepen her understanding of how to support businesses and do good from a different perspective. She changed her approach from looking deeply into one business, to looking across different industries and companies. Today at Business Fights Poverty, she helps bring together a global network of around 30,000 people, supporting the companies and people leading this agenda:
We are driven by a belief in the power of purposeful collaboration. The simple idea that when you bring together the right people around a shared challenge, with a focus on delivering a valuable output in a clear timeframe, you create the space for generating powerful insights and deeper relationships.
It is crucial for organizations to come together and collaborate when they are looking to create social impact and solve some of the most difficult global issues, Hyson believes. She comments on how the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) tackle tricky and difficult topics, of which most, if not all, form issues for businesses themselves too. ‘’If the issues were simple or easy, then they would already be solved’’, Hyson says.
Business Fights Poverty engages in the SDGs as it is based on both the value to businesses and the value of businesses.
Tackling sustainable development challenges helps to identify and mitigate material risks and costs, strengthens license to operate and builds longer-term resilience. It can also create opportunities for innovation and for accessing new producers, consumers and growth markets. At the same time, engagement in the SDGs can help progressive companies to articulate and demonstrate their deeper values and purpose.
Offering support for collaboration
No business can solve any of the SDGs completely on their own, Hyson tells us, collaboration is crucial to achieve this. However, she notes how working together can be time-consuming and challenging, even in the situation of two like-minded organizations forming a straight-forward partnership. This is where Business Fights Poverty is able to step in and support companies through their Challenge model.
Hyson explains that purposeful collaboration is not about rigid partnerships but about finding a challenge that resonates with different organizations and individuals. Such a challenge has the power to unite people and create an environment where relationships and trust can be built. Especially in these disturbing times that the world finds itself in today, collaboration has become more important than ever before with many (existing) social issues rising to the surface:
Undoubtedly the biggest social challenge right now, in summer 2020, is the direct and knock on effects of COVID-19. The pandemic is far from over – and is only just peaking in many countries with weak health systems and social safety nets.
Recently, Business Fights Poverty organized their online conference where they brought together many different experts from the Business Fights Poverty community to discuss some of the most urgent issues of today. Some of these sessions were specifically aimed at Rebuilding Better after COVID-19. Other conversations covered themes such as diversity, inclusion and equity; topics that are crucial to discuss in our current world, as Hyson explains:
Let’s face it; the pandemic has exacerbated deep inequalities and fragilities in the current system that have always been there. Actions we take now will have long-term consequences for those who have been most impacted, the very people whom all of us in this community have dedicated our careers to supporting.
In order to get organizations and individuals to work strategically together, Business Fights Poverty explored what it takes to partner. They specifically focused on collaboration within this period of time, where rapid innovation is crucial to battle COVID-19. Together with pharmaceuticals company GSK, the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School, Endeva, and The Partnering Initiative, they found some key aspects to enable/replicate strong and effective partnerships.
Their research found that factors such as clear communication, assigning resources to collaboration, and fast-track decision-making all help guarantee success. But also themes such as to look out for existing initiatives and the ability to join efforts as a company rather than starting something on your own. Clear goals and careful HR practices were also found to be key in the process of collaboration. Looking out for your staff and taking care of them makes them feel valued and ultimately encourage them to engage in social practices.
Hyson mentions that employees are very willing to partake in the social missions of companies. A 2017 Cone Gen Z CSR study: How to Speak Z, found that more than 70 percent of the Gen Z people surveyed said it was imperative or very important to them to work for an organization where missions and values align. A total of 94 percent of Gen Z individuals believed that companies should help address social and environmental issues.
Companies are pushing at an open door if they want their employees to be engaged with their social mission. How companies and their employees find synergies with their missions: Get focused on doing something that will make a real lasting difference and join up to take action are the challenges.
From her own professional experience, Hyson has seen that it helps for businesses to make things easy for employees when it comes to tackling social issues. By embedding this into the core business activities and using tools already existent in the company, it becomes more easy to engage employees. And last, but definitely not least, an aspect Hyson mentions is to have fun with it; ‘’Being part of doing good should be rewarding’’. She shares the mantra she uses: ‘One small thing that can add up to be something bigger’.
If you are looking to engage in a global network of other companies and individuals to create social impact and help solve some of the SDG’s, connect with Katie on LinkedIn, or visit the Business Fights Poverty website.