Sustaining Emerging Markets: Technology, Capital and Women

May 2007 Volume V, Number 4

Net Contents
I. Network Presentation
Key Findings
Perspectives

II. What’s New

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network
Contact Information
Sponsorship Opportunities

I. Network Presentation

A big thank you to those who took the time to attend WNSF’s first West Coast panel on May 11, 2007 entitled “Sustaining Emerging Markets: Technology, Capital and Women” hosted by Intel in Santa Clara, California. The session featured speakers from Intel and Google and explored the role of technology in empowering business and businesswomen in the developing world and of linking CSR priorities at home with those in the field.

Key Findings

  • The challenges of implementing CSR at home expand when working in emerging markets, but the core principles remain the same
  • Challenges of convincing developing markets and local communities of the benefits of technology can be overcome by getting local buy-in—a challenge in itself.
  • Measuring impact of programs here and elsewhere is often anecdotal but quantification helps persuade top brass
  • Women are a key to empowering emerging markets, through technology as through more traditional aids like capital and training.

Perspectives

  • Welcome:
    Shelly Esque, Director, Regional Corporate Affairs, Intel
  • Introduction to WNSF:
    Kathy Robb, Esq., Board Chair and Co-Founder, WNSF
  • Moderator:
    Ann Goodman, Executive Director and Co-Founder of WNSF
  • Discussants:
    Diana Adair, Google, Manager, Corporate Communications
    Lila Ibrahim, Intel Corp., Chief of Staff to Chairman

Shelly Esque, Intel Director of Regional Corporate Affairs, welcomed some 40 attendees to WNSF’s first West Coast program, stressing the value of cross-fertilization of East and West Coast perspectives on social responsibility and sustainability among women in business and highlighting Intel’s commitment to both women and social responsibility.

Kathy Robb, Board Chair of WNSF and a Co-Founder, reviewed WNSF’s history and outlined its mission and activities.

Ann Goodman, PhD., Executive director and Cofounder of WNSF, set the stage for the moderated discussion by with a brief reminder of the changing role business plays in the ever-more global economy, as well as some of the new responsibilities of companies vis a vis the societies and cultures they encounter—many of which are often called ‘emerging markets.’ She explained that with discussants from Silicon Valley, the panel would explore the particular challenges and opportunities for this sector as it migrates internationally, along with some of the challenges involved in doing so ‘responsibly.’ This inevitably means rethinking the entire CSR role and looking at some of the ways this nascent business function is evolving in relation to globalization, as well as the role of women in propagating the responsible outcomes of business, both here and in developing markets.

Highlights of the moderated dialogue, in which Ms. Adair and Ms. Ibrahim answered questions from the moderator and the floor, are below:

Challenges and Rewards of Implementing CSR Ms. Adair explained that at Google the basic tenants of CSR include openness, transparency; leadership; passion and partnerships with those inside and outside the company. The goal is to embed CSR throughout the company, in its various functions and activities.

As for Ms. Ibrahim, she is the right hand of Intel’s Chairman Craig Barrett, whose CSR-focused passions includes worldwide education, e-governance, healthcare and economic development— with technology as the backdrop of all activities. Traveling throughout the world, Ms. Ibrahim has observed that, while cultures and societies may differ, all treasure these four values above all and are united through these shared aspirations. While it’s not always their first need, technology is something communities in the developing world learn to value as they see the practical results.

As for Google, Ms. Adair stressed that international industry standards are a priority. In the US, the company is able to provide many of its applications and services through advertising income, but internationally Google works with emerging markets and their governments to allow to provide such tools gratis, where allowed. This helps Google grow the market via brand recognition, while serving the community. (DA)

Value Added of Technology in Emerging Markets

When people are sick, hungry and poor, what is the value of technology to their lives and their enterprises? Ms. Ibrahim answered this question with an example from the Brazilian Amazon, an island of poverty in the middle of the country, plagued by leprosy, among other social problems. By introducing remote access medical help, Intel helped improve health care by connecting rural communities with wealthier doctors from the city through the latest technology hook-ups.

In Lebanon, where Ms. Ibrahim introduced technology to an orphanage during her Intel sabbatical, the administrators first asked for food and clothes. But she convinced them to give the computers a try, and now these orphans are getting university scholarships.

The key to success of such technology problems in the developing world is convincing the locals that they have a personal investment in the project—not just in the benefits of its outcomes but in the implementation. And any technology launch must include a complete package from soup to nuts- hardware, software and training.

The biggest challenge is resolving local doubts about why a large company like Intel wants to help; CSR is something that motivates companies, but not communities. While business may need to connect the dots to the bottom line for its shareholders, more hands-on answers to concrete problems are the way to show those in the field that companies can provide solutions to real-life needs. Examples have ranged from providing connectivity to remote sites through Wi-MAX technology (to provide wireless broadband capabilities over a larger geographic area than Wi-Fi) to providing mobile technology buses to service communities. Intel has sometimes found it useful to collaborate with multilateral institutions like the UN or the World Bank.

Measuring and Communicating Results

Ms. Adair said that measuring CSR results clearly helps Google’s brand, particularly when it comes to recruiting. As for communicating CSR results externally, it helps to translate the story to the human level. For instance, Google offers free shuttle buses between its Santa Clara headquarters and areas where employees live. That project helps cut emissions from individual transportation and lightens the load for employees. But effectively communicating the value of the project internally means breaking out the impact on the bottom line for managers. Another case involves the solar panel installation at Google’s company headquarters in Mountain View. The challenge is to help people understand the benefits of such a project, especially as it impacts employees, managers, and sales people so that they can also communicate effectively with stakeholders and clients about the project.

Ms. Ibrahim said that in measuring and communicating CSR results, Intel focuses on its business gains -environmental improvements at new factories or new investments in education. However, rewards from such investments are often garnered over the time and can’t be seen immediately. For instance, the ultimate investment in education is creating a positive economic spiral for billions around the globe.

In a discussion with participants, the question of ‘finding one’s niche’ among the CSR issues was raised. For instance, global warming appears to be the new flavor of the month. How can a company compete on these issues while limiting mistakes?

Ms. Adair pointed out that the environment is only one issue facing business—even in the technology sector, which has a significant footprint. She mentioned that privacy and the digital divide are just as important. Plus, just because a certain issue is suddenly in vogue doesn’t mean that a company can afford to set aside the other important areas where it has been striving to progress.

Participants also discussed making money while helping society and the double-edged sword of how and when to talk about successes publicly without appearing self-serving.

The challenge is the external skepticism on methods behind business motives for good deeds. To combat such doubts, Intel takes the press and others on site visits to see results for themselves. Ms. Ibrahim has toured remote health care and educational solutions in Brazil with reporters, for example. But, she cautioned, this can’t be done as a one off event; it has to be a sustained effort. And, even if the press has a different opinion, the company should continue to do what it believes is right, understanding that some projects may. work and others may not.

Women Engaging with Technology in Emerging Markets

  • Women are a key to empowering emerging markets, through technology as through more traditional aids like capital and training.

Ms. Ibrahim explained that in global communities women are key players in the local culture and economy—from transporting water in rural villages to teaching. Intel’s technology often reaches them first. For instance, in Baramati, India, a young girl convinced an uncle to get a computer and then taught farmers how to use the PC to improve business. In Saudi Arabia, technology has empowered women by allowing them to study and work within the confines of the culture. Ms. Ibrahim said she believes that as a woman traveling the globe with Intel’s chairman, she can often alleviate doubts and fears among locals, put them at ease and bridge the communication and cultural issues. Back to top

II. What’s New

  • Register for WNSF’s next roundtable, “Combating Poverty: Innovative Business Approaches,” hosted by IBM and New York Regional Association of Grantmakers on June 22, 2007 at 12:00 PM inNew York City. Register at http://www.wnsf.org.

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future The Concept of the Network

The Concept of the Network The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF) provides a forum for businesswomen to congregate, reflect, and act on the convergent issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Through meetings, training and simple electronic support tools, WNSF facilitates the exchange of experiences and best practices, building a community of businesswomen who can serve as powerful change agents for corporate responsibility sustainability in the US and internationally.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is a 501c3 organization. Gifts are tax deductible.

For more information, please contact:
Ann Goodman, Executive Director
Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
Please direct inquiries to: info@wnsf.org

Board of Directors: CHAIR: Kathy Robb, Esq., Partner and Head of Environmental Practice, Hunton & Williams; Marlys Appleton, VP, Alternative Investments and Sustainability, AIG; Dianne Dillon Ridgley, Director, Interface Inc.Board; Karen Flanders, Director of Sustainability, Coca-Cola Co.; Joanne Fox-Przeworski, Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College; Ann Goodman, Executive Director, WNSF; Sarah Howell, Director, Corporate Communications, BP; Michele Kahane, Special Projects Director, Center for Corporate Citizenship, Boston College; Clair Krizov, Executive Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, AT&T; Joyce La Valle, Senior Vice President, Interface Inc.; Anita Roper, Director of Sustainability, Alcoa Corp.; Deborah Sliter, Vice President of Programs, National Environmental Education & Training Foundation.

This issue of Net Notes was reported by Julie Dunkle and edited by Ann Goodman. WNSF thanks founding sponsors AT&T and the Ford Foundation for their generous support.

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