Learning from Business4Better in Shanghai, China

Last week I traveled to Shanghai to speak at the Business4Better China Summit, sponsored by UBM and chaired by my dear new friend and inimitable connector, Richard Hsu. The gathering, called “100×100”,was a convening of one hundred for profit and one hundred nonprofit businesses that share a common intention, as the mission of Business4Better states, to “help create successful corporate and nonprofit partnerships that have a positive impact on our communities and expand the meaning of being a better business.”

That’s a familiar mission to anyone who works in social innovation or Corporate Social Responsibility; it would fit numerous organizations I know, in many parts of the world. And that, I think, is the important and encouraging news about this event. Social innovation is a global phenomenon; and China is excited to be among its leaders.

To be in Asia now, among the community of people who are emerging as the creative force behind the region’s transformation, is a very exciting experience. There is an infectious energy, filled with hope and excitement that emerges from the belief that there is hope for the future, and good work to be done.

From fellow speakers I learned about Unilever’s global CSR and sustainability strategy that affects 2.1 billion people in 196 countries; about the extraordinary work of Youth Entrepreneurship for Society that connects young people to technology and the principles of social responsibility; and about the absolutely extraordinary work being done to help orphans of HIV/AIDS by the Chi Heng Foundation, led by Chung To. And many others in a day filled with inspiring stories.

I learned that in China, an iron rooster is the symbol of a cheapskate (because you can’t pull a feather from an iron rooster).

But the most important lesson, as always, is that as different as our cultures are, as unique as each situation and each organization is, humans are humans, business is business, and the earth is the earth. We share the common challenges of living on this precious planet with finite resources, as the species who has caused the challenges we now face and the only species that can do something about it.

Thank you to my new friends and colleagues in China, for your amazing energy and efforts.