Roshan, a telecom rebuilding a war-torn country

Afghanistan’s leading telecommunications provider utilizes social innovation to strengthen the company and enrich society. Roshan has revolutionized the telecommunications and banking sectors while working to promote the infrastructure of a torn country and creating social value through nation-building.

In 2003 when Roshan was launched, Afghanistan was characterized by economic and political instability, corruption and war.  Infrastructure in the telecom industry itself was virtually non-existent, with less than 0.05% penetration and phone call costs at $12 a minute, depriving its population from the aids of access to communication. The company has revolutionized its sector creating physical infrastructure in a country decimated by war and Taliban attacks, in absence of roads and electricity, while fighting endemic corruption. In a country with a low-skilled workforce, recruitment was a challenge. However, 93% of Roshan employees are Afghan nationals and they decided to invest heavily in training the local workforce in English, basic computer skills, diversity, cultural awareness, health and safety. They are directly addressing threats to the security of their employees, and creating opportunities for women in a place where female employment is not the norm. By providing access to telecommunications in urban and distant rural regions and by creating mobile banking, Roshan has empowered the population. By 2011 Roshan provided service to over 5M subscribers, covering approximately 56% of the population, and following competitors provided even more.

Roshan shows that, at the rebirth of a civilization, a company which creates social value is not only more likely to survive, but is likely to emerge as a dominant force.


Greyston, social innovation in hiring and PathMaking

Greyston Bakery’s mission is to combat poverty in the surrounding community of Southwest Yonkers, New York. As a social enterprise, it uses its policies to hire people who are difficult to employ and trains them for opportunities both at the Bakery and in the community. Through open-hiring efforts to create enduring and systemic change, they have transformed lives in their community and have built a pool of motivated workers. They employ people who may have never been employed before, including recent immigrants, the disabled, people who have been incarcerated, or those leaving drug rehabilitation programs. While volunteering at a local soup kitchen, the founder and his team made an important discovery: many of the homeless people in Yonkers were single parents, and without access to childcare they could not find a job and were unable to break out of a life of poverty, that could repeat through many generations. Greyston Bakery’s holistic approach attacks this vicious cycle by addressing the broader issues of access to affordable housing, healthcare and childcare that are able to support and foster job creation. Inherent in their philosophy is the concept of PathMaking by training them to work hard, making them “employable”, and facilitating their advancement to other fields and encouraging their employees to go on to higher-paying jobs.

The Bakery is New York State’s first Benefit Corporation and has been a pioneer in creating social value for over three decades. The innovative model shows how a company can foster an environment which supports employees in a holistic approach.


IBM, combining social value with business opportunity

The case of IBM provides a brilliant example of a company creating social value by building social capital, and forging new relationships that can lead to growth by leveraging on their core competencies. Among the challenges facing large multinational companies are globalization and how to develop leadership within a global context: how to become relevant and visible in emerging economies, how to understand the challenges they face and how to address the problems of moving employees overseas. To build a presence in emerging economies, IBM launched the Corporate Service Corps (CSC) in 2008 and then the Executive Service Corps (ESC) in 2010. These programs send teams of 8 to 15 IBM employees from around the world to emerging markets where they work with local governments and business leaders to establish or improve new systems and processes. More than 1,500 IBMers have completed over 120 projects in 25 countries from Chile to Ghana to Kazakhstan, which many of them refer to as “life-altering”.

IBM’s program is an example of a new reality in which the roles of government and the private sector blur to develop new mechanisms for collaboration. The CSC delivers a 360-approach by providing a global service that benefits emerging markets, adds value to the company through employee training, and returns profits to IBM through the formation of profitable contracts. Their success has changed how many people view the potential for corporate social responsibility and, in fact, IBM has helped numerous companies establish similar programs.


Ford, addressing environmental and social needs

In a time of economic crisis, Ford Motor Company has addressed strategic opportunities in sustainability and redefined the very purpose of the company. The US multinational, number four automaker in the world, has been reporting on sustainability for 12 years and has a well-developed corporate responsibility program divided into three segments: environmental, mobility, and human rights. Ford has made a commitment to be best-in-class in fuel economy for every segment they participate in, investing and patenting new technologies, and to decrease its environmental impact. The company has reduced the energy use of its global operations by 27%, CO2 emissions by 31% and water use by 25% since 2000. These goals extend to working with the suppliers base in a cascading effect to meet Ford standards.

Furthermore, they are exploring new models of sustainable mobility: the company understands that, with the growing world population and the increased population density in urban areas, it is neither practical nor desirable to put every individual into a private automobile. This has driven a major product overhaul and investments in myriad technologies, and Ford has decided to redefine its mission, imagining a different future in which it provides mobility solutions, rather than only manufacturing vehicles.

In a move that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, Ford has partnered with Toyota, a leading competitor, to co-create technologies to combat climate change and develop more environmentally friendly pick-up trucks.