Silicon Valley, fairly or unfairly, has become notorious for its toxic corporate culture.
A growing chorus has denounced what it perceives as an ageist, sexist mentality deeply rooted in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area.
There are many organisations where this sort of culture is nonexistent, but there are enough examples in Silicon Valley for it to deemed a "problem".
What this indicates is not only the importance of having a social responsibility programme, but also the need to embed such a programme in the early stages of a company’s existence.
The idea was pioneered by Tamas, a long-term Skimlinks employee and supporter of FINCA. Skimlinks CEO Alicia Naravo delivered a truly inspirational speech on his behalf, and it got me thinking about the future of the corporate tech sector and the responsibility young entrepreneurial CEOs have.
The event in question concerned raising awareness of the importance of social responsibility in the workplace. For Naravo, this responsibility is set to be a cornerstone for any future growth and development of the company.
And as we’ve seen, a failure to implement a social responsibility program can have serious consequences for the image of the company and for its profitability and success.
In the West, millennials are set to be the first generation that will make less money than their parents did.
As a result, graduates are increasingly looking to work in companies that offer employee benefits and have a fair and comfortable working environment rather than only a competitive salary. In the world of tech, the situation is no different.
Socially-conscious and carbon-neutral companies now have an advantage over companies that push corporate social responsibility (CSR) down the agenda.
But the introduction of a social responsibility programme at any tech startup has another purpose: it signals to the market and any potential employees an intention to build a sustainable and enduring organization.
Senior executives at these startups are showing that they don’t want to make a quick buck and then jump ship to work at Google at Facebook. They want to stay and build a legacy.
Companies which don’t put social responsibility high on their agenda in the first place risk allowing a negative – and therefore unsustainable – corporate culture to develop.
Uber, for example, has gone from strength to strength since it burst onto the scene, but in recent years cracks have started to show and widen.
The introduction of a corporate social responsibility programme in 2015, six years after it was founded, failed to inoculate the company against impropriety.
Uber’s rival, Lyft, has been gaining ground, while Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has filed a lawsuit over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology.
Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, finally resigned after a raft of newspaper-worthy scandals (including allegations of widespread sexism by a former employee) became too much for his investors.
It may have had a CSR initiative, but it was either too threadbare or introduced too late: this year alone, Uber has been at the centre of more than 15 scandals, blunders or PR disasters.
When I walk into the Skimlinks offices, I’m taken back to the early days of FINCA, when there was palpable excitement for the unknown and a real belief that something new and inspiring was taking place. Social responsibility is no longer a luxury that a select few organisations can take on.
It can be the difference between attracting the best talent in the industry or watching that talent go to your rivals. Equally, it can be the difference between short-term and long-term success.
The world is changing, and nonprofits and governments can’t solve the increasing problems of the world single-handed.
For nonprofits, developing relationships with companies during these early startup stages, as FINCA has with Skimlinks, can help those companies to develop a positive ethos semi-organically. Who knows? One of them might be the next Google, Amazon or Microsoft, set to change the corporate landscape as we know it.
As our relationship with Skimlinks grows, I hope that more companies in the startup space can take inspiration from our partnership and think more seriously about what sort of company they want to be and what sort of world they want to live in.
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