Poverty Pitch

The intersection of American business and global poverty

American Business

HOW DOES GLOBAL POVERTY FIT INTO AMERICAN BUSINESS? 

Socially Responsible Business Models

There are multiple ways to mix together a corporate and social mission. Below is a presentation on three business models that are commonly used in this field.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY(CSR)[1]

  • programs and initiatives that act upon a social mission
  • done by large scale businesses (i.e. corporations)
  • social goal does not have to coincide with corporate goal

One example of a CSR program is Fair Trade. According to the World Fair Trade Organization,
“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seek greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers”[2].
It is a practice that businesses undertake to ensure that their products are sourced from communities that are taken care of, and not exploited.

Example: The Body Shop

They engage in ethical trading with their suppliers. Find out more at their ethical trade webpage

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP[1]

  • businesses with a social mission at it’s CORE
  • done by small or medium businesses

Example: Innova Dynamics

They create tech solutions for sanitation, water purification, and clean energy. Find out more about their social mission here

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE[1]

  • a partnership between non-profit organizations and businesses
  • goal is to have a sustainable source of funding for non-profit cause

Example: DoSomething.org

This site encourages teens to get involved in community service . In 2008, they launched an (initial public offerring)IPO so donors could buy stocks and in effect they act as shareholders in the project instead of just giving financial support. Find out more about it through this article.


Advertising 

In the simplest sense, advertising is how businesses promote the products and services that they sell. America is no stranger to advertising with its streets lined up with posters, highways overshadowed by billboards, radios and TVs flooded with commercials, and much more. In his article “Advertising as Religion: The Dialectic of Technology and Magic,” Media scholar Sut Jhally writes, “the real function of advertising is not to give people information but to make them feel good” (225)[3]. Advertising is more about the emotional connection of the consumer to a product rather than what the product does.

What could be a better way to make people feel good, than to tell them that they are doing something good for the rest of the world? This is where social responsibility fits in the advertising game. Advertisements of socially responsible companies could easily associate the idea of altruism with their product by featuring the company’s charity program, ethical practices, or partnership with an organization that advocates a certain cause.

The flipside to this, according to scholars Ira Silver and Mary-Ellen Boyle, is that advertisements like these have the power to shape how people think of social issues such as poverty. These ads represent poverty in a way that encourages short-term solutions rather than addressing the structural causes of the problem [4]. In this argument, businesses are seen to only tackle or inform people about social issues on the surface level. This is a perspective that is often taken against companies such as TOMS that centralize their brand around the company’s charitable deeds.

references:
[1]My interview with Professor Walske
[2]World Fair Trade Organization
[3]Jhally, Sut. “Advertising as Religion: The Dialectic of Technology and Magic.” Cultural Politics in Contemporary America. New York: Routledge, 1989. 217-29. Print.
[4]Silver, Ira, and Mary-Ellen Boyle. “Constructing Problems by Promoting Solutions: Corporate Advertisements about U.S. Poverty.” Journal of Poverty 14.3 (2010): 347-67. Print.