My Three Cents
MakovskyThursday, July 10, 2014
Philanthropy. We all know what it is: “the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people.” But not everyone may be aware that it’s much more than a way for corporations to give back. These days, companies areoften expected to be active participants – if not a driving force – in solving the most pressing social and environmental issues.
More than 8 out of 10 people surveyed in last year’s Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study said they would consider corporate social responsibility when deciding where to work (81%), what to buy or where to shop (87%) and which products and services to recommend to others (85%).
So what’s the most effective way for a company to act on its philanthropic goals?
For Toyota, it’s kaizen. Kaizen, which in Japanese means good (zen) change (kai), is a philosophy that encourages people to think outside the box, making small changes to generate big results.
“It’s a form of corporate philanthropy but instead of giving money, they’re sharing expertise,” says David J. Vogel, a professor and an expert in CSR at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s quite new.”
Kaizen is a main ingredient in Toyota’s business model and a key to its success. On its website, Toyota — #9 in the Fortune 500 Global rankings — writes, “We’re in the business of making great cars and trucks. But we also work every day to apply and share our know-how in ways that benefit people, the community, and our planet in order to build a better tomorrow.”
A fascinating article in The New York Times provides more detail, describing how Toyota donated kaizen to the Food Bank for New York City, one of the nation’s largest anti-hunger charities.
According to the head of the Food Bank, Toyota has “revolutionized the way we serve our community.” Here are some examples:
- Harlem soup kitchen: wait time for dinner reduced to 18 minutes from up to 90
- Staten Island food pantry: time spent filling bags reduced to 6 minutes from 11
- Bushwick Warehouse: cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes
Corporate philanthropy professionals may want to consider Toyota’s donation of “know-how” as a new role model in corporate giving.
Everybody’s grandmother, at one time or another, has invoked the old aphorism: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Many companies and their employees are already doing tons of volunteer work now. How many are offering kaizen? How many are teaching men and women to fish?