Business Impact on Inclusive Growth in Israel and Globally

Opening Plenary, Maala International Conference 2018
Tel Aviv, Israel

Doing well by doing good means that a business actually depends on its ability to have a positive social impact” Shamina Singh, MasterCard

 

Summary

The opening plenary focused on the main theme of the conference – Business Impact on Inclusive Growth.  The plenary covered several topics relating to inclusive growth, including employees, consumers, communities, diversity, technology & innovation, corporate action, responsible investment, and even marketing.

The major talks and presentations were on issues such as: The gig economy and the future of work; social inequalities such as information inequality; technology helping low-income Americans; guidelines for positive social impact; Investors’ influence on companies in regard to sustainability and social impact; and the question of how to tell the story and share it with the public.

Speakers

Moderator: Momo Mahadav, CEO at Maala

Micky Adiv, CEO at G1 and Chairperson at Maala

Steven Berkenfeld, Managing Director, Investment Banking at Barclays Capital

Dr. Sigal Shelach, CEO at JDC Israel

Shamina Singh, EVP Sustainability at Mastercard and President of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

Prof. David Grayson, Author

Ciara Byrne, Tech Journalist

Hugh Wheelan, Managing Editor at Responsible Investor (RI)

Lihu Roter, Executive Producer at Particle3

 

Momo Mahadav, Maala and Micky Adiv, G1 and Chairperson at Maala

  • Business impact on inclusive growth refers to communities, employees, customers and suppliers, relating to how businesses have an impact on all those segments.
  • In Israel this has always been at the core of CSR, while in the global community there is a stronger focus on environment and climate change. Now, it seems these two tracks are converging, as the global CSR community is increasing its discussion on inclusive growth.

 

Dr. Sigal Shelach, JDC Israel and Steven Berkenfeld, Barclays Capital

Sigal:

  • We are now in a fourth industrial revolution.
  • Three main groups will be affected by this revolution:
    1. Unskilled employees.
    2. Skilled employees with academic education, vocational or technical training. Their skills will be rendered obsolete and won’t be relevant in the future of work. They will require reskilling and upskilling in order to stay in the workforce.
    3. Newcomers to the labor market (Gen Y, millennials). They enter the workforce already understanding that they will need to constantly stay relevant and reskill and upskill.
  • The first two groups include the working poor – families with both spouses working that can barely make ends meet.
    The numbers of the working poor are growing fast.
    In order to make difference, employers will have to take on a major role in the skilling, upskilling and reskilling of employees.
  • Many companies in Israel are increasing automation. We see employees working alongside robots, though the required skills of those workers are changing dramatically.
  • Working skills are crucial for people without education. In Israel, both the Arab and the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox communities are less educated and fall behind in terms of working skills. At the same time, both are growing quickly and will constitute a significant portion of the workers’ pool. We need to address this unique demography, and work with the communities to create new opportunities for work.
  • If skilling, reskilling and upskilling won’t change drastically in the next few years, we won’t have people qualified for jobs of the future. Employers have to be more aware of this and take a greater role in skilling reskilling and upskilling employees. Richard Branson is quoted saying: train your people well so they will be able to go to other employers; treat them very well so that they don’t.
  • JDC works with businesses looking together with at their spread of wealth and how their poor workers are treated and what they can do to help them.

Steven: 

  • In the US, many companies and organizations are geared on how to do more with less, resulting in permanent layoffs or simply not rehiring for various positions. Increased automation and constant reduction of human resources will lead to a shortage of work in the future.
  • The transition from the jobs of today to the work of the future is going to be very disruptive:
    1. Many will lose jobs and many will not fit into the economy.
    2. There will be increased polarization between higher end work that will pay a lot, and lower end work that will pay the minimum.
    3. Work will be delivered differently, with less full-time jobs employed by one company, and more independent, freelance work; it will be a gig economy.
  • Many benefits are connected to jobs, such as healthcare, retirement, parental leave, paid sick days, paid vacation days, unemployment insurance, and even the ability to get a mortgage. As work moves from jobs to contingent workers, we will have to figure out how to provide all those things that are tied to a job, and how to deal with the insecurity of not knowing how long we’ll have work and how to move from one position to the next.
  • Technology and the ability to do more with less are decreasing the demand for labor and therefore the value of labor.
  • There are vast numbers of full-time employees in the US living in poverty. In the 1980’s, the top 1% earned 27 times more than the bottom 50% earned on average; today it’s at 81. That’s the level of inequality in the US.
  • Any company selling products (B2C) is better off distributing its money more widely including investing in its employees, so that as consumers they can continue buying and that money will eventually make it back to the company.
  • Unfortunately, in the US, sustainability very rarely relates to employees. Companies with record profits can announce thousands of layoffs every year.
  • These trends will lead to a more polarized society, fighting over a shrinking pie, rather than enjoying the fruits of an increasing pie.

 

Shamina Singh, Mastercard

  • Separating social impact from business impact is impossible.
  • It’s not enough to do well and do good, rather it’s the business model of doing well by doing good. This means that your business actually depends on your ability to have a positive social impact. This is where MasterCard sees itself today, and that’s how the Center for Inclusive Growth was created.
  • Information inequality is in many ways more insidious than income inequality, because without the information you need to succeed you will never be able to get out of your situation. A huge inequality gap is forming between the data-haves and the data-have-nots.
  • The Center for Inclusive Growth is trying to tackle both inequalities, through financial inclusion and building capacity in the social sector around data and analytics, so that the public and third sectors can benefit from evidence-based decision making and growth in the same way as in the private sector.
  • We partnered with Unilever, realizing the potential impact we can have if we work together to solve problems. We started in Kenya, helping 20,000 small businesses on Unilever’s local supply chain to get credit at reasonable interest rates from one of our local partner banks.

Question: How do you support workers in the rising gig economy?

  • One of every three Americans have gig work, volatile income. We are working to disconnect the benefits and wages from one single employer and shift them to the individual, realizing that the traditional connection between employer and employee will change dramatically. Our first partnership on this is with an organization called care.com, the largest platform of care workers around the world.

Question: The bold vision of MasterCard is a world without cash, and this interacts with a new regulation in Israel that will be introduced in January 2019, to substantially reduce the amount of money in a cash transaction. Do you see the connection between a world without cash and a more inclusive society?

  • In a cash-based economy, you can only transact with people you can see and who live near you. In an e-commerce and digital society, you can move beyond your immediate community. Today, about 85% of the world’s transactions are done in cash, but as the world grows digital, cash usage lowers. Payments are going digital, and in a digital world, if you stick to cash transactions you will be left behind.

 

Prof. David Grayson, Author

  • My most recent book, ‘All In’, looks back at 20 years of sustainability to see which companies were considered leaders in the field. The 20-year survey shows the evolution of our understanding of what businesses have to do to become leaders in all aspects of sustainability. Since 2011, Unilever is considered as the leader in sustainability.
  • Steven Berkenfeld’s comment, about American businesses not understanding the importance of treating their employees well, is interesting since that is an integral part of being a responsible and sustainable business.
  • Businesses today need to do 5 critical things:
    Having a purpose – how the business creates value for itself and the society, connecting to what Shamina said before.
    2. Having a comprehensive plan – the sustainability strategy of the business has to cover the business itself and its value chain (suppliers and customers).
    3. A sustainable culture – like in Nike where innovation is equal to sustainability. This includes a culture that is responsible, ethical, transparent and open to ideas from the outside.
    4. Shamina’s example of MasterCard and Unilever is a great example of the power and importance of collaboration. Every business leader we interviewed for the book indicated that making change on your own is extremely difficult, and collaboration is the key.
    5. Advocacy – speaking up and out for social justice and sustainable development. A good example is in the US, where despite the president backing out of the Paris Agreement, several businesses spoke up and declared that they are still committed.

Question: How does trust fit into this picture?

  • In an interview for the book, Collin le Duc talked about the critical challenges and risks to the financial system from climate change, and in the same sentence he said we must also address the systemic risks to our financial system from hyper-global inequalities. In an era where we face such challenges, in order to earn trust, a company has to be coherent and consistent – do as I do and not as I say. In that context, being coherent and consistent about the way you conduct all aspects of business is going to be absolutely fundamental to build and restore trust.

Question: Maala is working with David on a new publication on inclusive growth. In that regard, what will be interesting to share from Israel?

  • There is a great deal of innovation and creativity in Israeli businesses around inclusion. It would be quite interesting to share practices around employability, relating to constant skilling, reskilling and upskilling. We’re looking not just for big names but also hoping to find interesting examples from small businesses and exciting startups.

 

Ciara Byrne, Tech Journalist

Ciara Byrne, Maala conference 2018, photo by: Netanel Tobias
  • The south Bronx in New York City is the poorest congressional district in the US.
  • We walked in the neighborhood looking for an address using Google Maps, and eventually a local informed us that address no longer exists. We come from the tech world, and when technology failed us we didn’t know what to do. But technology fails low-income Americans every day.
  • One of every five New Yorkers live in poverty, about 1.7 million people.
    6 million depend on food stamps.
    One million working New Yorkers earn less than 20,000 dollars a year.
    There’s also a digital divide – 20% of low-income households in New York don’t have internet access at all.
  • Blue Ridge Labs is an initiative within the Robin Hood Foundation in New York, attempting to make high impact technology products for low-income Americans.
  • Inequality is not just about income – scarcity of other resources increase inequality even further, such as information, education, opportunity, social capital, time, health, security and even sleep. At Blue Ridge Labs we figured we could help people with those resources they are lacking.
  • One of the projects developed is Alice, a software system that makes it really easy for employers to offer their employees pre-spending tax benefits at no upfront cost. The result is that the employees are getting more money to their paycheck every month at no cost to the employer.
  • Another successful initiative is Fresh EBT, which makes that information on the remaining balance of food stamps available through an app, and gives people offers from retailers who accept food stamps, enabling the food stamps to go further.
  • Fresh EBT is helping a million Americans, literally putting a little more food on their table, or in the case of Alice putting a few more dollars in their paycheck.

 

Hugh Wheelan, Responsible Investor

Hugh Wheelan, Maala conference 2018, photo by: Netanel Tobias
  • Sustainability challenges are not only pressing social issues but also financial challenges for companies. The main reasons for that are that regulation on these issues is tightening at a fast pace, and the fact that these challenges are not going away.
  • Consumer behavior is changing and companies are expected to act on sustainability challenges.
  • In addition, investors are becoming increasingly interested in companies’ performance on sustainability challenges. This means that ESG and sustainability issues are very important for the bottom line of companies.
  • Social challenges could be business opportunities for companies looking to align themselves with the SDGs.
  • Investors are becoming more concerned about the issue of low-paid employees. Investors are questioning share buy-backs and employee layoffs in terms of what they mean for the long-term value creation of companies. A short-term “sugar rush” to boost the share price is not a way of maintaining company growth over time.
  • The overriding question is always the short-term opportunities versus the long term. The ESG investor is interested in the long term, but still 75% of managed money is focused on the short term. Reducing the gap between these two tracks depends on where value is generated in a company. As investors take a growing interest in the ESG performance of companies, we are expected to see growth in ESG investment management.

 

Lihu Roter, Particle3

Lihu Roter, Maala conference 2018, photo by: Sharone Amit
  • In 2016, Shell created a campaign aimed to challenge the public opinion on oil and energy companies. And they succeeded in creating a change.
  • In addition to public opinion, it is important to work internally on corporate culture as well. How to make employees more engaged and feel that they are part of something amazing? The way employees reflect on their organization is an essential element of its prosperity.
  • We captured videos of the sounds of Walmart – trucks driving, boxes being shipped etc. and we performed a live song that was composed of the true sounds of Walmart.
    Employees all around the world wanted to take part because they knew it meant being part of something bigger. Walmart has over 12,000 stores and over 2.2 million employees.
  • Engaging people is the holy grail of advertising. Investing more in delivering the message of corporate responsibility and corporate culture is the best way to achieve tomorrow’s results.