The theaters of CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility CSR can be better understood through the innovative model developed by Harvard Business School Professor Kash Rangan, who talks about a platform of three theatres of CSR for evaluating and classifying CSR practices. These three theaters include the wide range of activities that can be described as CSR, and they constitute a comprehensive CSR strategy.

The core competencies, institutional capacity, and ability to excel in either philanthropic, value chain, or transformative ecosystem CSR efforts determine the type of CSR program a company might adopt.

Why trends of business

The first CSR theater focuses on philanthropy, either in the form of direct funding to nonprofits, community service organizations, and employee community service projects on the one hand, or in-kind donations of products and services to nonprofits and underserved populations on the other. Corporate philanthropy may be characterized as the “soul” of a company, expressing the social and environmental priorities of its founders, executive management, and employees, exclusive of any profit or direct benefit to the company. Coca-Cola sets a perfect example of this theater through its $88.1 million annual contribution to a variety of environmental, educational, and humanitarian organizations through The Coca-Cola Company and The Coca-Cola Foundation.

Other examples of inkind giving include IBM’s computer donations through its global KidSmart Early Learning Program 16, and Microsoft’s donation of almost $300 million in software products to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across the globe. Similar to corporate cash funding, in-kind donations provide important, and often critical, goods and services to nonprofit organizations and needy populations.

As corporate philanthropy evolves, it may become more strategic and more closely correlated with a company’s business priorities. In strategic corporate philanthropy initiatives, funding for social or environmental programs reflects a corporation’s philanthropic priorities as an extension of its business interests. Examples include PNC’s Bank “Grow Up Great” early childhood education program and Goldman Sachs’“10,000 Women” initiative to train and support women entrepreneurs in developing countries. Both CSR efforts are a direct expression of both companies’ respective business strategies. With $100 million in funding over a five-year period, “Grow Up Great” provides critical school readiness resources to underserved populations where PNC operates, in turn creating stronger communities, potential future employees, and PNC brand loyalty.

The “10,000 Women” initiative was a culmination of Goldman Sachs’ senior management’s effort to consolidate its diverse “philanthropic efforts behind a big idea.”

The company devotes significant CSR resources to its“10,000 Women” program to provide business and management skills to underserved women entrepreneurs throughout the world.

Under the second CSR theater, initiatives aim at increasing business opportunities and profitability, while also creating social and environmental benefits by improving operational effectiveness throughout the value chain, be it upstream in the supply chain or downstream in the distribution chain.

Nike has established a Code of Conduct governing its entire production supply chain, including the factories with which it contracts to manufacture its products. Gap Inc. launched a comprehensive “stakeholder engagement” campaign in 1999 to address the highly publicized exploitative labor practices in its manufacturing facilities, some of which also produced goods for Nike. Like the Nike program, Gap’s aggressive supply chain initiative was a response to intense negative publicity and protests.

If a company can promote the enhanced social or environmental value of its products through its CSR initiatives, it can increase its profits. Examples include ethically or socially responsibly-sourced products such as fair trade coffee, conflict-free precious stones, and sustainable farming and fishing.

The third CSR theater,(i.e. transforming the ecosystem),according to Harvard Business School’s study, represents a wide scale and disruptive change to a corporation’s business model that shifts the priority first to crafting a solution to a societal problem, which would then lead to financial returns in the longer run.

In this third theater, the company attempts to create societal value by significantly addressing a critical social or environmental need that is within its business reach, but that may not return immediate business profits. The initiative might not emerge from the company’s core competencies but may require the corporation to fundamentally change its business model and develop new skills and strategies.

Within this third domain, the corporation creates a radically new ecosystem solution that may be outside its core business interests, and that is fundamentally disruptive to the existing value chain. CSR efforts in this domain are not incremental or cautious, but require strategic risk-taking and a focus on long-term rather than short-term economic gains.

General Electric (GE) is leading a comprehensive initiative to address global warming and climate change by transforming the United States’ automobile transportation system to reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum-based fuel consumption from passenger automobiles. The GE transportation solution includes electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, electrical grid improvements, investments in component technologies, and a robust EV production system.

GE’s endeavor, if successful, has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum-based fuel consumption by fundamentally changing the U.S. automobile transportation ecosystem. It will potentially also increase GE’s long-term profitability, given its engagement in many aspects of renewable energy production, energy delivery, EV production, and EV charging supply chains. As yet, the company has not profited from its EV solution, demonstrating that in this third CSR domain, corporations need to be willing to defer short-term profits to produce environmental and social benefits.

Another case would be the one of Philip Morris International (PMI) which decided to use technology and innovation to solve the problem of cigarette smoking, choosing to use their own new technologies to replace cigarettes altogether. Over the past three years, approximately 7.3 million adult smokers around the world have stopped smoking and switched to PMI’s heated tobacco product, which is currently available for sale in 48 markets in key cities or nationwide under the IQOS brand. PMI developed Business Transformation Metrics, on which the company reports periodically in its Sustainability Report. In 2018, smoke-free products represented more than 5 percent of PMI’s shipment volume and more than 13 percent of its net revenues, but they already represented 60 percent of its global commercial expenditure and 92 percent of its global R&D expenditure. You can read the full PMI article here .

What you need to know about Brexit: a historic moment of mourning or celebration?

Friday evening and the clock was 23:00 GMT, Britain cut ties with the EU; the British Flags were quietly lowered, folded and taken away from the many EU buildings of Brussels. This historic moment left the world with a question of whether the UK woke up today the 1st of Feb. on an uncertain future or not.

This controversial move left some people celebrating and others mourning the UK’s departure.

In his new year speech, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the upcoming decade would be one of “prosperity and opportunity” for the United Kingdom. This statement will be debated for years! Johnson described the Brexit moment as “a moment of real national renewal and change.”

With the UK formally leaving the EU on 31 January 2020, a lot to talk about and months of negotiation will follow. Both the EU and the UK still need to decide on the shape of their future relationship. This fate will be worked out during the transition or implementation period which is due on the 31st of December 2020. Meanwhile, the UK is destined to follow all of the EU’s rules and its trading relationship which shall remain the same.

Trade is on the top of the debatable items on the agenda, many other aspects of the future of the UK-EU relationship will also need to be decided. These aspects range from the matters of Law enforcement, data sharing and security, aviation standards and safety, access to fishing waters, supplies of electricity and gas, licensing and regulation of medicines.

This will be accompanied by some implications as the lost seats of many UK MEPs, no more EU summits, the ability of the UK to start talking to countries around the world about setting new rules for buying and selling goods and services, the change in the color of the UK’s passports, circulation of 50p Brexit coins bearing the date “31 January” and the inscription: “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”,  the anticipated tightening of the UK – US relationship and shutting down the UK’s Brexit department.

These aspects are accompanied with the arguments for remaining in the EU focusing on the benefits of being part of a wider union, and the security and favourable trading relationship made possible through EU membership. While reducing red tape, gaining more sovereignty and taking control over immigration are the major arguments against.

The below chart extracted from IG gives further clarification on the controvesey of Brexit.

Key arguments for remainKey arguments for leave
Foreign affairs
As part of a community of 500 million people, Britain has greater influence over international matters as a member of the EU.
Foreign affairs
EU membership limits Britain’s international influence, ruling out an independent seat at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Britain has proved that it can opt out of some EU policies which it considers counterintuitive, such as adoption of the euro, the Schengen Agreement and enforced migrant quotas.
Britain would have more control of its laws and regulations, without risk of having counterintuitive policies forcefully imposed.
A union better equips Britain to tackle threats to security, including terrorism and cross-border crime.
Britain’s domestic security could benefit from full border controls, which it would gain outside the political union.
European businesses invest billions of pounds in the UK every year, both in the public sector and private sector.
Britain contributes billions of pounds in membership fees to the EU every year.
EU membership gives Britain access to the European single market, which is invaluable for trade and enables the easy movement of goods, services and people across member states.
Membership of the EU keeps Britain from fully capitalising on trade with other major economies such as Japan, India and the US.
Free trade within the EU reduces barriers and enables UK companies to grow.
The EU subjects Britain to slow and inflexible bureaucracy, making it more prohibitive for smaller companies to do business.
Millions of jobs linked to Britain’s membership would be put at risk. Some sectors such as nursing and manufacturing could experience a slump in skilled labour.
Improved global trade agreements and more selective immigration could have a positive effect on the British job market.
Consumer goods
The average person in Britain saves hundreds each year thanks to lower prices of goods and services facilitated by the EU.
Consumer goods
The average person in Britain loses hundreds of pounds each year due to EU VAT contributions and agricultural subsidies policies.

Leadership trends

The Fourth Industrial Revolution demanded that CEOs take responsibility for the massive transformation of their businesses and for the astonishing impact that this transformation will have on the wider society and all the stakeholders. Success requires CEOs to develop the right leadership capabilities, workforce skills, and corporate cultures to support digital transformation and become agile to face the many uncertainties. A revolution in skills and a transformation of organizations is highly needed to sustain one’s presence in the marketplace.

According to, those who take into account individual values and personal differences while creating an environment of shared responsibility create a place where individuals enjoy work more and become more productive. Hence, the leadership trends that support transformation in the market and the economy are the following:

  • Coach and be ready to be coached: employees rely on the support of their companies to take on business challenges. Empowering employees makes them more innovative and intrapreneurial in addition to increasing their sense of belonging to the company. Empowerment should be preceded by delegation of authority.

Coaching should be purposeful and focused to enhance productivity. Being ready to be coached is rooted in the concept of being a lifelong learner to keep pace with the new trends of one’s profession. Leaders who seek and are open to feedback will be better positioned to gain the commitment and enthusiasm of the employees they lead.

  • Realize it is a millennial and Generation Z world: millennials make up 50% of the workforce. According to the data obtained from the LinkedIn survey, the number one reason millennials change jobs is to advance their career, followed by compensation and the desire for more challenging work and roles that are a better fit for their skills and interests. Research shows that millennials want to be challenged and are willing to work hard. They are positive, creative, optimistic and forward-looking. At the same time, they come with some pretty strong ideas about work/life balance, company values, and career expectations.

They are also a generation for whom a remote work environment and wearable technology are the norm. Leaders have to adopt a collaborative mindset to get the commitment of millennials and Generation Z cohorts. This generation is personally driven to seek education and professional development to increase employment opportunities in a world economy hit by many crises.

  • Create and leverage on a diverse work environment: Inclusive leadership must become part of the DNA of an organization. This kind of leadership surpasses tolerance and acceptance of others’ differences; it is about creating an inclusive workplace where employees representing all dimensions of diversity can thrive. Catalyst’s research identifies four core skills of inclusive leaders known as “EACH Mindset”.

EACH stands for:

a. Empowerment

b. Accountability

c. Courage

d. Humility Organizations like Catalyst have been able to demonstrate that there is an increased return on equity for businesses with more women and minorities in their executive levels. In addition, the research also shows that the more included employees feel, the more innovative and productive they are.

  • Vertical development, ownership development, and collective development: Vertical development refers to the advancement in a person’s thinking capacities. The outcome of vertical stage development is the ability to think in more complex, systemic, strategic, and interdependent ways. This comes in contrary to horizontal development, which is the development of new skills, abilities, and behaviors.

Horizontal development is most useful when a problem is clearly defined and there are known techniques for solving it. Due to the uncertainties controlling the business environment, vertical development has gained more momentum.

Ownership development: People develop fastest when they feel responsible for their progress and are involved in decision making and planning regardless of their position in the hierarchical structure of the company.

Collective Leadership: According to Simmons & Weinrich “[g]aining everyone’s participation is essential to a team’s success. Without an individual’s participation, the unique skills, talents, experience, and knowledge he/she brings to the team will be wasted.”

Ownership development: People develop fastest when they feel responsible for their progress and are involved in decision making and planning regardless of their position in the hierarchical structure of the company.

Collective Leadership: According to Simmons & Weinrich “[g]aining everyone’s participation is essential to a team’s success. Without an individual’s participation, the unique skills, talents, experience, and knowledge he/she brings to the team will be wasted.”

Factors Contributing to Better Collective Leadership

  • Open flows of information
  • More flexible and flatter hierarchies
  • Distributed resources
  • Distributed decision-making
  • Less centralization and control

Distributed leadership:

Distributed leadership can be considered to include shared, democratic, dispersed, and other related forms of leadership. It is a leadership style where leaders can emerge and exercise the power of knowledge wherever they are in the organizational chart. There are three premises of distributed leadership:

  1. Leadership is an emergent property of a group or network of interacting individuals
  2. There is an openness to the boundaries of leadership
  3. Varieties of expertise are distributed across the different levels of the organizational chart. Leaders might emerge based on the need of their expertise and how such expertise might be of impact

With the change in the pace of work, the impact of ever-changing technology, shifting demographics, increased environmental ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty, being a leader is more challenging than ever before. Good leaders understand these trends and equip themselves with the skills required to embrace them. Effective leaders are characterized by being visionaries, a trait that leads to seizing opportunities and developing products and services to satisfy needs and wants not attended to by competitors. Leaders contribute to the competitive advantage sought by their corporations.

The environment and context of leadership have changed, becoming more multifaceted, unstable, and unpredictable. Because of these changing trends, a leader’s skills are more demanding in the sense of having more complex, adaptive thinking abilities and being vertically developed. With the new form of economy and the advent of information technology, more individuals now have the chance to show and exercise their leadership abilities to reach higher positions in the organizational chart or start their entrepreneurial ventures.

Leadership in times of crisis

The 17th of October marked a new era for Lebanon. The revolution which aimed at combating the unprecedented level of corruption had a very high cost. The level of uncertainty and volatility being witnessed since then has left its repercussions on the economic and financial level in a way that Lebanon hasn’t experienced during the civil war, post the assassination of late prime minister Hariri or even after July war 2006. Businesses are catastrophically suffering and the whole economy is in crisis. Classical leadership models won’t serve well in such critical times. Being Agile is not an option. Yet not all business leaders have what is required to be agile and to adopt the trendiest leadership models. Lebanon over the past 3 months has become a unique case study which demonstrates how leadership should be exercised during times of crisis.

Around 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, said, “The only constant in life is change.” Back then, Heraclitus was not able to refresh his Twitter or Facebook account to see that what was trending a minute ago would disappear from his timeline in few seconds.  In that era, the world was not disrupted by this many uncertainties, ambiguities, or complexities. The world was not interconnected as much, and consumers were not spoiled to the extent of updating their needs, wants, demands, desires, tastes, and preferences every so often. Despite all this, Heraclitus had the gall to talk about change!

With these new factors shaping our world, change has gained more momentum than ever before, which requires a kind of leadership responsive or adaptive to this change. Being a manager does not suffice; being a leader is indispensable. It is worth mentioning that even the leadership style that used to be trendy years ago has become obsolete in our new world of business.

Leadership in Action: Complexity

  • According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, organizations are launching more major change initiatives than ever before: three to five per year, on average.
  • The Corporate Executive Board reports that globally, half of employees expect a major change in six months.
  • IBM’s Global Chief Executive Officer Study shows that 79% of CEOs say that the level of uncertainty and complexity will get even higher; less than half say they are prepared to manage it.
  • Forum Global survey of 700 leaders shows that 72% of them report high or extremely high increases in uncertainty within their companies.
  • Forum VOC research indicates that twice as many business leaders say that “the ability to lead change” is a top business challenge as compared with 2010.

Triggers for New Forms of Leadership

  • The skills needed for leadership have changed—more complex and adaptive thinking abilities are needed.
  • The majority of managers have developed by virtue of on-the-job experiences, training, and coaching/ mentoring; while these factors are all still important, leaders are no longer developing fast enough or in the right ways to match the new uncertain environment. A global mindset is required to lead.
  • Companies are facing a development challenge, which is the process of growing “bigger” minds and developing more agility in dealing with problems.
  • The environment has changed—it is more complex, volatile, and unpredictable. In a study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, the environment in which leaders must work is characterized by the acronym VUCA. The letters stand for:
  • Volatile: Change happens rapidly and on a large scale
  • Uncertain: The future cannot be predicted with any precision
  • Complex: Challenges are complicated by many factors and there are a few single causes or solutions
  • Ambiguous: There is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have

Challenges for Future Leaders

  • Information overload due to complexity and the amount of factors that have an impact on businesses
  • The interconnectedness of systems and business communities
  • The dissolution of traditional organizational boundaries
  • New technologies that disrupt old work practices
  • The different values and expectations of new generations entering the workplace
  • Increased globalization, leading to the need for cross cultural leadership

Skills Required for Future Leaders

  • Reflecting the changes in the environment, especially since the competencies that will be most valuable to future leaders appear to be changing
  • Adaptability/agility
  • Self-awareness
  • Being culturally savvy
  • Constant learning and development
  • Collaboration 
  • Network thinking

Power and Leadership

Power is the ability to get someone to do something he or she would not do otherwise. Having an impact on the behaviors of employees to direct their efforts toward achieving a common goal or a shared vision is what leaders usually aim at. The form of power utilized defines whether the company and employees are being led or managed. In a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959, power has been divided into five separate and distinct forms:

  1. Coercive: uses the threat of force to gain compliance
  2. Reward: uses the right of some to offer or deny tangible, social, emotional, or spiritual rewards for others for doing what is wanted or expected of them
  3. Legitimate: uses the authority one has based on his or her position
  4. Referent: is rooted in the belonging one might have to a certain group, while sharing its values and beliefs to a certain extent
  5.  Expert: uses on one’s knowledge, experience, and special skills or talents. Expertise can be demonstrated by reputation, credentials certifying expertise, and actions

With the advent of information technology and knowledge economy, a new form of power gained momentum. Information power comes as a result of possessing knowledge that others need or want. Information can lead to a certain influence, impact decision making, establish credibility, and being in control. Providing rational arguments, using information to persuade others, and using facts and manipulating information can create a power base. The particularity of this form of power is that it is not linked to a position in the organizational chart. Any employee who possesses information that is needed to achieve the organizational goals is powerful. This leads us to a new form of leadership, which is distributed leadership.

When a person suffices oneself with coercive, reward, and legitimate power, one exercises a kind of managerial ability to run the business. However, when power evolves into the expert or informational kind, leadership starts to become more apparent.

Peter Drucker says, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” Leadership can be perceived as a process of social influence that maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of organizational goals.

Marketing trends shaping customer experience in 2020: what you need to know

Customers have developed voracious appetites for new content. To be visually appealing and to stand out, new content has to be updated in terms of its features, packaging, presence on convenient distribution channels, and digital media friendliness. If these conditions are not favorable, the content occupies the bottom of the feed or even occupies less shelf space, and accordingly, a lower positioning in the customers’ perception. Fierce competition that leaves consumers with a plethora of choices creates a challenge for marketers who have found themselves in an endless race of creating a unique experience for customers to avoid jeopardizing their loyalty or lower their retention rate. Retaining existing customers or attracting new ones requires adopting different techniques that had not been prevalent before. These techniques in dealing with the new generational cohorts have become indispensable to sustain a company’s level of competition or market share.

Trends in Dealing with Customers

Regardless of the industry in which a certain business is established, there are some new patterns of behavior that dictate the mode of operation. These patterns are focal for sustaining or developing an edge with respect to rivals.

Regardless of the industry in which a certain business is established, there are some new patterns of behavior that dictate the mode of operation. These patterns are focal for sustaining or developing an edge with respect to rivals.

Hence, businesses operating in this decade have to be concerned about the following:

1. Creating connections between customers:

While the economy of the last millennium was based on building assets by industrialism, the current economy rewards value created by building relationships and creating connections. The most valuable companies will connect buyer to seller, or consumer to content. For instance, Uber is the largest “taxi” company–yet they own no vehicles but still excel at connecting riders with drivers; and Facebook is the largest media company–yet they create no content, among many other examples of leading companies.

2. Customer experience:

The unprecedented bargaining power, which customers have acquired, has driven companies to compete based on providing their customers with a unique experience. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are urged to develop bleeding edge technologies to enhance customers’ experiences. Marketers and other key managers capitalize on Big Data and other analytical tools to make decisions and formulate strategies for that purpose.

Every smart phone adopted by one of the two billion smart phone holders is an opportunity for marketers to connect with a new client and create a unique experience, foster better customer loyalty and improved long-term engagement. Leveraging on the data required to fuel the outreach and building solid relationships founded on trust come as a replacement to mass targeting.

3. Developing human to human relationships

Companies are trying to appeal to the emotional side of customers in their marketing efforts. Striving for story-driven communication that is personal, conversational, empathetic, inspirational, and humorous arouses the interest of customers in a certain brand and creates more loyalty.

Digital Trends in Dealing with Customers

Being visible on the busy shelves and overcrowded newsfeed is a challenge that businesses confront in appealing to their customers. Customers have adopted some preferences in digesting information, which requires marketers to adopt technologies that serve that purpose. Sujan Patel, contributor to, says that the following trends can be leveraged on to enhance the appeal of the product and speak the language of consumers.

1. Virtual reality:

Virtual reality has come a long way since the concepts and products released in the 1990s and since the realities of today were believed to be mere science fiction. Technology like the Oculus Rift, which was bought out by Facebook to the tune of $2 billion, had a big impact on the way companies engage individual consumers.

Companies are now exploring improved control methods, this is why Facebook introduced hand tracking interactions are more seamless than using one’s own hands. Facebook will even be investigating brain interfaces in 2020! Virtual tours, one-on-one engagement, interactive and immersive commercials, enjoying a courtside seat at a game, or consulting with a doctor face-to-face are just a few ways marketing will likely shift in the near future through the use of virtual reality.

2. A new age of search

For years, consumers have been accustomed to the search engines of Google, Yahoo!, And Bing, which dominate the search market respectively. Facebook is currently adopting continued advancements to become a major player in this market. By expanding its search functionality, Facebook is able to tie in other components, which include call-to action buttons and payment messaging. This is accompanied by the ability to join groups and social discussions all in one platform that allows brands to create real digital experiences. Automation in 2020 will be more than a matter of convenience it will be an edge. Google is expected to earn $55.51B in ad revenues this year. This highly effective tools helps with everyday campaign optimizations, reporting, and tracking. Another search trend according to ComScore, is voice search. 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

This changes the way that people search and what type of terms or phrases they use to find information. Finally, one should not forget visual search such as Google Lens released in 2017 by Google or the Microsoft visual search tool. This allows users to search the web using their camera. In fact, 62% of Millennials express the desire to search visually, more so than any other new technology.

3. Stepping away from evergreen to creating more spontaneity

Brands used to develop evergreen content, or content that can remain viral for an extended period of time. Starting 2016, we have been witnessing a growing trend in sharing content in real time, especially with the growth of Snapchat, Periscope, the moments of Instagram, and the live option of Facebook, among other tools. Hence, the trend calls for simple, brief, and timely content.

4. Location-based marketing growth

Despite having been experimenting with location-based push marketing for a few years, retailers and brands did not get the sought support from major phone manufacturers. To create an interactive experience, brands and retailers target the user directly at or near the point of engagement. Using Bluetooth technology, you can send push notifications to nearby devices, attracting the attention of your target audience to retail locations, a tradeshow, or a nearby restaurant, among other locations. “Applications go beyond retail or location-based marketing. For instance, SK Telecom and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital are using Bluetooth Smart Beacons to provide round-the-clock patient information and navigation to 6,000 daily patients,” Patel says.

In addition, using this method of mobile targeting, brands can target relevant audiences with ads based on demographics and other data points. These are consumers who are most likely to fit their ideal customer profile. The most popular location marketing is mobile geolocation marketing including Mobile Audience Targeting and Real-Time Location Targeting such as geofencing and beaconing. In a report by Factual, almost 9 in 10 marketers said location-based advertising and marketing resulted in higher sales, followed by growth in their customer base (86%) and higher customer engagement (84%).

5. New forms of payment

NFC compatibility (Near Field Communication), Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Tap-and-go are some of the payment modes which started gaining momentum and will shape the payment modes of the upcoming decades. Bank cards now feature NFC technology to make payment become contactless. the process of authorizing transactions with a signature has become virtually obsolete. Banks also removed the signature requirement from credit card transactions, making advancements in payment security technology, such as EMV, tokenization, and artificial intelligence (AI) for payment data monitoring.

Another form of payment is related to Biometric authentication where consumers use their fingerprints to unlock their smartphones, authorizing mobile banking transactions and making mobile payments. Payment processes are some seamless thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) technology.  Shoppers can now select their purchases, walk out of the store and receive a receipt on an app or via email or text. In addition to this, it is important to note that payment security is still a top priority.

Trends in Communication

The quality of a certain product or service means nothing unless it is properly unveiled to the public. Keeping the updates of a certain brand or its competitive advantage within the realm of companies alone jeopardizes this brand’s positioning and share in the market. Bad communication would have a disastrous impact on the perception of this brand by consumers. Hence, there are current communication trends that brands have to follow to properly reveal the intended image to the target audience.

1. Real time content creation and scarcity of time:

The notion of time has gained more importance in the world of business as the competitive cycles kept getting ever fiercer, with complexity on the rise. When talking about scarcity of resources in economics, time has become an integral resource in addition to land, labor, and capital.

The elimination of activities and strategies that waste a client’s time has the potential to become a competitive advantage. Real time and relevant consumption of updated content meet the customers’ expectations. Snapchat and the communication dynamic it creates is a representative example.

2. User generated content (UGC):

User generated content (UGC) has become an important communication and marketing activity. Customers and other stakeholders are participating heavily in some of the brand-building activities. Customers trust peer recommendations more than a company’s sales messaging; hence, companies are adding features on their websites to facilitate users sharing comments or running competitions to engage audiences.

3. Brands are developing a sense of citizenship:

Companies are assuming a role in brand activism on issues related to sustainability, especially in matters related to environmental and social factors. 2015 was a significant year in terms of advancing the global sustainable development agenda following the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement.

4. Brands are developing a personable approach:

Corporate communicators are loosening up a bit and showing their more authentic and realistic side. Live social media chats with company leaders help in showing a more personable approach to communications.

It is not weird to check into a certain restaurant or mall and get greeted by the brand itself afterward or have your name mentioned by the brand in a reply to a comment you have written about the extent of satisfaction after a dining experience or using a certain product.

5. A shift from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to Customer Managed Relationships (CMR):

According to Markus Kramer of, CRM has become a cold, dry and rigid (transactional) science. He adds that for good practice on how relationshipmarketing works well with a very consistent and high degree of integrity and a real humanistic approach to the “relationship” aspects, one ought to take a look at the high-end luxury sector. Brands such as Aston Martin or Patek Philippe are mastering the process of genuinely bonding with customers. So are Apple and Harley-Davidson.

Marketers are asked to re-think relationship marketing. CRM is becoming a model of the past, CMR (Customer Managed Relationships) is the new paradigm. Brands must rework their segmentation models and the way they interact and communicate with their customers accordingly; they need to start the journey with the customers and not the other way around.

6. Purpose, real values and humanizing: Branding inside out:

According to Ernst and Young, appearance alone is superficial and will increasingly be recognized as such. Purpose driven brands are becoming increasingly able to demonstrate higher returns, more loyalty, and repeated business. Brands are embracing the concept of CSR and even looking beyond it. So both the outside and the inside of brands will need to be meaningful and led by shared and aligned purposes. Forward-thinking brands that add meaning to their customers’ lives will occupy more space in their consumers’ minds. Millennials and Gen Z cohorts find this approach of doing business more meaningful. Developing user-friendly interfaces has become even more important starting 2016. This can be referred to as humanizing.

Humanizing is about smarter cities, reducing complexity, innovation, and technological tools adapted to humans rather than the other way around. On the brand and product side, Apple and Bang & Olufsen are among the leaders of the humanization agenda. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for simple, beautiful, and reliable products. Brands, according to Kramer, should keep on improving what they have innovated until it is also fully humanized.

How working together can expedite the change we need

During my childhood and adolescence, I used to be the delivery boy for the whole family, thanks to the mini market near our home in Beirut. Dad used to repeatedly ask me to bring some soft drinks, grocery items, and cigarettes. I was a revolutionary child, and buying cigarettes did not conform to this revolutionary ethic of mine. “Get your own cigarettes, dad, and feel free to use the balcony! Didn’t you see the picture of the lungs of smokers in the science book?!” And what do you know, my father always respected my desire and fetched his own smokes—albeit reluctantly. I grew up with the idea of being health oriented, environmentally friendly, joined the Green Club at school, became an advocate of SDGs and an ambassador of UNGC Lebanon network at a later stage. Detesting smoking and loving sustainability grew within me in tandem.

In the year 2015, I had the chance to meet with Jennifer Motles, Director of Social Impact and Sustainably at Philip Morris International. We met as students at Harvard Business School (HBS). Jenny works for a company which is a major contributor to health problems and diseases caused by smoking cigarettes. I always thought of her role and company as a contradiction in terms. What has sustainability to do with tobacco?  I used to be skeptical that this industry could even merit my asking of the question, let alone be considered as a potential problem solver.

Over the years, I have had deep discussions with Jenny on how can a tobacco company (if ever) be considered sustainable, and how (if possible) can the tobacco industry help eradicate smoking. These discussions were triggered by the fact that the number of smokers according to World Health Organization (WHO) is essentially bound to remain unchanged at more than one billion for the foreseeable future. The academic in me has always been curious to know more about this toxic and rejected industry which in turn has resulted in probing deeper insights about the major players and trends in it.

I have learned that although most tobacco companies have innovated and currently sell alternative, less harmful, nicotine containing products, most of them appear to be continuing to base their business strategies on expanding their portfolios and growing cigarette sales with no plan to phase out cigarettes in the near future.

Different is the case of Philip Morris International (PMI), who decided to use technology and innovation to solve the problem of cigarette smoking, choosing to use their own new technologies to replace cigarettes altogether. When I found out they had changed their purpose (in the year 2016) to deliver a smoke-free future with the aim of accelerating the end of cigarettes for the benefit of consumers, the company, and society, my perception started to change. I realized that this awful company could actually serve a valuable purpose. Like in anything, actions speak louder than words, and that is why having the right metrics in place helps prove that this transformation is actually happening.

I am neither a consultant nor an employee of PMI, but reading these Business Transformation Metrics was enough justification to motivate me to co-author an article with Jenny on “How working together can expedite the Change We Need”. I visited Lausanne a few months ago, toured the headquarters of PMI and discovered the new culture which accompanied this strategic transformation and couldn’t hide my great impression with the change that is taking place.

Over the past three years, approximately 7.3 million adult smokers around the world have stopped smoking and switched to PMI’s heated tobacco product, which is currently available for sale in 48 markets in key cities or nationwide under the IQOS brand. PMI developed Business Transformation Metrics, on which the company reports periodically in its Sustainability Report. In 2018, smoke-free products represented more than 5 percent of PMI’s shipment volume and more than 13 percent of its net revenues, but they already represented 60 percent of its global commercial expenditure and 92 percent of its global R&D expenditure.

Yet to this day, the stigma of Big Tobacco remains. As a result, most stakeholders, especially those fiercely anti-tobacco ones, continue to maintain a blanket exclusion and refuse to engage with tobacco companies. Now, if major stakeholders refuse to engage with cigarette companies because they detest cigarettes, does it make sense to refuse to engage with the one company actively working to bring smoking to an end? In my opinion, this is a must. Not all cigarette companies are the same; as long as society doesn’t mind, some will inevitably continue to offer choice, and thus grow their cigarette business. It is our responsibility, as civil society, to give the right signals and recognize the actions we consider worthy.

It might sound counterintuitive to some. After all, I am an advisor of the Lebanese UN Global Compact Network, and PMI got delisted as a member of the UNGC in 2017. Yet it is my personal view that cigarette companies are not all the same, much like oil companies, or soft drink companies, etc. Some will read this with skepticism. I realize that, and respect their position. But it is my belief that the transformational endeavors undertaken by PMI will put pressure on other tobacco companies to be more proactive and ultimately help lead the way to accelerate change, the right kind of change, ridding the world of cigarettes the sooner.

For me the golden formula would be inclusion = engagement = collaboration which is the essence of SDG17 and indispensable to achieving the other 16 SDGs, and their 169 targets. The nature of the tobacco industry, even with its well-deserved bad reputation, does not mean that we should leave it behind in our collective efforts and make this world a better one. Everybody’s effort is needed, especially if they are genuinely aligned with what we want to achieve.

About the Global Goals Yearbook:
The Global Goals Yearbook is a publication in support of the SDGs and the advancement of corporate sustainability globally. It offers proactive and in-depth information on key sustainability issues and promotes unique and comprehensive knowledge-exchange and learning in the spirit of the SDGs and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. The Global Goals Yearbook helps to advance corporate transparency, promotes the sharing of good business practices, and, perhaps most significantly, gives a strong voice to the regional and global stakeholders that are at the heart of the sustainability agenda.

Global Goals Yearbook 2019
Münster 2019: macondo publishing GmbH, 172 pages
ISBN: 978-3-946284-07-9
Sales Price: 25,00 EUR

This article represents the views of the authors and not necessarily the organizations where they work.

What is Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who deploy innovation and market forces to fill social needs rather than seeking financial rewards (although rewards are not automatically excluded).

Many forces are driving this entrepreneurial trend and feeding into it. Bringing lighting to Africa, mobile banking to Bangladesh, and low-cost healthcare to Nepal, among other examples, are social entrepreneurial initiatives.

Two questions arise here: what do such enterprises need to do to achieve growth, and how can they do it?

RippleWorks, a private foundation that supports emerging market entrepreneurs by providing them with leading Silicon Valley executives as advisors asked these questions in a recent survey of 628 social entrepreneurs from all over the world. The research, conducted with analytical support from McKinsey, and funding from Omidyar Network, included interviews with 37 investors and 10 social enterprise leaders. The entrepreneurs reported that the two most important barriers to growth are the following:

  1. Money: Almost half of the interviewees said raising funds was “very” or “extremely” challenging. Other resources are not readily available either.
  2. Finding and keeping talented people: Three-quarters of funded, early-stage companies believe that the inability to access the talent they need will have a critical impact on their businesses. The prestige, pay, and job security of big companies are difficult to resist. Even when funded, social entrepreneurs cannot compete head to head on that basis.

Other challenges faced by social entrepreneurs might be:

  • Conflicts: While the overall goal is to meet a social need, there may be conflicts in how this can be balanced against the need to generate revenues to sustain the enterprise.
  • Voluntary nature: The traditional forms of motivation and organizing, in addition to the different managerial functions, might not be applicable to social entrepreneurs since the motives for work are different.

Key Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurs:
A social entrepreneur uses the same process of entrepreneurship but does so to meet social needs and create value for society. These people have the entrepreneurial profile but target their effort at a different, socially valuable direction.

Key characteristics of this group include being:

  • Ambitious: social entrepreneurs are driven by the purpose to reverse major social issues–poverty, healthcare, equal opportunities, etc. with the underlying desire and passion to make a change.
  • Mission driven: their primary concern is generating social value rather than wealth.
  • Strategic: like business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs seize and act upon opportunities that others miss.
  • Resourceful: due to the limited access to resources, social entrepreneurs are exceptionally skilled at mustering and mobilizing human, financial, and political resources.
  • Results-oriented: social entrepreneurs are motivated by the desire to see things change and to produce measurable returns. These returns are related to making the world a better place by improving the quality of life, providing access to basic resources, and supporting disadvantaged people. 

Entrepreneurship and Gen Z

The new entrants into the world of entrepreneurship belong to Generation Z. The members of this generation have become eligible for employment starting 2016. The other option for Gen-Zers is to become entrepreneurial, either by choice—because they have spotted an opportunity in the market place—after which they are called opportunity entrepreneurs, or by compulsion, becoming necessity entrepreneurs, who start businesses because they cannot find work any other way. In all cases, an entrepreneur is one who creates a new business, facing risks and uncertainties for the purpose of achieving profit and growth by identifying significant opportunities and assembling the necessary resources to capitalize on them.

The history of the word “entrepreneurship” is fascinating, and scholars have indeed analyzed its meaning.

The definition used at Harvard Business School was formulated by Professor Howard Stevenson, the godfather of entrepreneurship studies there. According to Stevenson, entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled. The word “pursuit” here implies a remarkable, relentless focus. Entrepreneurs often perceive a short window of opportunity. They need to show tangible progress to attract resources with their limited cash balances. Entrepreneurs have a sense of urgency, which is of less impact at well-established companies due to the abundance of resources.

 “Opportunity” is the key word in all the definitions of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Opportunity, according to Harvard Business Review, implies an offering that is novel in one or more of four ways.

An opportunity may entail:

  • Pioneering a truly innovative product
  • Devising a new business model
  • Creating a better or cheaper version of an existing product
  • Targeting new sets of customers with an existing product

What is Triggering Entrepreneurship?

  1. Industry is becoming more information-intensive and less labor and capital-intensive, which removes the traditional barriers for start-ups.
  2. The nature of the prevailing industries has changed after the economic crisis that facilitated the entrance of new entrepreneurs into the market. In the days before the economy fell into recession, the construction industry was unrivalled. However, this sector kept on falling while the recession gripped many regions in the world. 
  3. The cultural diversity of entrepreneurs: Virtually anyone can become an entrepreneur. The pool of entrepreneurs include young people, women, and minorities who used to face the glass ceiling, immigrants, part-timers, home-based businesses, copreneurs, corporate castoffs, and corporate dropouts, among others.
  4. Entrepreneurs are now being perceived as heroes. Business founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Phil Knight have achieved more stardom and popularity than renowned Hollywood stars.
  5. Colleges and universities that offer entrepreneurial education have become very widespread and many curricula have been designed to cater for this type of education.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Entrepreneurship

Despite the great appeal of the word “entrepreneurship” and the desire of many people to ride this wave, anyone planning to enter the world of entrepreneurship should be aware of its potential drawbacks

The opportunity to create your own destiny Uncertainty of income
The opportunity to make a difference by contributing to society and being recognized for your efforts Risk of losing your entire investment
The opportunity to reach your full potentialLong hours and hard work
The opportunity to gain impressive profitsLower quality of life and high level of stress until business gets established
The opportunity to do what you love and have fun at it

Risks Faced by Entrepreneurs

Risks Faced by Entrepreneurs

  1. Demand risk relate to prospective customers’ willingness to adopt the solution envisioned by the entrepreneur
  2. Technology risk is high when engineering or scientific breakthroughs are required to bring a solution to fruition
  3. Execution risk relates to the entrepreneur’s ability to attract employees and partners who can implement the venture’s plans
  4. Financing risk relates to whether external capital will be available on reasonable terms

Processes and Stages of Developing a New Venture

The typical stages of developing a new venture include:

  1. Assessing the opportunity for new a venture—generating, evaluating, and refining the business concept
  2. Developing the business plan and deciding the structure of the venture
  3. Acquiring the resources and funding the necessary resources for implementation, including expert support and potential partnerships
  4. Growing and harvesting the venture by figuring out how to create and extract value from the business

Developing the Business Plan

No standard business plan exists, but there are certain components that have to be available to make the business plan representative of the start-up and its potential. The business plan usually starts with an executive summary and includes sections related to the product, technology, development, production, marketing, human resources, and financial estimates, in addition to timetables and funding requirements. A typical formal business plan, according to Kaplan Warren, will include:

  • Details of the product or service
  • Assessment of the market opportunity
  • Identification of target customers
  • Barriers to entry and competitor analysis
  • Experience, expertise, and commitment of the management team
  • Strategy for pricing, distribution, and sales
  • Identification and planning of key risks
  • Cash-flow calculation, including break-even points and sensitivity
  • Financial and other resource requirements of the business

The New Product/Service Development Process

While the aim of the feasibility study and business plan is to test the practicality of a proposed project and create a roadmap, developing a product or service requires considering several factors across the four-step process:

  1. Concept generation: identifying opportunities for new products and services
  2. Project assessment and selection: screening and choosing projects that satisfy certain criteria
  3. Product development: translating the selected concepts into a physical product
  4. Product commercialization: testing, launching, and marketing the new product

In my next blog post, I will be sharing with you everything that you need to know about social entrepreneurship, appreneurship and intrapreneurship. The blog post will also feature some live examples and interviews so stay tuned! Until then, don’t forget to let me know your feedback and questions in the comment section below.

Appealing to Millennials and Gen Z Cohorts!

On the sidelines of my participation at the Social Media Marketing World in San Diego.

The virtual and the real are becoming more interconnected and intertwined than ever before. The line between offline and online is becoming blurred. Smart organizations understand this fact and take advantage of it to create a better presence for themselves in a fiercely competition marketplace.

Every business needs to get their message out there to impact the choice of consumers. With LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms making major moves to enable social selling with original brand content, businesses will have to deepen and expand their messages were they to successfully influence the masses. Businesses have realized that they cannot achieve the sought business reach without digital media.

The following facts have been gleaned from observing the marketplace:

  • Salespeople who use social media outsell those who do not
  • Peer recommendations are a main contributor to making a purchase
  • The vendor’s digital media content has an impact on the final purchase decision

Rising above the noise of the busy virtual and physical market is indispensable, and creating authenticity and excitement among consumers is crucial. Businesses are using digital media to echo compelling and original voices in order to standout.

Photo credits: Social Media Marketing World

Internet technology is accessible to people of different generations. However, Generation Z, the main current and potential target of businesses, is the first to have Internet technology so readily available at such a young age. Concurrent with the web revolution that began in the 1990s, cohorts of this generation have been exposed to an unprecedented amount of technology in their upbringing. Given the exponential growth of smart phones, technology became more compact, affordable, and accessible. Forbes Magazine suggests that by the time Generation Z cohorts enters the workplace, digital technology would be an aspect of almost all career paths.

The widespread usage of the Internet from a young age is a significant aspect of this generation. Members of Generation Z are typically comfortable with technology and they interact on social media websites for a significant portion of their socializing.

Appealing to Millennials and Gen Z Cohorts

If you want to appeal to and engage with millennials and Gen Z cohorts, video is a must-have marketing tactic. These generations prefer to find entertainment and education on YouTube to traditional channels like television. Snapchat, YouTube, gifs, Vine, and more are being used at a rapid rate. Platforms like Periscope and Blab have put live interactive videos into the hands of anyone with a smart phone. 

According to a Facebook post by the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg:

More than 2.32 billion users log in to Facebook each month.

More than 1.5 billion users use WhatsApp each month.

More than 1.82 billion users use Messenger each month.

More than 1 billion users log in to Instagram each month.

Social media now drives more traffic to websites than search engines. To stay relevant and appealing, companies, departments, and individuals need to know exactly where business technology is heading, and be sure to stay on top of each shifting digital trend. Remaining competitive necessitates being visible. Changing the strategic mindset, embracing constant change, and taking calculated risks is essential.

The growth of the Internet of Things, which has led to devices connecting more people in more useful and collaborative ways, triggers a transformation in every enterprise’s relationship with its community and stakeholders.

This shift will be a driver for the vision, data usage, and evolution of jobs and processes.

I will be sharing deeper insights on this topic in my upcoming blog posts, stay tuned!