Last week, Brynne took the Founders Pledge along with other technology startup founders in the US and UK. Led by Founders Forum For Good, Brynne has committed to donate 2% of her proceeds to a charity of our choice when our company is sold.
In this month’s Financial Times column, Brynne Herbert and Mrs MoneyPenny discuss when a company should start thinking about corporate social responsibility and if it is ever too early to do good.
Startups are disruptive, risky and require a huge commitment, so corporate social responsibility may sometimes get kicked to the end of the priority list. Brynne argues that the Founders Pledge is a great way to bring corporate social responsibility into the culture of MOVE Guides from the beginning, without losing focus on building your company.
The pledge recognises that as a startup founder you may not have the time or resources available, so it provides the opportunity to commit at the end of the journey. See below to read the full article on why Brynne wants to focus on building a successful company and giving something back as well.
Millennials v Boomer: Is it Ever Too Early To Do Good?
By Mrs MoneyPenny and Brynne Herbert
18 June 2015
This week I took the Founders Pledge along with other technology company founders in the US and UK. The Pledge, set up by the Founders Forum For Good, commits each of us to donating 2 per cent of our proceeds to a charity of our choice when our company is sold. It is both a way to build a culture of giving among technology entrepreneurs and an easy way to embed corporate social responsibility (CSR) into the rollercoaster that is building a company.
It made me think about the wider responsibilities that companies (and their employees) have to society. There are those who include philanthropy in their cultures from day one. At Salesforce.com 1 per cent of employee hours, 1 per cent of company profit and 1 per cent of its product are donated to charities. This so-called 1/1/1 model has funded many great initiatives and shared the value that the company has created for shareholders with a wider segment of society throughout its journey.
Others, most notably Bill Gates, launched their big charitable initiatives long after having made it in business.
One of my fellow technology executives put it this way: “CSR is important. But you have to have a company first. That is most important. If there’s no company, there’s no culture and there’s definitely no CSR.”
I agree — the best time for charity is after the company is built and success is assured. Technology start-ups are disruptive, risky, challenging and require full commitment, so CSR initiatives have to be pushed down the list of priorities. As a founder, I can offer more time, money and focus to a good cause after I have been successful and therefore also can make a bigger difference to the world.
This is what I love about the Founders Pledge. It recognises that start-up founders usually do not have time to contribute as they want to during the journey. Instead, the platform provides a commitment at the end of the journey, and a way to embed a focus on CSR along the way, without any distractions!
Brynne Herbert, a millennial, is the founder and chief executive of Move Guides, a tech start-up that helps companies relocate staff globally.
I have not made a Founders Pledge, but then I am neither a founder (I bought my company and grew it), nor do I work in the technology industry. I also am not thinking of an exit, so pledging at least 2 per cent of an event that may never arrive is of little use to anyone.
In effect, I did only one major round of funding, when I had to raise £1.8m to acquire the business. It was all done through debt, and CSR was the last thing on my mind. After I had paid off the vendors and repaid a lot of the bank loan I did, however, start a foundation. But even then, it was not because I felt a need to give money away to those less fortunate than me. It was because our clients wanted greater ethnic diversity in their candidate base, and we could not provide it. Having established that there were significant barriers to entry for candidates from ethnic minorities, I decided to create a programme to increase access.
Everyone in our company has in their job description a requirement to support this programme, which they can do actively — by teaching or mentoring — or less so, by helping to secure speakers or by conducting mock interviews, for example.
This has had several positive consequences. It serves as a point of differentiation for the company and has raised our employee engagement. But most importantly, in the light of Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s recent comments about ethics and corporate culture, it has embedded the principle of helping others into the fabric of our business, and into the behaviour of its staff.
So, Brynne, I agree that businesses need to focus on whether they are start-ups or, like us, 33 years old. But if your philanthropy is directly in your own business area, as ours is, the focus can remain. Had I waited for an exit, I would have deprived my firm of all the benefits of doing good from the outset.
Mrs Moneypenny, CBE, owns and runs an executive search company. At 53, Mrs M is a (young) baby boomer