Towards the end of last year, members of the Beyond Profit Special Interest Group (SIG) headed to London for a career trek. We met with organisations and individuals working in the beyond profit space, including LeapFrog Labs, On Purpose, Tata Consultancy Services, CARE International UK, and an alumni who has worked extensively in the beyond profit world. That evening we hosted a networking event for Cambridge alumni and beyond profit professionals. It was a full day of learning about fascinating organisations, and becoming inspired by people who use their careers to positively impact people and communities throughout the world.
Our coursework at Cambridge Judge Business School this past term has been particularly quant heavy – microeconomics, finance, accounting and statistics – so a full day spent learning about social impact and qualitative measures was particularly refreshing! The organisations we visited were quite diverse, ranging from an international development charity to the corporate social responsibility (CSR) department of large multi-national. Despite the diversity, we heard recurring messages, which all connected to three overarching themes.
Defining Beyond Profit
As a SIG, we represent many different interests within the beyond profit space. Some of us are passionate about improving the lives of people in developing communities through on the ground interventions, while others would like to challenge the corporate status quo and make big businesses more responsible. This spread of interests reflects the broad range of activities within the beyond profit space, as well as a fundamental challenge this sector faces – lack of common definitions. Tom Rippin of On Purpose summarised this challenge by addressing the “definition discussion” – social enterprise, beyond profit, impact investing, corporate responsibility are all buzz words that are ill-defined and lumping them into one bucket is a misnomer. Rippin argues that terms need to become clearer and more widely understood, and that the best way of this happening is by organisations and people developing more experience and expertise in the beyond profit sector. Once a common understanding is in place, the active collaboration that is required to achieve meaningful change can really begin.
Defining a New Way of Doing Business
All of the individuals we met throughout the day shared a personal desire to combine profit with purpose through their work. Niclas Thelander, Executive Director of LeapFrog Labs put it best when he said, “You don’t have to be Mother Theresa or Donald Trump – you can be somewhere in between.” LeapFrog Investments operates in this “in-between” space, offering market-rate financial and social returns to its investors. Yogesh Chauhan, Director of Corporate Sustainability at Tata Consultancy Services, asserts that CSR shouldn’t simply be about “doing good,” but also about aligning the organisation’s strengths from their core business with their CSR programmes. Chauhan believes that CSR can be a transformational management tool and a source of competitive advantage for those companies where responsibility and sustainability are their “raisons d’être.”
Defining Ourselves and Our Careers
It’s no longer enough to understand one part of a business – in today’s interconnected world, we need to navigate across departments, industries, and geographies. Particularly for those of us interested in the beyond profit sector, we need to be fluent in the languages of the private, public and non-profit sectors. Employers are looking for MBA candidates who have hands-on experience and bring expertise and a diverse skill-set. To develop this skill-set, CJBS alumni Jayanti Durai encouraged us to seek out volunteer opportunities that will provide exposure to the various industries and causes that we are passionate about.
So, it was a busy day filled with inspiring people and interesting insights. Overall, we came away with a deeper understanding of the role business can play in society and refreshed optimism about where that will take us. As Alessandra Lustrati, Private Sector Advisor for CARE International UK, said: “Aid alone will never be enough, but it can be used to create the right environment for business, trade and investment. These in turn can stimulate the type of inclusive growth that helps people, communities and countries lift themselves out of poverty.” It was a fun and informative day and we’re already planning another trek for the new year!
Louis-Philippe, Nira, and Sarah
To find out more about the organisations we visited, please click on the links below:
LeapFrog Investments – www.leapfroginvest.com
On Purpose – www.onpurpose.uk.com
Tata Consultancy Services – www.tcs.com/worldwide/uk_ireland
CARE International UK – http://www.careinternational.org.uk/what-we-do/working-with-business