This week a story I saw in The Guardian, TechCrunch and others really fired up my jets. Basically a few highly influential tech entrepreneurs and investors are funding a proposal that gives SFPD the power to remove homeless tents from the sidewalks of SanFrancisco. Officially called ‘Proposition Q’, to date it has principally been funded by Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital), Ron Conway (a tech Angel Investor), William Oberndorf (SPO Partners) and Zachary Bogue (Mr Marisa Mayer) who between them have donated more than $150,000 to the Proposition Q campaign (the majority of the current $270,000 campaign fund).
Proposition Q is being sold as an attempt to help the homeless, but in reality they just want to hide the problem: the visible evidence of homelessness. It doesn’t address the issue of homelessness, nor does it provide any alternative accommodation for those who have the only shelter available to them, forcibly taken. There has to be a better way of dealing with the problem than this.
It’s great that these individuals want to do something about an issue that is on their doorstep. Personally, I believe that it’s really important for Entrepreneurs (well all individuals, really) to support causes that are close to their hearts. For example, I am actively involved in the UAE with a charity that rescues abandoned cats and ensures they are cared for and re-homed.
At the other end of the spectrum, high profile tech entrepreneurs and UHNW individuals – Zuckerberg; Gates; Buffett – are committing large amounts to solving some huge social, environmental, education and medical issues. Consider the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which offers grants to causes who apply and has a website full of great statements, such as
“We believe that by giving people the tools to lead healthy, productive lives, we can help them lift themselves out of poverty.”
In contrast to spending money to hide a problem, The Gates Foundation works to address the root causes and find sustainable solutions to the problems facing some of the most disadvantaged groups and locations.
The guys funding Proposition Q should be ashamed of themselves. They are not funding a coherent plan to help the homeless, they’re just removing the only shelter they have in a massively insensitive way. Entrepreneurs, especially those who are successful on the scale of Moritz (net worth $3.1bn), have a responsibility to deliver on their platitudes that they want to “make the world a better place”. Homelessness has long been an issue in San Francisco, so why can’t these guys work together with the other Silicon Valley heroes and use their technology and influence to incentivise, fund, sponsor or create shelters and programs that provide a step to permanent accommodation for homeless individuals? I’m thinking along the lines of an X Prize – get some great entrepreneurial minds to address the root causes of the problem, rather than attempting to hide the evidence of a broken system out of view. In this connected world, if we have the means, we should all work together for the greater good.
CSR = Win Win
In addition to the greater social benefit that CSR provides to the world at large, it also has an extremely positive impact on brand image, making you more appealing to investors and boosting the morale of both employees and stakeholders. The three main wins for enterprises generated by developing socially responsible practices are:
1. Morale & Recruitment
Employees want to feel like they are part of something more than a profit-turning machine, and a socially responsible company attracts higher standard of candidates when it comes to recruitment, as well as improving the morale of both existing employees and managements – the feeling of making the world a better place can work wonders for motivation.
2. Cost Saving
Committing to improving your companies’ stance on environment causes, such as cutting down on paper usage, waste or increasing recycling can help businesses – by reducing overheads.
3. Brand Value
Social entrepreneurship is important in the modern climate – especially when the general public – also known as your customers and clients – are becoming more and more socially aware and starting to base their decisions on charitable and socially responsible actions made by companies. Socially responsible companies are a more favourable option for cause-conscious consumers.
I’m reminded of a Steve Jobs Quote:
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them the tools they’ll do wonderful things with them”
In an increasingly socially aware world it’s time for all of us to take responsibility for our actions and make smarter choices.