- Corporate culture can have a significant impact on the world as employees promote a spirit of tolerance.
- Companies have the means to support employees in their development and their interaction with others.
- The way to drive a more inclusive global agenda is through the desire of big business to drive change.
At a time when some politicians seem keen to promote nationalism and protectionist policies, companies need to step up their efforts and show the world in its best light. I believe in the concept of motivated people who drive economic and social change – and in the responsibility of big business as key enablers, motivating and supporting their global workforce to effect that change.
Last year I had the opportunity to attend a football tournament like no other: it wasn’t the FIFA World Cup or the UEFA Champions League, tournaments featuring world-class players like Messi and Ronaldo. It was quite the opposite, in fact. All of the actors were DHL Express employees from across the Middle East and Africa region, who had come together to participate in an internal company competition. There was an enthusiastic crowd and a surprisingly high level of nimble footwork considering this was a regular annual corporate event.
And yet, the tournament was not ordinary at all. As I sat there, I wish some of the world’s politicians were there too. If they had come, they would have seen Saudis, Afghans, Syrians, Egyptians, Iranians and people from many other countries playing and partying together.
And the people who played football weren’t just men. In a region generally considered to have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality, there were also women’s teams competing. These included women from Iran, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait and even an all-women team from Saudi Arabia – something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.
A key role for world trade
Watching these smart, enthusiastic and passionate teams of people compete in the field made me think about the culture of our company and the role that corporate cultures play in the world. Many thought-provoking articles I have read on the role of leadership in business have offered theories on how corporate culture can influence employee engagement and the financial results of a business.
My theory is a little more ambitious: it is that corporate culture can influence the world in a broader sense. Quite simply, if large companies like ours manage to involve and empower their employees in a positive way, then I am convinced that this effect will spread outward, like ripples in a pond, and cause real change in the world. .
A global base, a common culture
As the most global company in the world, we pay no attention to nationality, color, religion or sexual orientation. At the same time, we encourage everyone to go out and engage with the world.
For example, colleagues around the world often volunteer to be part of our Disaster Response Teams, which help manage logistics in the aftermath of major disasters. We hold a World Volunteer Day every year, in which some 100,000 colleagues around the world participate in one way or another, from cleaning beaches to building houses in underprivileged communities. We also reward our employees who volunteer for good causes in their spare time. Each year we come across amazing stories of amazing human beings who have chosen to spend their free time selflessly helping others.
Businesses play a vital role in society
We have events similar to this football tournament all over the world, and I see the same spirit of unity everywhere I go. At a time when some governments are becoming more and more nationalistic, some are abdicating responsibility for tackling the threat of climate change, and wars are being fought for territorial or ideological advantage, this seems more important than ever. And it seems clear to me that businesses – especially large multinationals like ours – have a vital role to play in society.
And that means we need to encourage stronger bonds whenever we have the chance – it’s a win-win situation for our customers, international business, and people around the world. We have the means to support our employees in their development and in their interaction with others. And we have the will to help fight climate change and to develop new ideas, innovative solutions and new initiatives that can really make a difference at all levels of society.
I firmly believe that at a time when our planet is in grave danger due to environmental problems, where people are suffering from war and famine, and when protectionism is on the rise, we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
This is not just a problem for DHL – there are many other big global players (and of course also smaller ones) who take up the challenge. If everyone puts in the effort, I know we can make a big difference and achieve big things. Because, as simple as it sounds, each of us has the ability to make the world move forward, and together we can make it a better place.
This is a modified excerpt from Ken Allen’s book “Radical Simplicity”.