Giving Back: Being a Positive Force in a Complex World

As an employee it’s quite easy to become cynical about the role your company takes in society. Most companies seem to focus on making money within the legal limits – not minding ethics, even less being a positive force in society. One example is the recent TeliaSonera leadership meltdown in Uzbekistan, where management defended from allegations of bribery by claiming to follow local legislation. That’s far from enough today for a major company. In a transparent world, you have to do what’s right, not just what’s legal.

More and more people think it’s important how their suppliers, and by extension their own company, behaves but very few have the power to influence that behaviour. This incongruence creates a feeling of unease, or even resentment. You want to be able to proudly present your company – not excuses.

If you are in that fortunate situation where you can influence your company, it’s a whole other matter. As a company owner you have all the power but no excuses. Any crappy behaviour is on you. You have to decide on environmental policies. You have to find the worthy causes. You have to work out how your organisation should contribute to the surrounding world. This is more difficult than it sounds. There are many choices. For example, should Adaptiv focus on our game, the software business, or focus on our home town Stockholm, or should we aim higher and battle inequality, racism, poverty, environment? What?

These are difficult questions that need to be answered again and again. There are no easy answers. All I know is that we, the owners of Adaptiv, wanted our company to be more than a financial entity. We wanted it to be a decent corporate citizen at least. Here are some choices we’ve made:

  • One of the first decisions we made was to act in an ecologically sustainable manner. That’s really not particularly difficult for a service organisation. For example, it means we prefer public transport over cars, trains over planes and walking/biking over most other transport means. If we go by plane we sum up our flying miles over a year and compensate for carbon emissions. To encourage biking we’ve set up a “biking benefit” to be able to buy a decent bike for commuting. Biking is great because it’s both good for your health and the environment. There is much more, of course. You can read more in our environmental policy.
  • We want to encourage Swedish companies to become more competitive using Lean and Agile thinking. We believe this is good for business and therefore good for Swedish society. That’s why we often give talks or lectures for free or for a very modest fee. This also implies that we should support local events and groups. This year will be the 5th year in a row that we sponsor the “Agila Sverige” (eng. “Agile Sweden”) conference. We have also sponsored local programmer communities, like the Swedish Java user group JavaForum.
  • We give 10 % of company profits after dividends and taxes to charity. This typically sums up to SEK 30 000 – 40 000 a year. We try to find a worthy cause, e.g. planting trees to battle deforestation or giving donkeys to women for taking their goods to their local market.

Of course there is a lot more we could do. I’m happy we’re doing what we do, but I also walk around with a bit of a bad conscience because there is so much more with could do. For example, we would like to take on a charity software project sometime. But there you go; you can’t do everything you want. After all, we’re just four people.

What is your company doing and are you satisfied with that? What are you doing about it?

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