The Power of Culture to Produce True Innovation
By Georgia Cottrelle, Guest Blogger | October 27, 2017
Corporate Social Responsibility has become a buzzword in the business world. Companies are increasingly responding to consumers’ demands for ethical and accountable business. In spite of the growing adoption of CSR policies within companies, meaningful social innovation that critically challenges some of the world’s most pressing issues remains desperately needed. In a business environment where too often CSR is an afterthought, one must applaud businesses that are making notable efforts to produce genuine social change. The consideration of culture and tradition in the creation of a product demonstrates the catalyst for change that CSR can be and challenges companies that treat CSR as checkbox to turn a profit, to do better.
McCann Health released the Immunity Charm in an effort to address the infant mortality rate in Afghanistan, which is the highest in the world. The Immunity Charm was designed to counter obstacles that contribute to the low rate of vaccination completion and in turn infant mortality including traditional biases against vaccines, remote areas and illiteracy. The bracelet was developed in alignment with the Afghanistan tradition of giving a charm bracelet to a child to keep away evil with the simple addition of coloured beads that correspond to a vaccine that a child has received. The bracelet helps protect children from disease by addressing the challenge of maintaining immunization records.
Chairman Peter Singer of United Nations Innovation proclaims his excitement for a charm that “turns culture into incentive, and a bracelet into long lines of mothers and children at vaccine clinics.” The bracelet is a powerful yet simple solution demonstrating the impact a product can make when a company asks itself not only “what’s possible” but “what will be impactful.” There is no question that the Immunity Charm is remarkable in its ability to have a system-wide impact on health in Afghanistan. The bracelet acts as a leading example of how business and social change can intersect to make a difference.
Lucky Iron Fish is another example of a social purpose leader that carefully considered culture. The Lucky Iron Fish is a cooking device that infuses meals with an appropriate amount of natural iron in an effort to prevent iron deficiency and anemia. The product was produced primarily in response to the high prevalence of iron deficiency and anemia in Cambodia. The Lucky Iron Fish is a simple, affordable and natural way to incorporate iron into one’s diet and capable of providing up to seventy-five percent of the recommended daily iron intake when boiled with food. The product was designed as a fish, as the fish is a symbol of luck in Cambodia, illustrating a conscious effort to produce a culturally sensitive solution.
As a certified B-corp, Lucky Iron Fish works to guarantee a positive social and environmental impact, partnering with local production sites and utilizing recycled materials. Truly deserving of the title innovative, Lucky Iron Fish is demonstrative of the power a business can have when they challenge themselves to address global problems and connect with the communities they are serving.
In short, we must continue to demand more as consumers and citizens. One should not underestimate the power a business can have in addressing some of the world’s greatest problems. We must remember the words of T.S.Eliot “for us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” We must never stop trying to do better and be better for if not now, then when?
Georgia Cottrelle is a passionate advocate of justice and believes in the importance of helping corporations and non-profit organizations attain a profit in a way that propels social change. She is a recent graduate from Queen’s University with a major in Political Science and minor in Global Development Studies. Georgia is an advocate for social equity with a strong international awareness broadened through schooling, active membership in the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society Equity Commission, working at a summer camp in India and travelling abroad.
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