Technology companies in the modern era are generally at pains to stress that their advances will be to the benefit of society. John Chambers, outgoing Cisco CEO, summed up this idea when he commented recently that the day he fell in love with technology was the day he realised it “can transform a business”, and that over time “he realised it could change people’s lives.”
Social enterprise is becoming big business. In the tech world, the Nominet Trust 100 publishes an annual list of ventures that are improving the world through technology. Elsewhere, investment firms such as Abundance channel investment to responsible companies.
It’s no longer enough for big tech companies to stick a “CSR” page on their website and sit back and let revenue roll in. But unfortunately for them, this pledge to society can sit uneasily alongside their often simultaneous promises to deliver profits to shareholders. While the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, they certainly can be, so that many are, perhaps understandably, sceptical or cynical about corporate claims that they have our best interests at heart.
Hitachi is one company that wishes resolve this paradox, with the global launch of its Social Innovation strategy. According to Hicham Abdessamad, EVP of Global Services at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), the strategy is not just marketing:
“The Social Innovation business has been around within Hitachi for, I’d say, five or six years. The main premise of it was to solve some of the world’s biggest problems in an area where we feel we have differentiation, leveraging our technology, our vertical expertise. It has also some sort of responsibility to society in it, a genuine care for society at the same time.