You are on page 1of 11

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11


Organizational Dynamics (2014) xxx, xxxxxx

Available online at www.sciencedirect.com

ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/orgdyn

Transforming executives into corporate


diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service
Philip H. Mirvisa,*, Stephen T. Hurley b,1, Amanda MacArthur c,2
a

Private Consultant, 28 Water St., Ipswich, MA 01938, United States


Solutions Insights, Inc., 6 Chickadee Lane, Westwood, MA 02090, United States
c
PYXERA Global, 1030 15th Street NW Suite 730 East, Washington, DC 20005, United States
b

Chevron launched its We Agree campaign in October 2010,


with the slogan, Its Time Oil Companies Get behind the
Development of Renewable Energy. A series of print and
online ads, as well as 30-s YouTube commercials, were posted
speaking to the need for oil companies to, for example,
support small businesses and communities, hire local labor,
or put profits to good useeach with evocative images of
indigenous communities and workers, mothers carrying small
children safely in their arms, or alternative energy projects.
The ads were stamped with Chevrons We Agree statement
in bold red type. The companys We Agree website today
provides more details on Chevrons actions in these regards
and invites comments and feedback from the public.
What is behind this campaign? We hear what people say
about oil companies that they should develop renewables,
support communities, create jobs and protect the environment and the fact is, we agree, says Rhonda Zygocki, vice
president of Policy, Government and Public Affairs at Chevron. This campaign demonstrates our values as a company
and the greater value we provide in meeting the worlds

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 978 356 8742.


E-mail addresses: pmirv@aol.com (P.H. Mirvis),
shurley@solutionsinsights.com (S.T. Hurley),
amacarthur@PYXERAGlobal.org (A. MacArthur).
1
Tel. +1 781 686 1607.
2
Tel. +1 202 530 7690.

demand for energy. There is a lot of common ground on


energy issues if we take the time to find it.

DO YOU AGREE? COULD YOU DELIVER?


Now imagine you are an executive of Chevron or another oil
major (or any big global business). Would you understand
what the public expects of your company in each of these
areas? Would you be transparent about what has (and has not)
been accomplished? Be ready to answer to critics and to NGOs
that function as corporate watchdogs? And, most critically, would you have the diplomatic know-how, connections,
and experience to ensure that your company supports small
business or invests in renewables or whatever else it promises
to do? Lets dig into each of these topics.

Supporting small business?


When a country exploits its natural resources, such as oil and
gas, its currency and exchange rates typically get stronger,
but its other industries and exports decline for lack of
development. Dutch disease refers to the resulting loss
of local businesses and skilled labor. Is there a remedy? An
international NGO, PYXERA Global, brought together BP,
ExxonMobil, Chevron, TOTAL, and the Angola state oil company, Sonangol, to create the Centro de Apoio Empresarial
(CAE) that provides supplier training and business support to

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010
0090-2616/# 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

P.H. Mirvis et al.

local firms wanting to bid for, and win, contracts with oil
companies. To date, over one thousand local companies are
registered with CAE, and over 10 percent have completed
EHS (environmental health and safety) certification. Chevron
recently sponsored a business plan competition for small
firms with the winners awarded contracts.
Operating in this kind of milieu, company executives have
to work with counterparts in other firms, international NGOs,
myriad small, local businesses, plus regional officials and a
national government to arrive at agreeable policies and
practices. Are you prepared for this?

Supporting communities?
Chevron has for years been fighting a lawsuit that Texaco,
acquired by Chevron in 2000, dumped more than 18 billion
gallons of toxic wastewater into the Ecuadorian Amazon
rainforest from 1964 to 1992, leaving local people suffering
from an epidemic of cancers, as well as miscarriages and
birth defects. In Ecuadors courts, some 30,000 indigenous
villagers and campesinos were awarded a $9.5 billion judgment in a class action suit after 20 years of legal battles.
Chevron thereupon countersued 47 villagers (named as plaintiffs), and New York-based human rights attorney Steven
Donziger, who had advised them in their winning claim, on
grounds of conspiracy to extort the company.
On March 4, 2014, a U.S. District Court ruled that the $9.5
billion Ecuadorian judgment was a product of fraud, bribery,
and racketeeringand dismissed it. But this is not the end of
the story: cases filed in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina have
yet to be adjudicated and the NGO Amazon Watch is now
trumpeting the ruling as a mockery of justice on its
chevrontoxico.com website. How does an executive make
the case that Chevron (or any other company) supports local
communities in a toxic environment like this?

Renewable energy?
Industry analyst Antonia Juhasz reports that BP holds the
record for the highest percentage of expenditures oil companies commit to renewables (peaking at 6.5 percent in 2008
before BP sold off its U.S. wind business and some solar
operations to help pay for the Gulf cleanup). Chevron and
Shell follow at highs of 2.5 percent. But since 2008, Chevrons
spending on renewables has dropped annually and was less
than 0.5 percent in 2013. A May 29 2014, Business Week
article entitled Chevron Dims the Lights on Green Power
reports that the company has sold off or closed many of its
renewable business units. Why the pullback? It turns out that
renewal energy investment isnt nearly as profitable as
hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking).
In todays cynical and social-media saturated environment,
whenever your company touts its good intentions, somebody is
bound to turn on you. Chevrons We Agree campaign was
targeted by the activist group The Yes Men, which teamed up
with the Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch to erect
a fake website proclaiming that Chevron agrees oil companies should fix the problems they create and clean up
their messes. These protest groups then announced an online
contest for print, web, and TV ads satirizing what they termed
Chevrons greenwashing Hundreds of submissions poured in

and were posted online and even pasted up in cities nationwide. The fake ads variously featured oil spills (oil companies
should stop pretending they care), downtrodden locals (oil
companies should stop poisoning children) and even Lord of
the Rings Golem slavering over oil (we wants it, we needs it,
must have the precious). One contestants advert read simply, Chevron must think were stupid!
To its credit, Chevron eschewed a litigious response to this
brand-jacking but also never answered its critics with full
disclosure facts and figures, warts and all about its
community investments, environmental performance,
spending on renewables, distributions of profits, and the
like. What should a business leader do?

A NEED FOR CORPORATE DIPLOMACY


The world of Chevron is riddled with complexity. Richard
Edelman, president and CEO of the worlds largest public
relations firm bearing his name, helps companies to cope with
global complexity. (His firm monitored reaction to Chevrons
We Agree website and campaign.) Edelman points to the
need for businesses to engage in private-sector diplomacy.
He explains, Private-sector diplomacy bespeaks a different
kind of role for business in society. . .a kind of diplomatic role
in speaking to multiple kinds of stakeholders. He adds,
This is an ongoing conversation. . .we also have to be much
more transparent about how were doing and what were
doing.
Speaking of national diplomacy, Winston Churchill once
quipped, Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell
in such a way that they ask for directions. But in todays
environment, no business executive can artfully tell a
national government, labor union, global NGO, community
activist, media critic, or any other stakeholder where to
go. On the contrary, corporate diplomacy requires engagement, two-way conversation, transparency, and hopefully
winwin negotiation with a mix of interests. Ulrich Steger,
author of Corporate Diplomacy: The Strategy for a Volatile,
Fragmented Business Environment, defines corporate diplomacy as an attempt to manage systematically and professionally the business environment in such a way as to ensure
that business is done smoothly.
Are business leaders ready for corporate diplomacy?
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations,
stresses that corporate statecraft cannot be handled out of
small office or led by some vice president for government
relations (who) calls a congressional staffer when hes got an
issue. Instead, he says it is now intrinsic to the workings
of business and that every person in the company certainly the upper echelon of leadership needs to take this
into account. . .. Lets look at factors reshaping the corporate operating environment and putting diplomacy at the
heart of business. Then we will delve into what some leading
companies are doing to transform their business executives
into diplomats.

THE NEW OPERATING ENVIRONMENT


The business world has come a long way from Milton Friedmans 1970s assertion that the only responsibility of business
is to provide a return for shareholders. Twenty-first century

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono service
companies now operate in a complex ecosystem of diverse
expectations and interests. Global capitalism has brought
unprecedented wealth, power, and influence to corporations
and traditional boundaries between government, business and
civil society are shifting across the globe. In this new operating
environment, the private sector faces heightened expectations to actively participate in and contribute more of its
talents and treasure to the sustainability of society. Ernst &
Youngs CEO James Turley remarks: Companies have, in general, wanted a freer hand, in terms of government regulation
and restrictions on their business activities. But with that freer
hand comes an obligation. You cant ask for one and not deliver
the other. An Indian company chairman puts it this way:
With great power comes great responsibility.
Todays challenges cannot be ignored by any sector of
society. Critical social and environmental issues plague the
entire increasingly interconnected planet. In the last decades,
the gap between the average per-capita GDP (gross domestic
product) in the 20 richest and poorest countries has doubled,
and income inequality within developed economies has grown
precipitously. More than 2 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities, and more than one billion lack access to clean
water. On the environmental side, besides the effects of global
warming, one in four mammal species is in serious decline, fish
stocks are eroding, the worlds wetlands and forest cover are
declining markedly, and desertification puts some 135 million
people worldwide at risk of being driven from their lands.
How should private enterprise respond? The public clearly
expects business to take more responsibility for at least some
of these issues. The polling firm GlobeScan asks the public
annually whether companies are not at all, somewhat,
or completely responsible for various aspects of business
operations and their impact on society. The findings indicate
that large majorities in 21 countries hold companies completely responsible for the safety of their products, fair
treatment of employees, responsible use of raw materials,
and for not harming the environment. These are, of course,
operational aspects of firms and well within their control. But
in addition, some 40 percent holds companies completely
responsible for reducing human rights abuses, shrinking the
rich-poor gap, and solving social problems. Many more hold
business at least partially responsible on these matters.
Responsible leadership is required not only for business to
meet its obligations in this new context, but also to retain its
license to operate and to grow. Many firms express their
commitments to society through their corporate social
responsibility (CSR) and sustainability programs. Some firms
are revising their codes of conduct, adopting sustainable
practices, and engaging their employees in their community
service programs; others are forming board and management
level CSR committees, measuring their environmental and
social performance, and issuing public reports. Select firms
have integrated staff functions responsible for CSR-type
issues and are moving responsibility and accountability
into lines of business. And a vanguard is taking CSR to
market by offering products and services that aim explicitly
to both make money and make a better world.

THE DIPLOMATIC CONTEXT


Where does diplomacy fit into all of this? According to Richard
Haass, CEOs, when they get up in the morning and look out

through their window or across their desk, are dealing with a


range of constituencies that looks an awful lot like what a
cabinet member might look at. . ..Youve got independent
media. Youve got independent workers or unionized workers. Youve got all these NGOs who are pushing you to do X, Y,
or Z. Well, this is very much a political environment. The idea
that you reach decisions in some sort of splendid profit-andloss isolationthose days are over. . .. What are key features
of the corporate diplomatic context?

Multiple interests
Surveys find that the great majority of business leaders
acknowledge responsibilities to multiple stakeholders. This
includes not only fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders,
but also obligations to employees, customers, suppliers,
business partners, communities, and others that are
touched by corporate behavior. Before launching its ecomagination strategy, General Electric invited stakeholders
(including customers, suppliers, and environmentalists) to
two-day dreaming sessions where they envisioned life in
2015 and what they would want from GE. Reflecting on this,
CEO Jeff Immelt said, Success in tomorrows markets
means working with stakeholders to understand, predict,
and shape our future environment and ways of living.
Tackling important problems together will require teamwork and respect.
In turn, growing legions of NGOs that represent varied
stakeholders are operating at the nexus of business and
society. Over 200,000 new citizen groups have been formed
around the world since the mid-1980s, and global NGOs have
been rising in numbers, scale, and scope. Amnesty International, for example, has nearly two million members in every
country where multinational corporations do business, and
the World Wildlife Fund has over five million. Both of these
groups, as well as Oxfam, Greenpeace, and thousands more,
have forced companies to account for their economic, social,
and environmental inaction or misdeeds.

Complex issues
Throughout the world, there are growing social movements
concerning consumer protection, investor rights, employee
well-being, and the health of the planet that embody economic power and carry with them the possibility of regulation
and legal remedy for harms. Who in business would have
imagined, say, 20 years ago, that a corporation would be held
responsible for how employees are treated in a poor, faraway
land working in a factory the company doesnt even own?
Nike learned this the hard way when reports of physical and
sexual abuse of workers, salaries below minimum wage, and
an exploitative quota system surfaced from its Vietnamese
and Indonesian suppliers. Today it is widely known that
consumers, investors, and the public at large will punish
bad corporate behavior.
On this point, Don Tapscott, co-author of The Naked
Corporation, has documented the emergence of stakeholder webs composed of NGOs and citizen activists as well
as other parties with relevant interest and/or expertise that
coalesce around social issues and corporate conduct. These
parties scrutinize firms and move into action at the whiff of

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

P.H. Mirvis et al.

problems. But there is also an opportunity for business to


align itself with aggrieved stakeholders interests and public
welfare. Supply-chain reform by Nike and Reebok in footwear, by Levi Strauss & Co. and the GAP in apparel, and by
high-tech companies in micro-electronics manufacture all
exemplify this trend. Moves into healthier eating-and-drinking categories by food and beverage companies and innovations in environmental sustainability by businesses of all kinds
fit this ethos as well.

Multi-party governance
Complex and interdependent economic, social, and environmental problems call for complex solutions. Organizations
from different sectors and industries bring unique and essential assets to the work of social change. Multi-party governance arrangements include stakeholder networks, publicprivate partnerships, and transnational collaborations. In
different configurations, business, government, and nonstate actors have joined forces to reduce corruption, promote sustainable business practices, tackle water shortages,
encourage healthier eating habits, address climate change,
and promote peace in troubled lands.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI),
for instance, is a collaboration that includes BP, Chevron,
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Rio Tinto, Total, and other major oil and
gas providers. EITI specifically aims to reduce the embezzlement of oil and natural resource revenues and allow others to
monitor and influence governmental spending priorities by
promoting the transparent reporting of payments. First Lady
Michelle Obamas Lets Move! Campaign and the Partnership
for a Healthier America, in turn, targets improved diet and
exercise for kids and includes the largest U.S. foods and
beverage companies, food retailers and restaurants, the
main food industry associations, as well as the National
School Lunch Program.
This new diplomatic context can have a substantial impact
on the ways companies do their business. At one time, Nike
could manage its array of interests, issues, and institutional
arrangements through a handful of staff in its public affairs
and corporate responsibility functions. Today Hannah Jones,
vice president of sustainable business & innovation at Nike,
leads over 140 people in developing eco-innovations like
recyclable shoe design and Nikes Reuse-a-Shoe campaign
and in outreach efforts that include organizing the First
Womens National Slumsoccer Championship campaign
in over 40 countries.
Nike has assigned over a hundred managers with governance responsibilities inside and outside the company and has
involved thousands of its employees in multi-stakeholder
partnerships. These efforts include collaborations with footwear, apparel, and fabric companies to inspect and ensure
the safety and health of workers in their supply chains;
partnerships with other businesses and NGOs in the Textile
Exchange, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and several organic
certification schemes; and involvement with the United
Nations in its human rights agenda. Broadly speaking, while
each of these ventures involves different issues and interests,
what the companies and the employees engaged in them
have in common is that they are practicing corporate diplomacy.

DEVELOPING DIPLOMATIC SKILLS


Sir Harold George Nicolson, who joined Her Majestys Diplomatic Service in 1909, and served in many lands over his
career, devised the Nicolson test for selecting and developing diplomats. Among his roster of desired diplomatic skills
are truthfulness, precision, patience, modesty, discernment,
and a good temperament. His treatise on The Evolution of
Diplomatic Method also highlights how pleasantness, erudition, a non-triumphal attitude and a general level of suspiciousness feature in diplomacy.
Building on this base, business professors Raymond Saner,
Lichia Yiu, and Mikael Sndergaard identify over twenty
competencies of corporate diplomats. Among them are international business acumen, knowledge of relevant governing
bodies and codes, political skills in dealing with diverse
interests and the media, comfort with role versatility, and
a high tolerance for ambiguity. They also say that while
various MBA courses touch on these areas, MBA education
overall is not very well suited to the development of corporate diplomats.
The question at hand is how can businesses best cultivate
these traits and develop corporate diplomats in their ranks?
Nowadays leading educators are supplementing traditional
classroom pedagogy and case studies with experiences
that enable business leaders (current and future) to confront
directly the complexity of the world around them and to
encounter in vivo the mix of actors and interests that make up
the new business operating environment.
An exemplar of this kind of experience is service learning.
In a university or business school, service learning expands
the range of students experiences, outside the encapsulated
environment of the classroom, and enables them to see, first
hand, the problems encountered by less privileged sectors of
society. Business leaders involved in service experiences are
also challenged to listen and respond to different points of
view on the sources of these problems, to exercise soft
influence skills when speaking to the business role therein,
and to cultivate the common touch if they are to make
meaningful connections to the people they encounter.
One aim of service learning in business education is to
promote civic responsibility. Executives that venture into
service learning have a chance to become better informed
about social and environmental issues and gain some experience filling an ambassadorial role for their company. This
schools them in both the symbolism and substance of the
corporate diplomats job. Mirvis has studied how various
kinds of service learning programs in business schools and
in companies can raise executives consciousness about
themselves, others, the world around them, and the role and
workings of business in society. How does service learning
educate at these multiple levels?

HOW SERVICE LEARNING DEVELOPS LEADERS


Consider, first, the growing demand for leaders who understand their emotional makeup and can draw on personal
resilience to deal with ambiguous and complex leadership
challenges. Development programs typically use a variety of
tools to increase leaders self-awarenessincluding personality tests, 360-degree feedback, and coaching. Service

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono service
learning is a particularly apt experience for learning about
ones self. Engaging in service in poor communities, or with
NGOs or small businesses far from the commercial mainstream of the U.S. and Europe, exposes business leaders to
unfamiliar social, political, and economic conundrums and to
a new set of leadership challenges. These provide a rich mix
of stimuli to leaders seeking a personal footing in a global
environment. This can also aid them in gauging personal
leadership strengths and weaknesses, and in understanding
what does and does not work in different contexts. This kind
of learning is of course enhanced when leaders have structured opportunities to reflect on their experiences.
Second, business leaders are being encouraged to develop
their interpersonal skills to work effectively with people of
different ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds and
from different cultures. Service learning promotes greater
understanding of the other. It is well established that
human relations develop and deepen as people see themselves in another person and see another in themselves.
Working and serving alongside others forges such cross-connections and can enhance a leaders ability to understand and
empathize with others. This naturally has relevance to leaders dealings with global staff, as well as with the mix of
stakeholders they encounter in corporate diplomacy. Connecting with others of a different background yields leadership lessons on ethnic and socio-cultural diversity. In this
light, Earley and Peterson regard cultural intelligence as
essential to global executives.
Global service learning assignments typically put participants into a multicultural milieu where they are dealing with
people who may have very different outlooks, motivations,
and goals. Executives, lacking formal power in this context,
have to learn to listen openly to different points of view,
explore what is behind them, and exercise a deft diplomatic
touch in the face of potential conflicts. In this context, a strong
case can also be made for team based service as it can help
multicultural groups to simultaneously improve their own
teamwork and serve diverse communities more effectively.
Third, leaders are being urged to apply their business
acumen to the scramble of fast-paced changes in the world
around them and, in particular, to come to grips with the
social, moral, and environmental impact of their global
organizations. This means, among other things, becoming
global citizens and developing a point of view about the
role of business in society. On these counts, exposure to the
dilemmas and tradeoffs posed when trying to do business
responsibly in, say, an emerging market or lax legal environment can broaden and deepen a leaders experience pool. It
can also continuously challenge and inform their self-picture
as leaders in their firms.
Global service learning assignments expose people to
complex social problems whose very definition is value-laden
and where private enterprise may, in many instances, be
deemed one source of the problems at hand. This naturally
stretches executives who have to interact with and explain
themselves to people uninformed about or even critical of
their business and organization. It can also open up the eyes
and thinking of executives and give them a better understanding of and feel for working with diverse stakeholders.
Henry Mintzberg and Jonathan Gosling make the case that
hands-on engagement with the social complexities of global
enterprise helps executives to develop a worldly mindset.

Finally, there is an increasing need for leaders who have


themselves clarified their personal purpose and mission in life
and can work with others to define a shared purpose. Service
learning can help leaders to enrich their identity as global
leaders and, in some cases, find their higher calling as
business leaders. Even more than this, service can also help
emerging leaders to find their passions and to see the potential of enterprise to serve the common good. Studies have
documented how a corporate program of service learning in
diverse lands can awaken individual executives to a new selfimage of societal service in their business roles and even help
to transform a company into a mission of global citizenship.
Listen to Bob Corcoran, head of corporate citizenship in
General Electric, reflect on this in the context of GEs
involvement in the United Nations multilateral partnership
on human rights. Social change is embodied in people. Good
people are passionate about justice, fairness, and equity. GE
is part of the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights
because the overwhelming majority of us care about this.

GLOBAL PRO BONO SERVICE PROGRAMS


IBM has sent over 2400 employees on 200 teams to 30
countries on one month service assignments through its
Corporate Service Corps. In Tanzania, for instance, IBMers
teamed with KickStart, a nonprofit offering new technologies
to fight poverty in Africa, to develop modular training courses
in marketing, sales and supply chain management for local
entrepreneurs. Because its global service program involves a
relatively short period in the field, pre-assignment training is
used to build a cohesive team, prepare participants for the
cultural and technical aspects of the assignment, and allow
them to work with their clients to develop and refine project
activities. At IBM, pre-work materials are delivered and
managed through a software package and include teambased and individual assignments. Teams also meet virtually
on a weekly basis for the three months before they depart on
assignment.
In addition to IBM, at least 20 other firms have launched
global service programs where employees travel to emerging
markets and work hand-in-hand with local management in
small businesses or social enterprises to help to address
economic, social, and environmental challenges. Pfizers
pioneering Global Health Fellows program, begun in 2003,
has the company loan its employees to nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) to address local health care needs in
Asia and Africa. Accenture Development Partnerships has
undertaken over 600 projects in 55 countries where its
professionals, at 50 percent salary reduction, work in partnership for up to six months with Oxfam, UNICEF, Freedom
from Hunger, and other NGOs to bring business solutions to
humanitarian problems (see Box 1 on corporate pro bono
service).
NGO partners (e.g., PYXERA Global, Digital Opportunity
Trust, Endeavor, Australian Business Volunteers, etc.) offer
companies implementing global programs a range of important services. The partners have in-depth knowledge of key
countries that span a firms business operations; understand
the challenges and opportunities for the private, public, and
NGO sectors; and know the hot-button issues in which a
company may or may not want to engage. They are also able

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

P.H. Mirvis et al.

Box 1. Corporate pro bono service models


Who signs up for global service? Hundreds, and at IBM, thousands of employees are competing for assignments
from companies sponsoring these programs. Younger employees who want to serve society through business?
Surely, but also mid-career managers looking for something more from their job, long service employees wanting
to give something back, and up-and-comers who want to hone their multicultural and global leadership skills.
Applicants come from many disciplines and from all over the world. Dow Cornings first ten-person citizen service
team, for instance, included technologists from the U.S., a business development expert from Mexico, financial
specialist from Belgium, sales manager from Korea, and structural engineer from India.
How are participants chosen? Companies have different ways of soliciting and selecting employees for international volunteer assignments: some ask for nominations from managers and others have an open application
process. In turn, some use a multi-functional committee to select among the pool of applications; in other cases
selections are made by the HR or CSR function that manages the program with guidance from top management. A
survey of 20 companies involved in these programs finds that candidate selections are based on four criteria: (1) a
strong track-record within the company, (2) high potential for leadership advancement; (3) personal motivation,
flexibility, resilience, and a demonstrated service ethic, plus (4) project-relevant technical, managerial, or crosscultural skills.
The selection process can be daunting. For example, when IBM launched its CSC in 2008, it expected 500
applications and received a 1000. Now it gets over 30,000, with the largest numbers of applications from Asia.
At this point, it is easier to get admitted into elite business school than IBMs program (on the order of 15 applicants
per assignment at IBM)!
How do pro bono programs operate? IBMs CSC program is modeled on the U.S. Peace Corps and engages teams
of volunteers in three months of pre work, one month in country, and two months in post-service where they
harvest insights for themselves and their business. Ernst & Youngs fellows program is much smaller and focuses
exclusively on improving small business in Latin America. But its volunteers spend three months in direct service
enough time to personally deliver tangible results. Accenture Development Partnership operates as a nonprofit
housed within a profit-making business. The parent company forgoes its margin and provides pro bono overhead;
the client pays a small fee; and the employee takes a salary reduction.
Pharmaceuticals have built their global service on the model of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Doctors Without
Borders (Medecins Sans Frontie`res). Pfizers Global Health Fellows program has the company loan its employees
to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to address local health care to date primarily in Asia and Africa.
GlaxoSmithKline launched its program in 2009 and about half of its volunteers serve in emerging markets while the
other half share their health care expertise closer to home. The in-country option enables employees to serve
society while still fulfilling their family or child-rearing responsibilities.

to identify local partners and projects that provide maximum impact for employees and local communities and that
complement a companys culture, mission, and goals for a
global pro bono service program. NGO implementing partners serve as a cultural bridge between corporations and
local institutions, fostering an atmosphere of trust that is
critical to working relationships in emerging markets, yet
difficult to establish without a longstanding local presence
and knowledge of development challenges (see Box 2 on
NGO partners).

THE PRO BONO SERVICE EXPERIENCE


What do the service teams do on the ground? They confront
complex issues, deal with diverse interests, and strive to
develop sustainable solutions. As an example, Bonnie Glick,
working with a local NGO in Brazil through IBMs CSC, helped
to develop a funding strategy for a community-based organization, Aprendiz, which works to keep disadvantaged
youth off the streets in the slums of Sa
o Paulo. This isnt
just a Sa
o Paulo issue, this isnt just a favela [slum] issue,
this is a global issue, says Glick, The issues [Brazilians]
are struggling with related to children and poverty are the

toughest, most heart-wrenching global problems that we


have today.
IBMer Matt Berry also faced a complex challenge: reducing
road traffic in Lagos, Nigeria, whose population will grow
from 20 million today to 40 million by 2030. He reported,
it can take 3, 4 and even up to 5 h to get from one side of
the city to the other due to limited road infrastructure. . .
and its only getting worse. To make matters worse, most
of the countrys cars are in poor shape and there is limited
public transportation. Working with the Lagos State government, Matts team helped to develop a command center
where police, traffic management, fire department, emergency management, and other city agencies could sit
together in a single location to track mobile traffic data
and respond to problems and emergencies. Longer term,
the team proposed that Lagos introduce tolls for high
congestion during peak travel times and reroute traffic
using electronic signage.
A team of 10 employees from Dow Corning went to
Bangalore, India to develop more energy-efficient cook
stoves for street vendors and renewable energy products
for rural housing. Scouting the situation, Ronda Grosse, from
the U.S., blogged: On Monday we visited the Indian Institute
of Science (IISC), which is the premier university in India.

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono service

Box 2. NGO partners


PYXERA Global is a Washington, DC-based organization that designs and facilitates corporate Prop Bono service
programs. It supports corporate clients throughout the experiences by providing a variety of services, including:
Program design: PYXERA Global works with our clients to understand how a program should be best designed to
meet their organizational goals. For most corporations, Pro Bono programs serve as a leadership and talent
development program, however, capturing innovative ideas and understanding important frontier markets are
increasingly important as well.
Participant selection and teaming: Depending on the goals of the corporation, Pro Bono programs utilize an open
application or nomination process. Most companies limit applications to employees with consistently high
performance reviews and who have been determined to be high potential. PYXERA Global supports several of
our clients by facilitating the participant selection process and by creating the teams.
Pre-work: Prior to departing for their assignments, PYXERA Global provides Pro Bono teams with pre-work to
provide them with the skills and contextual knowledge they need to begin achieving results with their local clients
quickly. Standard modules include, consulting in emerging markets, safety and security, cultural and business
etiquette among others. It is also during the pre-work phase that participating employees are introduced to their
projects and local clients.
Local client selection and project design: PYXERA Global works closely with its corporate partners to determine
what type of projects are most appropriate for their goals. After selecting a project location, PYXERA Global will
assess a series of local organizations to determine which might have needs that could be addressed by the
corporate volunteers. Projects are designed to be demand driven and appropriate to the skills available. On average
a team of 10 Pro Bono participants will be divided in three to four sub-teams, each with its own local client.
Supporting the experience: PYXERA Global supports participating employees from start to finish, including
arranging international flights, selecting secure and appropriate local accommodations and providing a local
resource available for the duration of the assignment. Upon their arrival in country, PYXERA Global facilitates an
orientation and training with work planning and teaming sessions as well as introductions to their local
neighborhoods.
Measuring impact: For Pro Bono programs to be successful they must prove their business impact for both the
sponsoring corporation and the local clients. PYXERA Global facilitates this through immediate post-assignment
surveys with participating employees and surveys and interviews with local clients. Surveys can also be completed
at the 6-month and one-year mark to further understand how learning has been internalized. Participants are
surveyed to understand the impact of the program on them personally, on their professional skills and on insights
they have gained that can be applied to the business.

They are working on innovations in alternative building


materials, water treatment technologies, integrated habitat
development and architecture, and renewable energy
and recycling. IISC has had success with a number of rural
programs, including in fuel-efficient stoves and biomassbased biogas plants. Later, confronting technical challenges, the Dow Corning team e-mailed, blogged, and
tweeted ideas with scientists and engineers back home,
bringing the expertise of not just 10 but hundreds of fellow
employees to their Bangalore partners.
On these service assignments, volunteers and their
teams can be immersed in politics and confront substantive
development challenges. Participants in PWCs Ulysses program produced an evaluation of the growth and incomegeneration potential of the eco-tourism sector in Belize;
worked with United Nations Development Programme on
the Lokoho Rural Electrification Project in Madagascar; and
contributed to the Recovery, Employment, and Stability
(RESPECT) effort in conflict-ridden East Timor by setting
up a system to ensure accountability by all the stakeholders
involved.
Teams are also engaged in on-the-ground innovation.
Volunteers from Pepsico helped to organize local farmers
in rural Brazil. A team member remarked, By acting
together as a cooperative, they could draw on each farms

supply to meet demand and sell to the public as one


identity instead of as individual farmers. In this scenario
the profits or losses for the year would be split among the
members.

DEVELOPING CORPORATE DIPLOMATS


What is the evidence that pro bono service helps in transforming corporate participants into diplomats? Listen to what
IBMer Matt Berry said about his experience in Lagos: This
project was unlike anything I ever had a chance to work on in
my career. We had three short weeks to analyze the problem,
meet with a dozen government agencies, navigate political
issues, understand the technical solutions available, survey
commuters, factor in economic and social issues, and build a
strategic transportation roadmap for one of the fastest
growing cities in the world. Reflecting on some lessons
learned, Berry recalled that there were tensions in his team
based on cultural differences, levels of aggressiveness and
varying English language skills. He learned to adapt his
communications style depending on which team member
he was dealing with. Those social skills came in handy when
confronting cross-country marketing issues in the U.K.,
France and Germany. He adopted a different approach to

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

P.H. Mirvis et al.

dealing with the staff in each countryand came away


feeling he had accomplished winwin solutions.
A few companies have conducted systematic assessments
of the impact of global pro bono service on the participants.
A longitudinal study of PwCs Ulysses program found that
company participants gained greater cultural literacy, deeper understandings of responsible leadership, and enhanced
community building skills. IBM surveyed its participants
in 2011 and again in 2013. In the most recent study, some
96 percent (out of 900 surveyed) reported that the CSC
had increased their cultural awareness; 90 percent that
it enhanced their understanding of the role of business
in society; and 88 percent that it increased their ability
to listen for client needs and envision their future. A
survey of the participants managers, in turn, validated
these self-assessments. Over nine-of-ten managers noted
improvements in their employees cultural awareness
and understandings of business in society. And nearly
two-thirds said that their employee is contributing in
new, more valuable ways as a result of his/her CSC experience.
Certainly Chevron could benefit from leaders with a deeper understanding of the role of business in society and who
truly listen to stakeholders needs. The oil giants latest
advert agrees that shale gas should be good for everyone. But even as the company has been signing fracking
deals for shale gas with governments in Eastern Europe,
protestors in Romania were beaten by police troops as they
attempted to block Chevron trucks from entering a drilling
site in the village of Pungesti. Thereafter, Chevron built a
new access road to and erected a metal fence around the
drilling site.
Meanwhile, on the domestic front, a Chevron-owned natural gas well near Bobtown, Pennsylvania, exploded on February 11, 2014, leaving one worker injured and another
missing. The gas fire burned for four days. Chevron sent a
letter to each household in the area apologizing for any
inconvenience along with a coupon for one large pizza and
one 2-liter drink. Was this artful corporate diplomacy?

WHAT DIPLOMACY ADDS TO COMPANIES


While global pro bono programs help to develop corporate
diplomats, they also position sponsoring companies in the
new diplomatic context. Companies benefit from an
enhanced reputation in the countries where programs are
implemented which improves their ability to win new
business and from being seen as a global corporate citizen.
Pfizer and GSK, for instance, report that their license to
operate in several African countries has improved by relationships developed with governments, universities, and
throughout the health care sector. IBMs work in Calabar,
capital of the Cross River State in Nigeria, was at the request
of and in partnership with Governor Liyel Imoke. One project
funded by the World Bank provided support to pregnant
women and children under 5. Governor Imoke was so
impressed by the work that he personally requested IBM to
continue commercially as project managers. This led to a
$1.2M services deal signed in March of 2010IBMs first
services deal in West Africa.
Beyond immediate reward, companies also cite the
social capital that flows from their global service (see
Box 3 on global survey findings). Corporate websites featuring
blog postings and videos produced by volunteers tackling
significant economic, social, and environmental problems
around the world provide insights for companies, instill a
sense of pride in the workforce overall and also attract the
interest of job candidates, students, and the media. Meanwhile, program alumni stay in touch with one another and
with clients via e-mail and Skype chats. In so doing, they
maintain connections with future leaders in faraway lands
who become not only potential future business partners, but
also lifelong friends.
Speaking to the benefits of diplomacy for companies,
Laura Asiala, who led Dow Cornings efforts, comments:
Everyone needs alliesno one can go it alone. Good corporate citizens build alliances that serve as appropriate
advocates in those decisive moments of our individual and

Box 3. Assessing pro bono impact


Cross-border service programs started roughly 10 years ago, when Pfizer, Accenture, and PricewaterhouseCoopers launched their programs. Since then Ernst and Young, Cisco, HSBC, Starbucks, Dow Corning, Intel, SAP, Mars
and others have launched programs of varied design, geographic scope, and employee participation.
Beginning in 2010, PYXERA Global has been tracking the activities of companies across the globe that have Pro
Bono Service programs. The survey has looked at how these companies have designed, developed and managed
their programswhich have nearly all been located in the emerging markets. In looking at the survey data, several
key trends and observations have emerged as of 2013:
 There has been significant growth in the numbers of companies and employees who have participated in Pro
Bono Service programs. In the 2010 study, some 11 companies sent 884 volunteers overseas. In the recent
survey, 24 companies sent 1723 employees on pro bono assignments.
 The most important benefit sought and achieved by companies involved employee leadership development.
Improvements in local client organizations also figured as very important in corporate motivations and results.
Roughly half of the companies also found that pro bono projects yielded new business opportunities or insights
for the company.
 Nearly all (95 percent) of the companies surveyed take steps to ensure that their pro bono alumni share what they
have learned inside the company and externally. Outlets include meetings with senior executives (93 percent),
formal reports (81 percent), blog postings (75 percent), and webinars (53 percent).

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono service
corporate lives. The customer who recommends us; the
neighbor who speaks on our behalf; the politician who is
more open to a point of view; the employee who enthusiastically and proudly sports the corporate brandall of these
are examples of advocacy-in-action. Such advocacy requires
long-term commitment and authentic relationships that are
built on trust. One of the most effective and economical ways

to build trusting relationships is on the common ground that


volunteer engagements provide.

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

10

P.H. Mirvis et al.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
Background readings on pro bono service and global corporate volunteering include G. Hills and A. Mahmud, Volunteering for Impact: Best Practices in International Corporate
Volunteering (Boston: FSG Social Impact Advisors, 2007); P.
H. Mirvis, K. Thompson, and C. Marquis, Preparing next
generation business leaders, in R. Burke and M. Rothstein
(Eds.), Self-Management and Leadership Development,
(Cheltenham, UK: Edgar Elgar, 2010); and N. M. Pless, T.
Maak, and G. K. Stahl, Developing global leaders through
international service learning programs: the Ulysses experience, Academy of Management Learning & Education,
2011, 10(2) 237260.
On the contours of global pro bono programs, see P. H.
Mirvis, K. Thompson, J. Gohring, Toward next generation
leadership: global service, Leader to Leader, 2012, 24
(Spring) 2026; also IBMs Corporate Service Corps: A New
Model for Leadership Development, Market Expansion and
Citizenship http://www.ibm.com/ibm/responsibility/corporateservicecorps/.
On diplomatic and responsible leadership competencies,
see the classic by H. Nicolson, Diplomacy (Cambridge; Oxford
University Press, 1938). See also M. Gitsham, Developing the
Global Leader of Tomorrow (PRME, EABIS, Ashridge, 2008);
and J. Gosling and H. Mintzberg, The five minds of a manager
Harvard Business Review 2003 (November) 19. Christopher
Pinney and the Hay Group profiled attributes of successful
CSR and governance professionals in Leadership Competencies for Corporate Citizenship (Boston: Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, 2009). They highlight personal
maturity, peripheral vision, visionary thinking, a systems perspective, collaborative networking, strategic influence, and
the capacity to drive change as key leadership attributes in this
arena. In turn, a study of 10 companies found that leaders in
firms at advanced stages of sustainability were far more likely
than counterparts in less advanced firms to question assumptions about their business, make creative connections
between their strategy and the interests of society, and apply

a both/and mindset to conflicts between business and


society (C. A. McEwen and J. D. Schmidt, Leadership and
the Corporate Sustainability Challenge: Mindsets in Action,
Atlanta: Avastone Consulting, 2007).
On diplomacy and business, see: U. Steger, Corporate
Diplomacy: The Strategy for a Volatile, Fragmented Business
Environment (Chichester: Wiley, 2003); and R. Saner, L. Yiu
and M. Sndergaard, Business diplomacy management: a core
competency for global companies, Academy of Management
Perspectives, 2000, 14(1) 8092. Also thoughtful contributions on business diplomacy by Richard Edelman and
Richard Haaas (text and video) can be found at http://
www.mckinsey.com/insights/public_sector/the_ceo_as_
diplomat_an_interview_with_richard_haass; http://www.
mckinsey.com/insights/corporate_social_responsibility/
building_private-sector_diplomacy.
The Center of Excellence for International Corporate
Volunteerism (CEICV) is a public private partnership between
IBM and the United States Agency for International Development facilitated by PYXERA Global. The initiative is designed
to lower the barriers to entry for companies looking to launch
their own ICV programs and to link the expertise provided by
corporate employees into needs of USAID beneficiary organizations in emerging markets around the world.
On GlobeScan surveys see, Corporate Social Responsibility
Monitor (20012010), www.globescan.com.
Chevrons
adverts
at
http://www.chevron.com/
weagree/; for the fake adds, see http://yeslab.org/
project/chevron.
Quotes from Turley, Immelt, and Corcoran come from
personal interviews. Quote from Rhonda Zygocki: http://
www.chevron.com/chevron/pressreleases/article/10182010_
chevronlaunchesnewglobaladvertisingcampaignweagree.
news.
Quotes from Glick, Berry, Grosse, Pepsico team members,
Asiala come from Pyxera Global case studies found at:
http://newglobalcitizen.com/tag/pyxera-global.

Philip Mirvis is an organizational psychologist whose studies and private practice concern large-scale organizational change, characteristics of the workforce and workplace, and business leadership in society. An advisor to
companies and NGOs on five continents, he has authored 12 books, including The Cynical Americans (social trends),
Building the Competitive Workforce (human capital investments), Joining Forces (human dynamics of mergers), To
the Desert and Back (business transformation case), and recently, Beyond Good Company: Next Generation
Corporate Citizenship. Mirvis was recognized as Distinguished ScholarPractitioner by the Academy of Management. He teaches in executive education programs in business schools around the world (Tel.: +1 978 356 8742;
pmirv@aol.com).

Stephen Hurley is managing director of Solutions Insights, Inc., a consulting and training company that works with
both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations to improve their ability to deliver greater and more
sustainable value to their respective customers and other target audiences. Over the past 6 years, Hurley has been
working with PYXERA Global in implementing a benchmarking survey that evaluates how companies have
developed, implemented and continue to manage international volunteer programs. This unique survey is

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010

+ Models

ORGDYN-506; No. of Pages 11

Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono service

11

conducted on an annual basis. In addition, he has an ongoing working relationship with VEGA, a consortium of
organizations that focus on mobilizing skilled-based volunteers to address international economic development
issues and challenges. Prior to establishing Solutions Insights, Hurley spent more than 15 years with Arthur D.
Little, Inc. (ADL), formerly one of the worlds leading management consulting companies as a senior consultant in
the International Economics and Development practice. He is also a professor at the Hult International Business
School, where he teaches M.B.A.-level international marketing and solutions marketing courses (Tel.: +1 781 686
1607; shurley@solutionsinsights.com).

Amanda MacArthur is vice president of global pro bono and engagement at PYXERA Global, MacArthur leads the
organizations Global Pro Bono and MBAs Without Borders programs, as well as The Center for Citizen Diplomacy. In
this capacity, she designs and implements corporate social responsibility programs for the public and private sector
focused on skills-based volunteerism in emerging markets, leadership development, and sustainable economic
impact. Most recently, she played a key role in designing IBMs Corporate Service Corps, while overseeing Global Pro
Bono programs for PepsiCo, Pfizer, FedEx, and several others (+1 202 530 7690; amacarthur@PYXERAGlobal.org).

Please cite this article in press as: P.H. Mirvis, et al., Transforming executives into corporate diplomats: The power of global pro bono
service, Organ Dyn (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.08.010