corporate diplomacy

April 28, 2013

The financial crisis altered the very nature of the international balance of power. Five years later, the presumption is that the crisis is in the rearview mirror -- and that the volatility that shook markets and felled governments is behind us too. But we've entered a new order that's vastly more uncertain than what preceded it.

Today, Google is arguably one of the most influential nonstate actors in international affairs, operating in security domains long the purview of nation-states: It tracks the global arms trade, spends millions creating crisis-alert tools to inform the public about looming natural disasters, monitors the spread of the flu, and acts as a global censor to protect American interests abroad.

U.S. businesses, in particular, are ambassadors of American values and are more engaged in the economies where they operate, especially in the rapidly growing markets of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. By putting those values into action, the private sector can serve as the leading edge of American influence by promoting entrepreneurism; empowering communities; and demonstrating all the advantages of contracts, competition, transparency and fair dealing in the marketplace.

A group of foreign college students who came to the U.S. on cultural work exchange visas in December have been protesting their working conditions at a McDonald's in Harrisburg, Pa. In the process, they've wading into a debate about guest workers in the U.S. The students include Jorge Rios, who says three months ago he eagerly did the legwork necessary to get a J-1 visa, used for student work exchange.

With liberalization of economies and privatisation in the Middle East, business consultancy agencies had a major role to play in bridging the East Vs West business cultural etiquette & practice conundrum. In the Middle East, there is a great variation in business culture not only from nation to nation but also within countries too. Partnerships are based on mutual trust and principles.

Kris Kam, a 28-year-old advertising executive in Singapore, tells me, for example, that when his mother asked him to buy her a new smartphone, she requested a Samsung Galaxy S3 “just like the white one she saw in her favorite Korean drama, My Love, Madame Butterfly.”

They have, along with other of my colleagues, really embraced the whole idea of partnerships and understood that in the 21st century, diplomacy and development is not in any way confined to government-to-government relations. Those have to be tended, those have to be respected, those have to be nurtured and grown. But at the same time in this increasingly interconnected, networked world, we wanted to reach out people-to-people, to our NGOs, our faith communities, our private sector, and so much more.

On a recent MPD trip to Beijing, a research group focused on Corporate Diplomacy. We listened to Chinese corporate social responsibility (CSR) experts including practitioners from a state-owned enterprise (SOE), a corporate philanthropy magazine, and several public affairs firms, all of whom shared their thoughts on the different concepts of CSR that currently divide the East and the West.