Changing the Image of the “Corporation”

I placed “Corporation” in qutation marks as I am speaking about the undefined, theoretical entity rather than a specific corporation. The film and book The Corporation presented a fascinating look into the history of “the dominant institution of our time“, however I still feel as though it did a poor job of identifying why people feel so negatively about business – big business in particular.

For example, you hear people talk about “the man” and about how proud they are of how little work they do at work (I know, I’ve been there too :P) and it saddens me, especially when I see the effects of good corporate citizenship around me. Today I finished the accountablity review with the University of Waterloo office of Alumni Affairs on a project we did together, and while I was waiting in the foyer, I picked up a copy of the 2004/2005 Donors Report. I was astonished to learn that in that year, there were $55 million in donations collected, which includes an amazing list of corporate donations. Although yes, donations only represent 2% of the annual income, I was still impressed with the level of corporate donations.

I don’t think this is highlighted enough. It’s frustrating, as I too feel that corporate citizenship isn’t celebrated nearly enough. Ironically enough, during an event I attended, the CEO of another local web development company indicated similar sentiments and was immediately set upon. It’s funny?- it’s as though a corporation is expected to give, but at the same time is expected to be reviled by the public. It’s a frustrating position to be in.

Thinking about this today, I realized that it’s not the Corporation’s fault, not the charitable sector’s fault; a Corporation can’t be expected to shell out tonnes of money in donation, AND shell out tonnes of money in marketing to advertise the fact and a chartiable organization can’t be expected to spend a large amount of their budget advertising their donors – rather it’s an issue of public perception, and I truly believe that the organization best suited to changing public perception is the government.

In Canada, we have Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies, we also have 50 Best Employers in Canada, and we even have the Globe & Mail 50 Largest Employers. All these awards celebrate what Corporations are reviled for – being good businesses. What I’d like to see – and what I think the public would like to see – is something like Canada’s 50 Best Corporate Citizens. Something perhaps taking a combination of awarness, support for students & other groups, donations and internal programs. THAT would be something to be proud off. By celebrating the good businesses are doing for the general public, we can perhaps allow businesses in this country to actually flourish.


VP HCM Products at NetSuite and Founder of TribeHR and Lewis Media. Waterloo Region Enthusiast and active volunteer.

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