How companies profit by solving global problems

Leading multinational corporations are learning that by finding solutions to the world's greatest challenges, they can reduce costs, mitigate risks and increase profits.

In my new book, "A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Finding Solutions to Global Problems … Where Governments Cannot," I contend that only global companies have the vast resources, international footprint and financial incentives to create transformational progress to address poverty and income inequality, climate change, education, healthcare and human rights, among other things. In researching companies that lead the way in global problem solving, I observed three important success factors:

• Effective corporate board governance
• Stakeholder engagement
Collaboration with other companies and nonprofits

The most effective way to strengthen your corporation's board governance, engage with stakeholders and build collaborations is to involve your executives and professionals on nonprofit boards. This requires strategic training, preparing and matching your company's executives and professionals to nonprofit boards to address issues that matter to the company and the world. In my experience in training and placing several hundred business executives on global, national and regional nonprofit boards and coaching board officers I've observed that many parties benefit.

Business executives who serve on nonprofit boards, for example, develop valuable leadership and strategic skills for their business roles, while also gaining knowledge of social, economic and environmental issues that are relevant to their companies.

Companies engage more deeply and productively in the community, including through new relationships with governments, while growing their leaders. Stakeholder engagement facilitates the ties that form the basis for successful and profitable business ventures.

Nonprofits also gain the talents of business people and company resources, thereby becoming more effective in achieving their social, economic and environmental missions.

And finally, communities improve when nonprofit boards are more effective. Stronger communities translate to a viable workforce, a vibrant consumer base and sustainable resources.

Companies that seek to maximize the value of their board-matching programs need to do so just as strategically as they approach all other business initiatives. There are a few key steps.

1. Create a board-matching program mission, vision and strategy that will advance and support the company's greater purpose and priority goals, with clear objectives that will be measured and assessed on a regular basis.

2. Set a budget to support the board-matching program, including guidelines for the company or its foundation to make financial contributions to nonprofits where its executives and professional serve.

3. Provide high quality, interactive training and preparation for executives and professionals who serve on boards to ensure that their experiences are productive and rewarding.

4. Offer board training for nonprofit boards where the company's executives and professionals serve, so that they are functioning optimally.

5. Ensure that the board matches achieve all of the possible benefits including providing a positive experience for the board member, adding value to the nonprofit and the community, and achieving the company's purposes.

Defeating poverty, mitigating the pace of climate change and advancing education, healthcare and human rights are ambitious goals. National governments do not have the authority and resources to address global problems, nor has the international community achieved binding and actionable agreements to provide adequate responses. Only multinational corporations have the might, profit motivation, worldwide influence and the long-term wherewithal to accomplish these purposes. Furthermore, businesses that are leading the way are showing that innovating solutions to social, environmental, and economic challenges can be profitable.

Through effective nonprofit board-matching programs, global corporations can further advance their interests in solving global problems by developing better leaders for their companies and the world.

Drought image by Pacopi via Shutterstock.