Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Leveraging Social Responsibility to Unite the World - TEDxIITBHU Talk

I am happy to share my talk from the TEDxIITBHU, (my alma mater, in Varanasi, India) on April 7, 2013. 

I am privileged to be an IIT BHU alumnus.  I will be talking about “Leveraging Social Responsibility to Unite the World”. 

You can view my talk on a recorded video at: http://youtu.be/94kXi9WTl04

From the dawn of the civilization, per our Hindu mythology, the universe is guided by the Trinity; Destroyer - Mahadev, Creator - Brahma, and Sustainer - Vishnu. We are so fortunate to be in Varanasi, where the lord of the Universe, Mahadev has a permanent presence. 

Let me define Social Responsibility as managing the triple-bottom line; Profit, Planet, and People, the 3Ps. It also translates to the Economic, Environmental, and Social trinity. To effectively manage this trinity, there are International Standards; ISO 9001 for Economic, ISO 14001 for Environmental, and ISO 26000 for Social aspects. These standards provide assurance that organizations consistently follow International requirements and guidelines in the interest of commerce, environment, and the society.

I will discuss all three elements of the Trinity by connecting spirituality to reality through quality.  I will also share a 3P’s Action Model. 

  • The Agriculture Age started some 10,000 years ago and up until year 1800, the world relied mainly on animal and manual labor. With the perfection of the Steam Engine in the UK, the world was ushered into an Industrial Age. With machines taking over muscle power, the quality of life substantially improved, and the standard of living went up.
  • Then in 1947 three scientists at the AT&T Bell Laboratories invented the transistor leading the way for more advanced digital computers. And thus the world was ushered into the Information Age.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, military, governments, and other organizations had computer systems, and the Whole Earth Movement of the 1960s led to the inspiration and eventual creation of the World Wide Web released to the public in 1991.
  • However, all the economic progress over the years came with a price. Over the last two centuries, we have witnessed Colonization, human exploitation, and two World Wars.    
      Call to Action:
  • Let us look at the Harvard Business School which opened its door in 1908. Their initial mission was   to “educate leaders who make a decent profit - decently.” In the current time their mission has changed to "educate leaders who make a difference in the world." The organizational Accountability, Responsibility, and Transparency are critical to effectively manage global resources. 
  • Organizations should adopt ISO 9001 Standard for continuous improvement to derive economic benefits. Businesses play a unique role in improving quality of life through economic prosperity. As the President John F. Kennedy said “a rising tide lifts all boats”, the world needs visionary leadership to engage human capital, leading to economic prosperity for all.
  • Before the Industrial Age, life was simple and pure with a healthy lifestyle.
  • In the last two hundred years with the Industrial Age we created air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution. Also in the last 60 plus years, there is information pollution. We are on the path of destruction of our environment; just look at the release of greenhouse gases, melting of glaciers, and shrinking ozone layer resulting in climate changes.
  • In the early 1970s, the city of Los Angles was always under the cloud of smog due to auto emissions. As a result, new environmental laws were enacted in the US, and the State of California cleaned up its act. Now the Los Angeles is not the same.
  • Going forward, water will become a scarce resource. Watch out for water wars breaking out! Globally, around 1.1 billion out of 7 billion plus people on this crowded planet, do not have access to clean water.
  • During our recent trip to India in December 2012, we saw a pristine Ganges first in Rishikesh, then in Haridwar, then in Allahabad, and finally in Varanasi. Here not only the pilgrims but also buffalos take bath in the Ganges and pollute the river.
      Call to Action:
  • Paying a tribute to our famous alumnus, the late Prof. Veer Bhadra Mishra, we at IIT BHU need to initiate community service projects around the cleanup of Ganges. Remember the teaching of Swami Vivekananda “Arise, Awake, Stop not until the Goal is reached”. 
  • Organizations should adopt ISO 14001 Standard to keep the environment clean and safe resulting in healthier conditions.
  • Over the ages we have seen degradation of human interactions. In previous times, people nurtured others and cared for their neighbors and community. Migration to urban areas has created indifference. And fighting over limited resources, we see increasing hostility.
  • As a positive example, let us look at the country of Costa Rica. Since 1948, it has abolished its Armed Forces. Since they do not waste resources on defense, their budget for education is around 28% of GDP. They boast 96% literacy for citizens 15 years or older.
  • I want to share a personal example of social responsibility since 1989 by founding and leading the Blind Foundation for India (BFI) in the US. The BFI’s mission is to prevent and cure blindness and educate and rehabilitate permanently blind people in India. There are over 15 million blind people amounting to 1/3rd of the world’s blind population in India. There is an exponential impact of prevention; $1 in Vitamin A saves a child’s eyesight, resulting in a lifetime income of $100,000. For Cataract removal we can see another exponential impact in curing blindness. The cost of Cataract removal is $20 in India versus $4,000 in the US. Next weekend, please watch my talk on “Exponential Power of Gift of Giving” at the TEDxIIT Chicago on April 13, 2013.     
     Call to action:
  • We can take a page from the Emperor Ashoka, the only military monarch on record who abandoned warfare after victory. His universal message of Peace, Love, and Non-Violence is as relevant today, as it was during his time in 250 BC.
  • We need to maximize the spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and co-existence and minimize tendencies of competition, self-centricity, and divisiveness.
  • Organizations should use the ISO 26000 Standard to establish ethics, good governance, and promote universal understanding of Social Responsibility.
  • As we know we are all fellow travelers on this earth. Some came before us, and many more will follow us. What kind of legacy do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?
  • In the 21st Century we are dealing with a global economy. To unite the world and make it a better place, we need to leverage the power of businesses by strategically aligning their practices with standards of social responsibility. This will ensure better management of global resources, improving global labor practices, and creating sustainable economic development worldwide.
  • In a documentary the Journey of Man, Dr. Spencer Wells, a Geneticist concluded, “You, and I, in fact everyone all over the world, we are all literally African under the skin. Brothers and sisters separated by a mere 2,000 generations.”
  • Look at a miracle of sustainable development at the Hiware Bazar in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The village first focused on rain water harvesting which improved agriculture production. With economic prosperity they improved their schools and tackled sanitation, health and hygiene issues. As a result, out of 294 families they have 60 millionaires; only 3 families live below the poverty line. The per capita income, number of wells, and milk production improved dramatically. Over two decades, they have proven that looking after nature makes both economic and ecological sense. 
  • Let us all remember a verse from the Mahopnishad, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, “The world is a single family”
  • All of you at IIT BHU should acquire a great education, master soft skills, find your passion, and follow your dreams. Along the way identify a social cause close to your heart. We should uphold Malaviyaji’s ideals, the founder of this great institution, by serving the world with technical knowledge and accepting social responsibility for all sections of the society. We all have the power to effectively leverage economy, ecology, and society to unite the world.                        
It is our Social Responsibility to Unite the World!

The TEDxIITBHU talk official YouTube video will be available in about 3 weeks post 4-7-13 event.

I look forward to your views on Leveraging Social Responsibility to Unite the World. 

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