• United States
News Editor

‘Compassionate capitalism’ isn’t an oxymoron

Feb 16, 20044 mins
Cisco SystemsMicrosoftWi-Fi

Book provides impressive case studies and best practices from BEA Systems, Cisco, Hasbro and Timberland for fostering effective corporate philanthropy.

That warning about judging book covers goes for book titles, too, which might be all that prevented my review copy of Compassionate Capitalism from hitting the circular file before I read the jacket notes. Although I’m told no connection was intended, the similarity between this title and President Bush’s utterly Orwellian “compassionate conservatism” will likely turn off more than a few.

Pity, too, because the authors of Compassionate Capitalism – CEO Marc Benioff and journalist Karen Southwick – apparently do have their hearts and minds in the right place. The book provides impressive case studies and best practices from BEA Systems, Cisco, Hasbro and Timberland for fostering effective corporate philanthropy.

While those companies are long-established household names, the authors stress the importance of instilling a philanthropic culture and structure early in a company’s development. Among the recommendations: Set aside a specific amount of equity charitable work – say 1% – from the get-go. (In fact, the book was originally going to be called The 1% Solution.)

The book has been well received, says Suzanne DiBianca, director of the Foundation.

“We’ve been getting a lot of reaction from the entrepreneurial community, which is exactly the audience we want to reach,” DiBianca says. “We want them to know that not only is this a good thing to do, but it’s an easy thing to do.”

A few tidbits about the’s own philanthropic effort provided by DiBianca illustrate the company’s level of commitment: Workers are granted six paid workdays per year to perform their good deeds. About six in 10 actually use the time, while 85% contribute in some form or another.

And the Foundation employs eight full-time staffers to facilitate the charitable undertakings of a workforce that numbers only about 400. intends to go public soon, which raises the question of whether potential investors truly value corporate philanthropy when it comes time to pony up. DiBianca says the company has received zero push-back from the financial world, and nothing but positive feedback from employees and job candidates.

Cynics will suggest that corporate philanthropy is almost always driven by strategic considerations and public-relations concerns. I’m a cynic, but let’s be charitable today: There’s a lot to like in Compassionate Capitalism.

Microsoft is spoiling my fun

Microsoft recently released a plug-in for Office 2003/XP that certainly will be appreciated by customers . . . and just as certainly be lamented by those of us who enjoy reading stuff we’re not supposed to read.

The plug-in, called Remove Hidden Data, gives Word, Excel and PowerPoint users a single-step method of cleansing a document of “hidden” notations before the document is distributed beyond its original author and anyone else who might have had a hand in its alteration. The previous method of purging such comments was apparently considered more difficult than getting crayon off a painted wall. As a result, it hasn’t been uncommon to find hidden notes in documents even after they have been distributed beyond the authoring group.

My favorite example was a press release sent here by Groove Networks, the collaboration software company founded by Lotus Notes inventor Ray Ozzie. While details of the release have escaped my memory – and the document itself is not to be found on my machine – I do recall reading its hidden comments with fly-on-the-wall pleasure. Several of them were from a certain “Ray.”

The gist of those comments: Changes were needed in the verbiage so as to ensure that Groove’s plans weren’t seen as treading on the toes of a major partner/investor. That major partner/investor? Microsoft.