Google’s Impact Challenge: Another step towards corporate social responsibility?

Google has launched another of its entrepreneurial and non profit competitions today in the UK. The Google Impact Challenge is aimed at using technology to improve the lives of those in society – to provide:

“a better world, faster.”

The aim of the project is to establish 4 different projects from around the UK that will use technology to benefit and  “transform” the lives of people around the world.bernersCUT_2512840b Google has on offer over £500,000 to four organisations as well as access to the latest Google software and technological support to make their project a reality. The successful projects will be selected in June by judges including: Sir Richard Branson (the founder of the Virgin group), Sir Tim Berners-Lee (Inventor of the World wide web) and Jilly Forster  (of Forster Communications).

Previously Google has initiated projects on a global scale – but this is the first time that it has been country specific. Google showcased last year at the Impact Awards the true power of technology if put to the test. Projects such as the applying barcode’s to DNA to track endangered animals and the use of mobile phones to empower people in developing countries has in Google’s eyes: “set benchmarks” for countries world wide. Tim Berners-Lee, British engineer who founded the world wide web, will be sat on the judging panel and shown his approval of such a project in the last few days:

“The Web’s contribution to economic progress has been much celebrated, but I believe that we are only scratching the surface of its potential to solve social and political problems. I’m delighted to join Google in this exciting and innovative initiative.”

This latest announcement by Google is not uncommon – the multi billion dollar company has previously established projects to provide opportunities to innovate among smaller non profit groups. This step towards social concern and further impact globally in giant companies is a rather new idea. Only several decades ago had companies not really cared about the conditions of their employees – the aim of the game was to make money and increase profits. But in attempts to do so companies alienated employees and often crumbled their working morale. As well as demoralising employees they also did not consider the footprint they may leave behind when considering resources and renewable source. Nowadays companies have to be weary of their employees – and the resources they consume in the world. Businesses and organisations now have a social responsibility to society and those who live within it. Google has demonstrated that it is working towards becoming a more socially responsible company, it holds a great amount of power – with a profit of $10.74  billion the company could help solve most of the economical issues surrounding countries today.

csrTaken from a great film “with great power comes great responsibility” – and Google and the like do hold a great amount of power. But do they do enough? OK – Google has made several attempts to utilise some of their power for good by supporting innovators and promoting new uses of technology – but this has not directly led to the improvement of peoples lives. Others in the technology industry must take a leaf out of Google’s book but adopt a more practical and direct route to improving their social footprint.  Apple has made an active step towards amending their environmental footprint – they recently announced that the companies total energy usage is 75% renewable.

Companies must move forward in improving employee conditions and rerouting their profits back into the society that has made them what they are. After all with out society they would not exist – these companies are small in number but combined hold more power and money than the governments and the rest of society put together! Google has used its resources in previous years to help in the aftermath of events such as the Haiti and Japanese earthquakes providing ‘People Search’ and up to date information online. Google is an example of a company that is making a concerted effort to become socially responsible. But as I mentioned more can be done.

As long as these companies remain to have their gross market dominance and extensive wealth they should remain to think beyond the income margins and consider the bigger picture. Projects such as the impact challenge promote socially responsible thinking – but companies must initiate a series of sustainable developments to ensure that society can continue to develop and thrive. Without development of society we face the threat of a broken society – and with the majority of power held by the few – these bodies can no longer ignore the responsibility they should confront.

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