Contributor Recommends: The why and how of effective altruism

For this month’s Contributor Recommends, we spoke to Kate Hursthouse, Senior Corporate Responsibility Manager at Slaughter and May.  With over 12 years’ experience in the world of corporate responsibility, Kate leads the community and pro bono programme at Slaughter and May, an international law firm. Kate sits on the firm’s Women’s Committee and her external appointments include being on the Business Advisory Panel for Heart of the City and the Reference Group for BIG Alliance. 

Kate recommends Peter Singer’s TED Talk, ‘The why and how of effective altruism‘. 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the volume of social causes and charitable campaigns that flow through to a CSR team, all with convincing cases about the difference that your funding would make. But this TED Talk by philosopher Peter Singer will make you think differently about your giving, both corporate and personal.

I warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted. You might find the first few minutes upsetting, but get past the video and Singer’s argument for how to save the most lives with your money is a compelling one.

The answer is not sexy, nor something employees might relate to, (spoiler alert: mosquito nets and de-worming programmes) so it’s unlikely to radicalise your CSR strategy. However, it prompts us to assess whether we have an accurate picture of the difference our funding is making, and to strive to deepen that impact.

I was recently talking to a bright undergraduate who was on a work experience scheme at the firm. She confessed she wasn’t sure if being a lawyer was for her as she was more interested in working in front line services in the charity sector. Singer uses cases studies from several individuals to bring his arguments to life and I called upon one of these when I shared my thoughts… Might it be better to go into a high paying, professional career where, compared to a lower paid third sector role, you can make large, regular donations to the causes you care about? Not only that, but you can literally change lives with your valuable legal skills by volunteering at a law centre outside of the day job.

The video is only 17 minutes long, just the right length to watch over a cup of tea and a biscuit. It has certainly made me think about my own personal giving and the causes that I support.

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