For our latest Contributor Recommends feature, we spoke to Jo Westhead, International Head of Philanthropy at BNY Mellon. Jo is a highly experienced corporate responsibility expert with a 15+ year track record of designing and leading high impact programmes that support both community and strategic commercial objectives. She’s passionate about inspiring key decision makers to reflect on their organsiational purpose and offer innovative, authentic and sustainable CR programmes.
“I’ve watched and read a number of interesting and thought-provoking articles and videos that I wanted to share. Firstly, various YouTube clips of Anand Giridharadas talking about his book ‘Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World’. Deliberately provocative, Anand explains how the pursuit of social justice coupled with elite generosity is not only extraordinarily complicated but is a systematic way of keeping ‘winners on top’. Citing elite hoarding and ‘central conceit’ , he talks about the false notion of a win/win reference to community initiatives supported by corporates and elite philanthropists, expressing that it’s simply part of a cruel system and that ‘generosity is the wing man of injustice’. As an optimist, I prefer to veer away from bleak views but the book does raise important views that we can all grapple with, even if it’s just to help us prepare for the cynics, something many of us do when managing a diverse range of stakeholders.
Anand’s reference to companies needing to look at their purpose leads neatly to a timely announcement from the Business Roundtable in August 2019 stating that CEOs of nearly 200 companies say shareholder value is no longer their main objective – emphasising corporate purpose as key for long term success and sustainability.
As an aside, I’d also like to recommend two books on productivity – a topic that affects all of us. ‘Daily Inbox Zero: 9 Proven Steps to Eliminate Email Overload’ by S.J. Scott offers practical suggestions for managing your inbox smartly and how to avoid it creeping back. Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy is great for reminding ourselves about the value of tackling the most tricky and challenging pieces of work first each day. I’ve re-read both books several times and confess these habits are still a work in progress but when I do follow the guidance, I feel satisfied and rewarded. Ultimately, the more productive we can be as experts in our field, regardless of our level of experience or specific role, the greater our community and societal impact.”