By Alan Murray and David Meyer
June 11, 2019

Good morning.

It’s become fashionable to be cynical about companies claiming to do good in the world. My colleague Adam Lashinsky provided a demonstration yesterday in this post on Data Sheet, in which he suggested most business leaders merely ‘pay lip service’ to the desire to change the world. He touted author Anand Giridharadas, who is building a career off attacking corporate do-goodism.

But speaking at the Fortune CEO Initiative last night, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty offered a clear rejoinder to the cynics. She talked about the decision her company made seven years ago to start an effort to train disadvantaged youth for technology jobs, called P-Tech. It wasn’t charity or even corporate responsibility that drove IBM to do it, she said. Instead it was a realization that the company needed an influx of new tech talent to manage the rapid changes ahead. Since then, P-tech has served 125,000 students through 200 schools in 14 countries. Rometty says some 500 other companies have now joined IBM in the effort. It‘s not just because they have a heart; it’s because they have a clear-eyed focus on the long term interest of their companies. In the long term, corporate interest and societal interest tend to converge.

Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, made a similar point earlier in the day, explaining why his company had devoted company funds to combatting housing issues. “You can’t have a healthy company if you don’t have a healthy community,” he said. It’s not just doing good; it’s good business.

Speaking of community, Adam will be interviewing Raghuram Rajan at the CEO Initiative first thing tomorrow morning. Rajan is the former chief economist of the IMF who argues community is The Third Pillar (the title of his book) that has been forgotten in the political struggle between the state and the marketplace. A stronger sense of community, he argues, is key to restoring sanity to our society.

More from the Initiative tomorrow. Other news below.

Alan Murray


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