Tech For Good

When visionary companies like NTT work with social impact in mind, everyone wins A century ago, there were 500,000 rhinoceroses in the world. Today, there are fewer than one-tenth of that number, and almost all of them live in national parks and reserves to protect them from poachers. Such is the threat of poaching that it is feared rhinos could be extinct by 2025. Fortunately, technology offers a solution.

NTT together with Cisco has developed the Connected Conservation program. It installed a Wi-Fi network, infrared cameras, acoustic surveillance and electric fencing to deter and identify intruders on a private reserve in South Africa. Over the three years of the program, the number of rhinos poached at the reserve fell from 54 to zero, virtually eliminating poaching in this reserve. The program is now being extended to reserves across the African continent to protect rhinos and other endangered species..

Addressing social and environmental problems requires engagement and leadership from businesses if they are to grow. It’s no longer enough just to provide a service; the best companies of the future will offer a vision. Increasingly, clients expect it. Research shows that consumers will choose a brand with sustainable credentials over one without—and that they are willing to pay more.

NTT has incorporated SDGs into its social and governance policies, so they are at the heart of decision-making, not an afterthought. The company continually reviews its investments and measures result to ensure it has a positive impact. Contributing to sustainability is a significant commitment—and real progress is possible only if it is part of a company’s core values.

Look Beyond CSR

Contributing to society is not a new concept for NTT, the Japanese global technology and business solutions company—for over a century it has considered it a duty to serve the tax-paying public who supported it. When it was privatized in 1985, NTT maintained its sense of social purpose. Today, with over 300,000 employees across more than 80 countries and regions, the NTT group of companies understands its power to act in ways that significantly change the world for the better.

A senior executive of NTT Group explains the vision: “We need to look beyond the general definition of CSR [corporate social responsibility] and become a company that solves social issues. I want us to work as a partner with our clients and use our business activities to solve issues in society.” For example, NTT set up a website called Our Farmer, which allows 2,500 farmers from Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu, a rural region with high rates of poverty, to sell organic produce that lasts for a relatively long time to health-conscious consumers directly via mobile devices. The farmers can earn more for their products without relying on an intermediary.

Set your Priorities

For global companies, it is vital to clearly define priorities for contributing to social good, so that operating units and subsidiaries can work in concert, rather than in isolation.

NTT believes that information and communications technologies (ICT) can be significant contributors to achieving these targets.

That is why it developed a Social Responsibility Charter and decided to prioritize four critical areas in which technology can do good: Enrich Society; Protect the Environment; Safety and Security; and United NTT. It has also committed to contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a list of 17 global targets for 2030, announced in September 2016.

NTT has incorporated SDGs into its social and governance policies, so they are [...]

Actions, not words

Sean Pillot de Chenecey, author of The Post-Truth Business, says: “Businesses of all types finally realize that consumers are increasingly judging brands by how they actually behave, as opposed to the stories they tell. Brand credibility needs to be based on fact, not fiction, and the issue of sustainability is increasingly moving center-stage.” For its spokesman, NTT’s core values resonate with the idea of connecting for the good of society. “I want our mindset to be about connecting networks, people and companies, as well as connecting the present to the future. I want us to achieve that through services and actions based on shared values created by the sincerity of our people and our companies.”

Connect to succeed

Some skepticism about corporate commitments to improving society is understandable. For technology companies who want to instill a genuine culture of technology for good, they must have the engagement of the senior executive and, most importantly, measure themselves on their results.

The challenge, then, is not just changing the business to meet sustainability goals but finding links between what a company does and pressing social needs, both locally  and globally. Technology companies are well-positioned to play a meaningful role for good, and NTT’s belief that a company must have a social purpose, not just a business  one, could serve as a model for others around the globe.

Wall Street Journal Custom Content is a unit of The Wall Street Journal advertising department.

The Wall Street Journal news organization was not involved in the creation of this content.

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