If there’s an opportunity for Drake grads to improve the world, they take it. Always.
By Alex Freeman
Matt Clark is a Drake graduate helping corporations find ways to make the world a better place. As the Senior Global Engagement Manager at Pyxera Global, Clark manages development project portfolios for some of the world’s biggest Fortune 500 companies and financial institutions. He and his team have partnered with John Deere to inspire leadership in Brazil and Tanzania; spurred sustainable agriculture in northern Nigeria; and worked with PepsiCo to formulate a new volunteer branch for Pepsi employees called PepsiCorps, which spans around the globe.
Clark and the rest of the Pyxera team are a vehicle for corporations to help develop communities in the most destitute corners of the earth.
But PepsiCo, Dow Chemical, John Deere, are corporations– and corporations just want to make money. Right?
Today, though, consumers and investors expect more of corporations than in the past. Multinational Corporations (MNCs) can no longer be profit-churning, capitalist puritans and expect investors and consumers not to notice. Some corporations are leading the charge in vital development initiatives and philanthropic endeavors simply to keep pace with the demands of shareholders who consider themselves “moral investors” and a consumer base that demands exemplary ethical accountability from corporate HQs.
The term for what Clark is helping these corporations achieve is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Some corporations are severely lacking in CSR. In Bangladesh alone, 3.5 million people work in sweatshops and garment factories, many of which are operated or contracted by major MNCs. Americans consume much of what these workers churn out, despite the often unsavory conditions in which the products are produced.
Clark and his team at Pyxera understand that many corporations are not doing enough to help the communities in which they do business develop and prosper. He challenges them to step up and get with the times. Milton Friedman was wrong when he said corporations are only charged with the task of returning profits to shareholders, Clark asserted to a group of Drake students seated in Pyxera’s HQ in Washington, D.C. He posited that the role of everyone today is to be what Pyxera calls “citizen diplomats.”
The concept that every global citizen has the right, even the responsibility, to engage across cultures and create shared understanding through meaningful person-to-person interactions. Citizen diplomacy is recognized as a powerful force in building and sustaining a secure, economically sound, and socially interconnected world.
You read correctly. Pyxera claims that corporations and citizens can improve economic soundness by becoming citizen diplomats—and make their companies more successful simultaneously. As we established, traditionally, success to a corporation means making more money and profits for shareholders, plain and simple. How can CSR in the form of citizen diplomacy do this? Clark says corporations see higher retention rates when they fund citizen diplomacy for their employees. Their workers are more engaged, more productive, and more aware of the global climates in which they do business. This is good for their “bottom line” Clark said. There’s lots of data out there to back him up.
Pyxera’s mission is laudable. So are the missions of the thousands of non-profits, non-governmental organizations, and state-based organizations devoted to helping the world’s poorest. Yet they still have plenty of work to do and plenty of problems and quandaries to address.
I suppose if one thing is certain, though, it is that many of the people who solve these development problems alongside CSR pioneers will be Drake graduates who, like Matt Clark, are committed to global service and citizen diplomacy.