Portretfoto Ayse Saka-Helmhout horizontaal
Portretfoto Ayse Saka-Helmhout horizontaal

Multinationals can make a long-term impact with both moral and strategic intentions

Inequality in the world is on the rise. Research shows that people have less and less equal opportunities in terms of access to health, education, and job opportunities. Ayse Saka-Helmhout, Professor of Comparative Management at the Department of Business Administration, studied what multinationals are doing to address these challenges and what factors play a role in achieving long-term social impact. For example, Saka–Helmhout analyzed the partnership between the city government of Buenos Aires and Randstad Argentina; since 2018 they have been working together to improve employability and labor inclusion for residents in Barrio Mugica. An example that underscores the importance of multistakeholder initiatives in achieving long-term social impact.

Barrio Mugica, on the east side of Buenos Aires, is known to be a slum with great difficulties to access decent and formal jobs. Residents are likely to be stigmatized in job applications due to their location. Randstad works inside the barrio to help individuals with employability tools and training, such as interviewing techniques and formatting their resumes. In collaborating with the local government representatives, they support matching individuals with willing companies.

Saka-Helmhout: ‘Initially, there was hesitation from Randstad to get involved, because there was the stigma of low educational levels in the barrio. But when they saw statistics on barrio education levels from the local government, they were shocked: some of them were university graduates and more than fifty percent had high school degrees. Julieta Ferrero, Head of Public Affairs & Sustainability at Randstad and coordinator of the project: We found great talents that have had few chances to enter the formal world of work, mostly due to the vulnerable place they live in. Nowadays the barrio is part of the search and selection process of our branches in Buenos Aires. In 2022, we reached 80 people with our activities and 12 of them got a job.’

Portretfoto Ayse Saka-Helmhout

Multistakeholder initiatives

The example of Randstad underscores the importance of multistakeholder initiatives, says Saka-Helmhout. ‘The way to success is always via multiple pathways. The problem of inequality is very complicated, so a single entity cannot address this problem on its own. Especially in the Netherlands, we believe we need others with complementary skills or different views to achieve impact.’ Ferrero: ‘We believe that the project in Barrio Mugica is an example of how private and public articulation can make great change and impact on the living conditions of the inhabitants of the barrio. They need great support to be able to have real opportunities in the labor market and we are their link. The main difference between other initiatives is the commitment and work of the public sector to make it possible. They are doing an excellent job and the private sector is an ally to success.’

The best way for multinationals to have long-term success? Saka–Helmhout: ‘I would say there isn’t one best way. There are different influences that work together in combination. What’s important is that multinationals have both moral and strategic intentions; so that they’re not only there to make money, but also have the ethical duty to give back to society.’

Portretfoto Juliette FdM

Making a real impact

Ferrero: ‘I think that it is really important to define what impact means nowadays. For me, making a real impact is to help others in changing their current situation, to improve it, and make it better. That’s a personal change of course, but in these cases, it depends a lot on the support of others to achieve it. As representatives of the private sector, we can do a lot to improve other’s living conditions. Our power to transform realities is huge.’

Saka–Helmhout: ‘We all have a part to play, also the multinationals. They have such a huge influence on host governments because they literally face these challenges when they do business in neighborhoods like this. They would lose an opportunity if they wouldn't take responsibility and be the very first ones to make a change.’

Text: Annette Zonnenberg

Photo: Duncan de Fey

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