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Big Is Good

Big Is Good

By Allan Freeth
Chief Executive Officer

For a country that is so small, I have always been bemused by the view in New Zealand that ‘big’ business is bad, and the bigger it is the worse it must be.

Big does not mean bad. It simply means capability and resources.

Business occupies a unique part of any nation and its economy. It is the only human activity that creates wealth. With that ability comes responsibility – legal and moral – to shareholders, staff, customers and communities.

Telecommunications is certainly a big business, and an essential part of the modern world.

And although at TelstraClear our primary task is to connect people, we endeavour to do this in ways that make their lives better, richer, and more productive.

Corporate social responsibility, or whatever fancy name you care to give it, is a set of activities that provide tangible proof of the benefit that big businesses bring to the fabric of society.

It’s one of the ways in which we look to support the communities that support us.

The CSR goal, as Wikipedia describes it, is to embrace responsibility for a company’s actions and, through its activities, encourage a positive impact on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders, and all other members of the public sphere.

TelstraClear has a long history of addressing community needs, much of it focuses on children, youth and families – and is carried out under the radar. Yes, we do have high-profile sponsorships, such as our recently-announced support of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, our long-held ties with Te Papa and, more recently, Auckland’s TelstraClear Bicycle Challenge.

But we also provide substantial assistance to important organisations that include Lifeline, Save the Children, Crimestoppers New Zealand and the Salvation Army. Add to this our support for SuperClubsPLUS - a social networking tool that helps six to 12-year-olds learn how to stay safe online as they progress into the open world of Facebook and other social media.

Protecting children in the online environment is a natural progression from the decision we made back in 2005 to remove adult content from our TV lineup, and our early adoption of the Department of Internal Affairs' filter policy, which blocks access to known child abuse sites.

More recently our BANDS 4 HOPE project, which we instigated with support from NZPost, has enabled New Zealanders around the world to do their bit for Christchurch and together raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the people of that city.

While we enjoy the recognition and positive customer feedback on our involvement in these initiatives, the effort and cost far outweigh any above-the-line return.

And that’s as it should be.

Being a good corporate citizen is not about boosting our profit margins. It’s about doing the right thing, making decisions based on social purpose, to do what’s best for all.

Our social purpose is to use technology to improve people’s lives, and to create a positive environment for New Zealand children and youth, through innovation, safety and education.

Our work is matched by the long history Telecom has had in assisting and building communities, the work of the Vodafone Foundation in youth, and the contributions that many in the industry make in terms of sponsorships and other support.

I’m very proud to be part of an industry that takes its community responsibilities seriously.

Telecommunications is an essential part of the modern world. Telecommunications is big business.

It’s time New Zealanders valued businesses for what they achieve for our nation, and wished that far more of them were big.

Countries and societies that prosper respect the role that businesses play in creating wealth, and building communities and countries.

In my view, such a society believes in the value of competition, and the tenets of capitalism in a healthy and working socially-based democracy.

Allan Freeth
Chief Executive Officer

© Scoop Media

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