Alistair Nicholas's picture

Alistair Nicholas

Executive Vice President, Asia Pacific

Alistair is a citizen of the world – quite literally. He was born in Kenya of mixed heritage (Russian, German, Portugese, Indian and Irish), and he has lived in India, Australia, the US and China. Perhaps it was his early life in Kenya and India that shaped his interest in development issues and corporate social responsibility. But he has certainly been interested in the subject both at the strategic level and the executional level, even involving his family in such activities as tree planting in Sichuan Province, China, and planting grass to counter desertification in Inner Mongolia. Alistair’s career has covered journalism, academia, politics, diplomacy and in-house and agency corporate communication roles. Prior to moving to China, Alistair was Australia’s Trade Commissioner to the World Bank and United Nations, based in the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. Based in Beijing since 2000, Alistair has advised a range of multinational corporations on social responsibility strategies and programs for the Asian region. Alistair co-authored a book on the privatization of welfare services in Australia that argued that the private sector was better equipped to deliver welfare services than government. Alistair holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science from the University of New South Wales and a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Cornell University.


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Nov 8

CSR and ROI: Getting ROI on Doing Good

Alistair Nicholas

The following is an excerpt from Alistair Nicholas’s keynote speech at the 2012 Corporate Affairs Forum, organized by PublicAffairsAsia.

Three years after the start of the global financial crisis, with the US economy still clawing its way back to strength, with the Euro Zone balancing on the edge of a precipice, and with China and other Asian economies beginning to slow, pressure is mounting on all sides of a corporation to maximise returns.  
CSR campaigns are under pressure to provide returns on investment. But how do you get ROI on doing good? What do you measure?
In an environment that demands corporations have a meaningful impact on the world; and in a world where meaningful impacts are very expensive, we have to understand that efficiency and effectiveness are a must. 
And in our experience, effectiveness comes down to meaningful partnerships. 
The question for today’s CSR practitioners is: how do you strike the perfect partnership balance?  
A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review argues the solution lies in creating “shared value.”  
In the article, Michael E. Porter and Mark Kramer defined shared value as creating economic value that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. This “perfect triangle” brings tremendous benefits, enabling us to leverage synergies and enhance the efficient use of resources by eliminating the duplication of efforts between the private sector, government and NGO’s. At the same time it alleviates financial costs and creates constructive dialogues. 
Our job today is to prove that when implemented successfully the only way to get ROI is to think strategically, partner effectively and execute a winning triangle of shared value with partners.
Doing good is more than just the catch-cry of our times; it is an essential demand of business. And with social media, it is now a demand of consumers that must be heard. 


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