This Week in Social Change

The Wakeman Agency’s “This Week in Social Change” feature takes a snapshot at high-impact headlines and happenings in the social-change space. We consistently mine the nonprofit and social-change landscape, assessing opportunities to learn from disruption in action, innovation in the works and even eye-opening missteps along the way.

More Generous Parental Leave Gains Traction

Leading tech, media corporations drive shift

In recent years, much has been made of the United States’ nearly exceptional status, but for an interesting reason: It’s counted among just a few nations (Papua New Guinea and Oman are our peers.) that don’t guarantee workers paid parental leave. But recently, a triumvirate of leading tech and media companies revitalized the national conversation about supporting parents and caregivers in the workplace when they made some major internal policy changes.

Netflix announced its decision to grant unlimited maternity or paternity leave to employees in its DVD division for the first year after having or adopting a child. Software firm Adobe Systems, Inc. soon followed Netflix’s lead, announcing that it, too, would begin offering more generous paid post-partum leave, more than doubling the amount of time off it grants new mothers from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This is in addition to the 16 weeks of paid leave it extends to all new parents and primary caregivers. And Microsoft Corp. followed suit, saying that fully paid leave for new parents would be increasing to 12 weeks.

These recent moves show how social change can be enacted and evangelized by corporations. Could this movement be an example of the “benefit corporation” concept in action, defined by The Center for Association Leadership as “providing social or environmental benefits while still showing a healthy bottom line”? How can such leadership on a corporate level begin to change the dialogue, and perceptions, between nonprofits, government and business in building a better world?

Coca-Cola-Backed Study Flares Cynicism

Industry-funded research draws criticism

The Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN)  recently released findings from its Coca-Cola-funded research study. GEBN, whose mission is to promote “healthier living through the science of energy balance,” focuses on promoting exercise to curtail the obesity epidemic and reduce diseases associated with inactivity.

Beyond questions about the science behind the GEBN’s mission, a few details have ruffled feathers and raised eyebrows. As reported in The New York Times, the GEBN website is registered to Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters, the company is listed as the site’s administrator, and Coca-Cola has “provided close to $4 million in funding for various projects to two of the organization’s founding members” since 2008.

All of this has fueled skepticism rooted in ideas about truth and transparency, with more than 1,200 comments published in response on The New York Times’ story. What do you think about the intersection of the private and nonprofit sectors? Can corporate and cause-oriented interests complement each other, with integrity, objectivity and honesty?

Share your comments on these recent happenings below. You can also see what others are saying about this and more on The Wakeman Agency Facebook page.

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