By Jeff Senne
Psychologists have identified a number of characteristics that define resilient people. They are optimistic and altruistic, have a mission or find meaning in life, are guided by role models and have social supports. They face their fears and possess a strong moral compass. Resilient individuals recognize their strengths and develop active coping skills. It makes sense that many of these same traits may also define resilient communities: the skills, attitudes, and support systems that enable communities to endure and thrive, even in the face of change, adversity, or disadvantage.
Why should business leaders strive to understand these characteristics and concern themselves with the development of resilient communities? Because businesses do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in, and depend on, the world around them. For businesses to endure and thrive, communities must not fail. Communities must be resilient—adaptable, flexible, and vigorous. They need social supports, access, and opportunities. They must capitalize on their distinct and diverse strengths and continue to evolve new skills for coping and addressing the multiple challenges facing them today and in the future.
Perhaps the greatest threat to resiliency in our country is inequality. And because the U.S. exhibits wider disparities in access and opportunity across communities than most major developed nations, inequality also puts our nation’s overall economic growth at risk. Creating a strategy for business success that simultaneously delivers societal impact is not merely a good thing for businesses to do, it's fundamental. Whatever you choose to call such a strategy —at PwC we embrace the concept of Responsible Business Leadership (RBL)—engaging multiple stakeholders (business leaders, shareholders, employees, clients and customers, nonprofit organizations, local governments, and members of local communities) will be critical for moving forward toward real, positive change. Not surprisingly, psychologists tell us that close relationships with trusted people and organizations are essential for developing resiliency. To advance RBL initiatives, business leaders must inspire trust through empathy, transparency, credibility, and reliability.
We had the opportunity recently to share our perspective on the relationship between responsibility (RBL) and resiliency on local and global levels with thought leaders from across sectors at Verge 2017, an annual global conference that considers solutions at the intersection of technology and sustainability. Equality, as a part of a holistic resilience strategy, was a theme we heard echoed again and again throughout the event. We were pleased to learn about practical approaches with attainable goals to address different issues, such as equitable access to affordable energy and increasing housing in underrepresented communities.
At PwC, we are also developing programs with specific solutions to address foundational issues in our communities, including financial literacy and development of a technology-savvy workforce. Among them, Access Your Potential™ (AYP), a $320M, five-year commitment with a laser sharp focus on underserved communities with programs of training, mentoring, and access to resources to enable students to develop financial capability and learn the technology skills that are fast becoming essential life skills. AYP is Responsible Business Leadership in action, leveraging our firm’s purpose—to build trust in society and solve important problems—history of altruism, and our values, assets, and strengths to help build systemic change and support the development of resilient communities.
Community resilience is a complex challenge with unique local differences and significant global implications. Psychologists tell us that developing resilience comes from a focused effort—systematic and disciplined activity—attitude, and having contact with others who can be trusted. To create resilient communities, businesses must become trusted partners whose objectives and strategies represent a win-win for every stakeholder. Business strategies designed to close the gaps in access and opportunity are a necessary and responsible way to enhance resilience.