Responsible Business Leadership is an Evolving Story

December 7, 2017

On a recent visit to my son’s school, I passed a poster on the wall with the words “Everything You Need to Know About Stats” sprawled in bold letters across the top. There was a time early in my career when I might have taken one look at the word “statistics” and thought, “data can be so dull!” But it doesn’t have to be. I have seen that numbers can tell a compelling story.

Through a unique approach to research and data, Opportunity Nation – a campaign of cross-sector organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap – has developed a way to tell one of the most important national stories of our times: unequal access to opportunities to succeed. Its Opportunity Index assesses and ranks multiple key indicators related to jobs and the economy, education, and community health and civic life for every county in every state in the country (an “Opportunity Score”). The information is available publicly, presented in an interactive format available on the organization’s website. I encourage everyone to take a look and check out their own county and state; the results are captivating and concerning. Not a single state in the nation approaches a perfect score.

But the Opportunity Index stats wouldn’t tell a complete story without pointing to solutions, and the organization has created an extensive set of actionable program and advocacy goals based on the data. This focus on practical ways to address inequality and create systemic change is one of the many reasons PwC is proud to sponsor the just-released 2017 Opportunity Index. PwC’s purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems, and there may be no more critical or urgent problem in our society than wealth inequality and the opportunity gap.

For the 2017 Opportunity Index, a pro bono team of PwC professionals with demonstrated business acumen in AI (Artificial Intelligence) contributed analytics designed to measure new indicators of particular interest to the business community, including business diversity (the mix of industries and types of businesses in a given region), automation, skills, and growth. The new analyses will enable county-by-county comparisons, as well as business themes and issues reflected in the local media. The data sheds light on local business and workforce development needs, indicating where gaps in opportunity may be most pronounced and challenging. To do this work, our pro bono team brought together employees with experience in machine learning and natural language processing whose acumen was matched by their excitement about the project’s contribution to the Opportunity Index and potential to make a difference in local communities.

The collaboration with Opportunity Nation represents an important chapter in PwC’s story as well: the evolution from more traditional Corporate Responsibility programs to innovative Responsible Business Leadership (RBL) initiatives, with opportunities for employees to leverage their skills and proficiencies to contribute to local communities and broader efforts that can have a long-term impact. There may be no more powerful place to be, or a more meaningful way to find value in day-to-day tasks on the job, than realizing that your work can help an organization (a community agency, a nonprofit service provider, a school) build capacity, and, as a consequence, truly change the lives of the people it helps.

It is the responsibility of business to create sustainable change by providing the education, skills, and training communities will need to build and develop the workforce locally. I think of Responsible Business Leadership as a give and get approach, creating an entirely new cycle around the way we contribute to local communities. Creating a strategy for business success that simultaneously delivers societal impact is not merely a good thing for businesses to do, it’s essential.

Pro bono engagement in local communities is one of any number of ways to bring Responsible Business Leadership to life. At PwC, it’s part of a spectrum of new initiatives aimed at addressing gaps in access and opportunity with solutions designed to drive systemic change and create lasting impact. Not all of these projects are data driven, of course, but all of them connect to an urgent story that we must continue to pay attention to in order for communities to thrive.

The poster in my son’s school was certainly aimed at older students—he’s just a kindergartner. But it was a reminder that it’s important for all us to embrace the potential of statistics to help us make sense of the world, and in the case of Opportunity Nation, to bring humanity to the raw data. We are looking forward to hearing about how the 2017 Opportunity Index may help communities in assessing and addressing their workforce needs and in striving to close the opportunity gap.