I have admired Maria Eitel since I met and interviewed her at last year's CGI. Talking with her again this year reminded me why. Imagine that just a few years ago, she was asked to create a purpose and a plan for the Nike Foundation. What she presented to the Nike Board of Directors was The Girl Effect— the idea that when you invest in girls, you change the world. Eitel explains: "A girl is the mother of every child who is born into poverty, and a girl will determine the future of the next generation. The Girl Effect: you don't just transform her life, but the family's, the community's, the nation's."
As you saw in my Genzyme and Goldman Sachs posts from CGI, and previous posts on firms like Clifford Chance, these are the innovators that identify needs and opportunities. They also consider the resources they can offer to make a meaningful contribution, and build a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy that's aligned with the corporate mission. They envision the greater potential for the community and the world, and how their company can help make it possible in a way that makes sense for the business.
Find me a company with a robust, sustainable, and high impact CSR initiative, and I'll bet the CEO can tell you how and why the board supports the program—and why it makes sense to shareholders. Nike board member Jill K. Conway, former President of Smith College, and former board member Michael A. Spence, Nobel Prize winner in Economics in 2001 and Professor at Harvard University, led the way in supporting Eitel's proposal for The Girl Effect when she made her proposal. Eitel recalls how Spence declared that this initiative was the "smartest economic contribution that we could make as a foundation."
Just a few years later, Nike and Eitel are recognized as leaders at the forefront of one of the most prominent global movements by Muhammad Yunus and former President Bill Clinton. Eitel's partners and collaborators in helping girls and women include Peter and Jennifer Buffett, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, and The World Bank Group, among others.