As Microsoft’s Worldwide General Manager for Enterprise Sales, Edouard Montier travelled for business to some of the poorest countries in South America and Southeast Asia. The French native did something that not all executives do on business trips - he went out and visited some of the most deprived areas in order to have a first-hand glimpse of the conditions there. These experiences played a role in Montier’s decision to give up his position at Microsoft and instead dedicate his time to giving back to society through social entrepreneurship.
“I have been blessed in my life, but there is a price to pay for everything,” stated Montier. “I had to make sacrifices as a father, a husband and even personally as a human being. I got to the point when I said to myself ‘enough’. My family and I had all we needed and had developed according to society’s standards. I wanted to connect to the needs of the majority of impoverished people from around the world.”
Thus, Montier established a consulting practice to earn his living as well as a foundation for social entrepreneurship - www.entrepreneurs-solidaires.ch/ - which would serve as a platform for those excluded from development. Montier does not receive any salary for his work with the foundation and he pays for all administrative and financial expenses. A network of pro bono corporate partners provide free logistic, marketing, fiscal and communication services as well as aid in the form of medications, medical supplies, food and educational resources to the world’s most deprived areas. As of March 2008, Montier has been an Executive in Residence at IMD, researching the role of social responsibility in a business school and offering his insights to various classes at IMD.
“Something extremely strong is happening in our divided world,” stated Montier, who has also held executive-level roles with Oracle and Cap Gemini in France. “We have created a profoundly inequitable world in which for the benefits of fewer and fewer, more and more multitudes are excluded. Something must change or it will break. It will not continue without potentially devastating consequences. I am here to serve as a catalyst at IMD to bring about a new generation of leaders.”
Montier is exploring the tension that exists between companies pursuing their own development vis-à-vis the development of others. Also essential in Montier’s estimation is the necessity for synchronization between the tongue (respecting human dignity), the hand (business responsibility) and the heart (contributing to people’s development).
His research thus far has focused on companies developing a catalyst approach to corporate responsibility, which means that responsibility is a corporate initiative behavior, is mandatory, continual and unified in approach. This is in stark contrast to the context approach in which responsibility is optional and based on individual initiatives, is discontinuous and heterogeneous. The catalyst approach leads to greater stability, while context is the recipe for volatility.
Montier is calling for action – not anymore statistical reports – and he is doing more than lip-service to this notion, as evidenced by his own deeds.
“There have been 18 development reports since 1989 with over one million data points. We could spend all our time reading, but I think we have reached the point where we all know that something needs to be done. Everyone knows there is a problem. This is not an issue affecting a specific ethnicity, culture or religion. This is affecting all of humanity and we need to stand up for the value of all human beings. We have to change our definition of responsible leadership and our vision of the responsibility of business. Something must change in terms of how we regard people, the poorest in particular. The business community has a critical role to play. Business is more than just economical growth and making profits. Business needs to be social and environmental as well, addressing the problems facing our world.”