Jenny Melo

Telefonica and Inclusive Businesses: Interview with Alberto Andreu

Editor’s Note: This post was first published in NextBillion Español. The original version, in Spanish, can be found here.

Many organizations around the world are dabbling in various ways in initiatives related to inclusive businesses, social entrepreneurship, and social innovations. The challenges they face are diverse and cover a wide range of topics that include the definition of the orientation, scope, process of forming partnerships, funding, and adjustments in the organizational structure, among many others.

Telefónica is a company that has focused strategically on these topics. To find out more about their approach, we had the opportunity to interview Alberto Andreu, Director of Corporate Reputation and Sustainability.

NextBillion Español: Many companies worldwide are venturing into inclusive businesses. How does Telefónica define inclusive businesses? How has your experience been developing initiatives in this field?

Andreu: To us, social innovation consists of promoting and supporting new ideas (products, services, and models) that simultaneously satisfy social needs and create new business opportunities. These businesses are inclusive to the extent that they help groups at risk of exclusion to integrate into society, to improve their quality of life…

Our challenge is moving from social inclusion based on donations of money or technology to social innovation. Our challenge is twofold: on one hand, the resources, capacities, and typical business solutions can also have a positive impact on groups at risk of exclusion (mainly people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, people in the base of the pyramid or of less purchasing power…); on the other hand, some of our projects of high social impact of reference can become facilitators to opening new growth engines, either by creating relational capital, or by acting as seed capital for future developments. In this graph you can see a summary of the Telefónica Initiatives in 2010.

NextBillion Español: What is your approach, who do you work with, and in which parts of the world?

Andreu: Telefónica has much to offer in this regard because where there is ICT (Information and Communications Technology), there is progress. For example, the quality and sustainability of education or health passes through solutions based on new technologies. Moreover, people without access to financial services, who live in remote areas or are older or have disabilities, find great advantages in ICT services. Hence we have seen that ICT can help the most disadvantaged groups thanks to the impact of five areas:

1. Rural areas, where with existing infrastructure, we can go further by means of public-private partnerships, especially Latin America;

2. Financing, to offer ICT solutions through mobiles in order to enable new ways of funding availability or control of accounts to promote financial inclusion in some countries;

3. Education, to develop programs that improve the technological skills of groups like minors, students, seniors, and low-income populations in Spain, Europe, and Latin America;

4. Health, to foster ICT solutions and services within the health sector, to help people with chronic illnesses or elderly people who require special attention to increase safety and confidence in their life;

5. Disability, to develop accessible ICT solutions and services suited to the needs of disabled people in European countries.

NextBillion Español: In 2010, Telefónica created a Department of Social Innovation and Inclusive Businesses. Why a department on this topic?

Andreu: We created the Department because we were certain that it could maintain our leadership in corporate sustainability. Today, in the telco industry, we lead DJSI (Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes) and CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project); for years we have been in FTSE4Good and in Fortune Magazine’s Most Admired Companies, and in addition to leading our industry, we are at the head of the corporate responsibility category.

This unit aims to help reinforce this leadership because we send a clear message: our sector can help the social development of countries and improve people’s lives.

NextBillion Español: Who works in management and what are their profiles?

Andreu: We have people in the main countries where we operate and their profiles are multidisciplinary training and diverse experience in Economics, Innovation, Telecommunications, CSR…; and a very transversal vision.

Nextbillion Español: Finally, from your experience in management, what are the organizational challenges that those engaging in inclusive businesses face?

Andreu: We have big challenges: internally, our first challenge is working in a very transverse way within the organization, with business areas, with vertical innovation, with innovation, with the Telefónica Foundation. We believe that we can help find a common position with a myriad of initiatives and projects that have enormous social impact that today, perhaps we aren’t taking full advantage of. Internally we also manage the Telefónica Ability Awards, where we have created an ecosystem around disabilities that can help us to promote projects aimed at this group.

Externally, we have two challenges. On one hand, strengthening collaborative ecosystems with the key actors in social innovation and making all of the ecosystems available to the operative units that manage social impact projects, such as e-health or the Wayra platform. On the other hand, we are looking for funding opportunities for European projects to make them available to the operative units. Ultimately, this unit is intended as a “proxy” of internal and external facilitation, something more than useful in a company as big as ours.

Please like NextBillion on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and/or join our LinkedIn group.

corporate social responsibility, financial inclusion