Top international business magazine Fortune included Philippine mobile leader Smart Communications in its list of 50 companies around the world that are creating “important social impact”.
Smart placed 36th in Fortune’s second “Change the World” list, joining the ranks of global business giants like GlaxoSmithKline, Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Unilever. Smart is the only Philippine company and the only telco on the list.
The annual rankings aim to showcase the power of companies to improve the human condition by making an important social or environmental impact through their business strategy and operations.
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“The best businesses, of course, have always put purpose at the center of their strategies. But members of this new group realize that restoring public trust is essential to their long-term success. Increasingly, they are building intentional efforts to address social problems into the core of their business plans. It is these efforts that we highlight in our second annual Change the World list,” said Fortune Editor Alan Murray.
Smart was particularly cited for its Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (SWEEP), under which the company partners with colleges and universities to improve engineering and information technology education in the country. The program, which was launched in 2003, also aims to help schools produce industry-ready graduates and future technology entrepreneurs.
“We are honored to be included in this prestigious global list, and are happy that Fortune recognizes Filipinos’ efforts to use technology for development. We thank our partner-schools for working hand in hand with us to provide quality engineering and IT education to Filipino students. We hope that by doing so, we are encouraging and equipping them to create innovations that will improve the lives of our countrymen,” said Smart Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Improving IT, engineering education
Under SWEEP, Smart provides schools with up-to-date telecommunications equipment, as well as hands-on trainings, seminars, and internships. Smart also sits in annual curriculum reviews to provide inputs on industry trends, helping schools ensure that their course offerings are relevant.
To date, more than 30,000 teachers and students from all over the Philippines have directly benefitted from trainings organized by Smart. About 1,000 students from partner-schools have been hired into Smart’s technology group.
Innovations platform for students
In 2004, Smart launched the SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards, a competition encouraging students to create mobile and digital innovations that will help solve common problems. Student teams whose entries are deemed to have market potential are offered seed funding, mentoring, and the runway to convert their school projects into actual commercial products. Schools of teams that make it to the finals, in turn, receive grants that they use to set up Innovations Centers.
So far, Smart has received more than 1,000 entries from schools in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Some of these student projects have been turned into actual commercial products. An example is TimeFree, a finalist in the 2010 SWEEP Awards, which is now a startup offering a virtual queuing solution to businesses and government agencies.
The Fortune citation is not the first time for SWEEP to be recognized by an international organization. In December 2012, the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, published a case study citing SWEEP as an example of how operators could help address barriers in education.
“SWEEP has lasted for nine years,” the GSMA said then, “because it adds real value to both Smart and the partner schools, mainly through the investment in the continuing education programme.”
It added, “Young people have many new ideas ranging from simple yet practical to holistic and elegant. The key to harnessing them is to provide a ‘playground’ where they can express and develop their ideas freely, working as partners to come up with tangible and viable applications or solutions.”
More information on SWEEP and on Smart’s other corporate social responsibility programs can be found in the Smart Communities Facebook page.
Business strategy with social impact
In assembling the “Change the World” list, Fortune partnered with consulting firm FSG, global organization platform Shared Value Initiative, and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter to solicit and assess nominations.
A team of journalists from Fortune then conducted an investigation of each candidate. The final 50 were selected and ranked by Fortune editors.
The nominees were vetted and judged based on the following criteria – measurable social impact, business results, and degree of innovation.