Thinking Globally

As an Ivey student, I often reflect on whether Ivey’s stated mission is being fulfilled in my education. Although Ivey has set out to “develop business leaders who think globally, act strategically, and contribute to the societies in which they operate”, I believe that Ivey cases can only teach so much, and students therefore have a large responsibility to ensure they develop in a way that meets our school’s goal.

One of the pillars of this mandate is thinking globally. Combining the constant tug-of-war between nationalism and globalization with the ever-increasing impact of the Global North on the Global South[1], being a “global thinker” is now, more than ever, essential to sustainable and ethical business leadership. However, in order to really understand the global stage and the effects one’s business decisions may have on others, business leaders must adopt a perspective that recognizes and respects the context of all stakeholders. In essence, “thinking globally” means being an Ally. 

Allyship “is a practice of unlearning and relearning, and is a life-long process of building relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability with marginalized individuals or groups”—an Ally is an individual who embraces Allyship.[2]When adopting this perspective, an individual can become more aware of how their actions may impact others. Through a continuous cycle of learning an Ally works with others to swap out previous misconceptions, replacing them with truths evident in others’ realities. This process is essential to thinking globally. 

When analyzing the distribution of a variety of different global development metrics, it is evident that much of the Global South is marginalized. A recent report from the United Nations outlined how 25% of people in Africa may remain in extreme poverty by 2030.[3]Another supporting statistic is that in half of the 53 developing countries with data, the majority of adult women with a primary education are still illiterate.[4]Although there is progress being made in some areas of development, it is clear that many developing nations are still considered periphery to the rest of the developed world. Consequently, business leaders have a large responsibility to recognize this inequity and educate themselves on the impact their organizations may be having on a global scale. Embracing Allyship can better enable business leaders to learn from and incorporate the experiences of these marginalized communities into business decisions, ultimately encouraging shared progress.  

For large multinational corporations, thinking globally is already a necessary component of their overall business strategy. However, thinking globally in a way that respects the rights, cultures, and futures of marginalized global communities is an area many firms can improve upon. Even for firms not operating on a global scale, each business decision will have an impact beyond the firm’s local community. Carbon emissions, plastic consumption, and purchasing of cash crops, are just a few examples of local business decisions that may have significant long-term impacts on communities far from a local business’s focus.

To consider the perspectives of marginalized communities and operate in a way that is equitable to the global community, a business leader’s approach to thinking globally must incorporate Allyship. This perspective encourages one to become educated about the realities of others’ situations, ensuring that when thinking globally, a business leader’s idea of “global” is reflective of the truths across the global community, and not merely based on assumptions generated by the Global North.

The world can only get better together. My hope is that the increased adoption of Allyship within the business community will one day render the terms ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’ irrelevant, lending to a new age of global progress and prosperity. 

By: Micah Hansen


Footnotes:

[1]Global North refers to most countries in the Northern Hemisphere that experience power, privilege and disproportionate control over global resources. Global South refers to most countries in the Southern Hemisphere that are still considered ‘developing’ and relatively less privileged than the Global North. 

[2]What is allyship? Why can't I be an ally? (2016, November 22). Retrieved from http://www.peernetbc.com/what-is-allyship

[3]World Economic Situation Prospects. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/dpad/wp-content/uploads/sites/45/publication/WESP2018_Full_Web-1.pdf

[4]World's most marginalized still left behind by global development priorities: UNDP report. (2017, March 21). Retrieved from http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2017/03/21/world-s-most-marginalized-still-left-behind.html