A couple of years ago on a rainy humid night in Manila, we had the pleasure of personally presenting Digital Literacy Certifications to a class of approximately thirty Sutherland students. Our attendance was spurred by the fact that this particular class contained Sutherland’s 20,000th program graduate. From a corporate perspective, we were excited to celebrate such a major milestone, which was a culmination of years of hard work, hardships, and triumphs. However, as we found out quickly, it would turn out to be so much more.
To the average person of an industrialized society, graduating from a digital literacy program is nothing more than paper recognition for having learned the essentials of how to operate a computer and its normal software capabilities. To put it into perspective, among the first lessons are how to physically boot up a hard drive. However, on that night, we got to see firsthand how truly empowering such a basic education was to some of our fellow world citizens who have not had the blessings of growing up in a fully modernized world, one with abundant access to technology in its many forms.
The graduating class consisted of students ranging from ages 12 to 18 and many of them were from extremely impoverished areas where opportunities for a basic digital education seemed more like a pipe dream. We were instantly taken aback by the fact that the evening felt more like a college graduation than anything else. Teary-eyed parents and relatives beaming with pride were present as each student’s name was read aloud prior to walking the graduation stage to receive their certifications. After the ceremony and celebration, gleeful students and parents lingered, requesting photographs with us and constantly remarking that they were so thankful for the opportunity that we gave them. It’s fair to say that we didn’t fully grasp the gravity these students and their families placed on having completed the program until we saw it firsthand.
We relay this story to not to boast of our own success, but rather to highlight that there are so many areas of our global community where something as basic as learning how to operate a computer could very well be the primary ticket out of the depths of poverty. Think of it as a catalyst providing the spark for these young people to pursue further education or simply obtain a first job with their newly acquired skill set.
To date, Sutherland has now breached the 30,000 digital literacy program participant mark globally, and we are weeks away from opening another location in Kingston, Jamaica. While we may never know the full impact our involvement has had, we do know that by offering this free program in communities nearby to where we operate, Sutherland will continue to provide an avenue for growth and success where opportunities for social advancement are sometimes scarce at best.Since 2007, Sutherland’s guiding principle in the area of charitable giving and social responsibility has been to stand firmly behind causes and technologies which foster, support, and assist in advancing the lives of young people around the world and in the communities where we work and live. As we have evolved in this space over the years, we have strived to empower youth through advancements in, and access to technology by offering our own programs with key partners like Microsoft. Our multitude of community technology centers, which offer the free digital literacy program supplied by Microsoft, are the hallmark of those efforts.
While mission statements and taglines serve their function, what is most important is how the mission statement defines a consistent course of action and provides structured purpose and an identity. We at Sutherland have had our fair share of difficulties in this space over the years, as any social program and charitable mission will, but the lessons learned and achievements gained have far outweighed the blips we have experienced. Each new challenge is an opportunity to positively impact the communities where we have a corporate footprint and emboldens our resolve to stay active and engaged.
To that end, Sutherland is proud to announce that in the coming months, we will be creating the Sutherland Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation separate but aligned with our corporate parent. Its sole mission will be to continue building on our past charitable successes and expand into other socially responsible initiatives. As an example, we have already begun to address how Sutherland can be more environmentally conscious as a corporate citizen. By participating in the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Global Reporting Initiative, we have learned a tremendous amount about what our global footprint really looks like. These reporting structures will be instrumental in shaping a more concerted effort to reduce our impact on the environment and are crucial in guiding the development of effective corporate policies.
Israelmore Ayivor, a young man from Ghana, has been quoted saying, “Excellence is to keep beating your own standards every day. If you don’t have a standard for yourself, you have no records to beat, and if you don’t have any record to beat, you can’t excel.” Poignant words when you apply its meaning to corporate social responsibility initiatives. We at Sutherland strive to be at the head of the pack when it comes to CSR initiatives, not because it creates great PR, marketing materials, or increases the bottom line, but because it’s simply the right thing to do. We know that we have much more to do and more challenges to face, but we are excited to represent a leading force for positive impact on a corporate level in the communities which have given us so much in return. At the end of the day, it’s much better to be doing good while doing well, than just to be doing well.
About the Authors:
Dan Lang is currently Head of Worldwide Customer Relations for Sutherland Global Services, the world’s largest privately held, Business Process Outsourcing organization. He also heads the company’s community affairs investments. Previous to this assignment, he was President of the Sutherland Group, Ltd. and a Marketing Representative for Xerox Corporation.
He is actively involved in global initiatives to bridge the growing economic, educational and digital divide. He works with non-government organizations, Microsoft Community Affairs and The Rockefeller Foundation – Global Impact Sourcing.
Jay Essley is the Director of Global Client Engagement at Sutherland Global Services where his day to day responsibilities focus on the negotiation of commercial contracts. In addition, Mr. Essley is General Counsel to SGS’ Corporate Social Responsibility Board. In that capacity he has taken a lead in promoting SGS’ efforts to codify comprehensive CSR policies and engage partners in continued CSR efforts. Prior to joining Sutherland Jay was a commercial trial attorney in New York City and remains a member of the NYS Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Sutherland Global Services presently maintains relationships with over 150 multinational corporations, healthcare providers, governments and universities around the globe.