How to Use Your Corporate University to Build Social Capital

By Natanya Rutstein

Earlier this year I touched on the concept of the social enterprise as a 21st century business model. The 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report, looks at the rising importance of transforming an organisation into a social enterprise through the strategic accumulation of both internal and external social capital.

What better way to do this than though your Corporate University (CU). The CU is perfectly positioned to weave the organisation’s commitment to addressing societal trends and inequalities into its culture and values. The 21st century CU can no longer remain disengaged from the broader macro-environmental challenges faced by its parent organisation and must step up as a strategic partner in building social capital and achieving good corporate citizenship and ethical leadership.


How does your CU build social capital?

Your CU is visible proof to current and prospective employees of your commitment to providing continuous education and training to all employees. This strengthens the organisation’s social capital which in turn helps to attract and retain much needed skilled and talented employees.

Due to the fact that today’s organisations are no longer able to guarantee life-long employment, the offer of continuous education is at least one way for the organisation to contribute towards an employee’s “life-long employability”. This concept of “life-long employability” was put forward in the BPI group’s white paper “The New World of Corporate Universities” ( In it, the authors argue that the CU can help to predict the impact of technological advancements on specific jobs within the organisation and in doing so provide employees with the appropriate knowledge and skills for changing roles as well as the potential loss of employment. Social capital is thus strengthened by developing the life-long employability of individual employees and enabling them to have multiple and diverse professional career experiences.

The inclusion of customers, contractors and suppliers to the target audience of your CU is the perfect way to share knowledge and expertise with all stakeholders. Stakeholder relationships are enhanced and social capital increased through this transparent engagement and collaboration with all stakeholders. This in turn improves efficiencies within your supply-chain, educates all stakeholders and provides social upliftment opportunities to supply chain partners and the wider community.

Organisations have a legal as well as an ethical responsibility to be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on the environment. The CU can assist in setting organisational standards of ethical behaviour for all of its stakeholders, including the competition and the industry as a whole. Ethical leadership, environmental awareness and innovative ways to address these challenges can be fostered through the corporate university and the collaboration of all stakeholders involved. Starbucks have achieved many environmental milestones through the engagement of their employees in their “CU” ethical leadership programmes.

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