Voices of Influence: Original and Guest Blog Posts from Around the World

These blogs provide insight into the latest issues, challenges, advances and debate around CSR and sustainability. Original and guest blog posts highlight differing perspectives and context.

3BL Blog

Reality vs. Perception in Corporate Sustainability

Consumers have very little understanding of which companies trying to be more sustainable and which ones are not. Duh, you say? Well, that conclusion was driven home by reading MapChange 2010 from the brand agency Change.

This sustainability brand map study looked at the perceived and actual sustainability scores for 97 companies in 10 sectors and found that they didn't exactly always mesh. Some companies that were highly sustainable were not perceived as such while some of the less responsible companies were perceived to be more sustainable. Depending on who you talk to, that is another example of a communications failure or an opportunity (or both).

Some of the results were quite eye-opening. In the food and beverage sector, Organic Yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm had the highest actual sustainability score but a below-average perception, which was inverse that of Kraft, Kellogg and General Mills.

In the household sector, the perception of Clorox far exceeded their actual sustainability score (perhaps because of their recently launched Green Works brand endorsed by the Sierra Club?) while L'Oreal didn't get the acknowledgement they deserved.

But perhaps the most interesting to me was the Internet/Software/Media sector brand scores. In this sector, the perceptions of net giants Google, Yahoo and Amazon all exceeded their actual scores, while the perceptions of General Electric and News Corporation were much worse than their actual scores. GE was surprising considering their highly visible ecomagination brand and their high ranking in other surveys. And News Corp's well-publicized goal of making their operations carbon neutral appears not to have helped their public perception (perhaps they need to use language the public understands, rather than "carbon neutral").

Microlending…Enabling Global Entrepreneurship

Recent economic times have spurred uncertain thoughts and reactions around terms like “lending” or “investments.”  However, there is an emerging loan market that is working toward making a positive, significant impact on the lives of the impoverished globally.  The market that I am referring to is the “microlending” market.  Recent reports have estimated that there are more than 30 million microloans worldwide and at a growing rate of 30-40% per year.

So, why are so many individuals participating in microlending…


Aveda And The Yawanawa: CSR Chief To Chief

We Can Do More Good With a For-Profit Model: The Lesson of Speed

I used to consult with nonprofits as part of a firm. What I’m about to write comes from my observations doing this work.

We can do more good and do it more quickly with a for-profit model.

Nonprofits aren’t bad, their model just has some flaws. A nonprofit has two tasks: to serve its cause or constituents and to raise money. A for-profit’s only task is to satisfy its stakeholders. The by-product of doing this well is making money.

A nonprofit doesn’t get to the ‘good’ fast enough. There’s a lot of preparation to get started on fighting the cause or delivering services. Nonprofits paid our firm to tell them how and where to raise money. They paid us to do the research and write the proposals. But they weren’t off the hook for time. They still needed to spend time with us on their programs, budgets and contacts. They still needed to woo grant-makers, find new ways to grab donors’ attention and write follow-up reports. All this time took them away from their mission and the cause they were fighting.

Think of a guy who decides to take up running. He spends the first weekend researching and shopping for running shoes. The second weekend buying running shorts, the third weekend mapping the perfect route. On the fourth weekend he goes (but only if it doesn’t rain). That’s how I see the nonprofit survival model.

Compare this to the guy who decides to take up running. He grabs the closest pair of shorts that he probably slept in, laces up the shoes he has lying around and walks out his front door. He’ll move his legs like runners do and figure the rest out from there. That’s how I see for-profit start-ups. Able to get to the mission quickly and willing to course correct along the way.

Know Women, Know Sustainable Consumers

There is more than meets the eye in what we know about how women buy (poetry not intended).  And, fortunately for us, that means we’ve got a lot of information at the ready to help better serve the sustainably minded consumer.

My argument has always been that marketing to women was not a “whole new, complicated thing” compared to marketing done before we acknowledged women’s particular ways of buying.  Instead, marketing to women encompasses an understanding toward fine tuning the smartest marketing to the toughest customer.  Today, marketing to women continues to be a foundation...

Atlas Shrinks

Once upon a time in a far off land of sea monsters and fairies, there was a man named Adam. Now Adam was not the First Man. He was, however, the first man in his society to write down his ideas of man controlling his own economic destiny without the heavy hand of kings. Adam was a moral man and wrote that one’s “enlightened self-interest” and innate moral code should guide him in all matters of money and commerce.

Yet man is a funny beast, Adam knew, and in case of a lapse in reason a guiding hand, “The Invisible Hand,” existed to override his less intelligent and unjust impulses....

Kids, Soccer Balls and the Unintended Consequences of Good Decisions

Several years ago, I attended a forum in Washington, DC on supply chain responsibility.  At the time, I was managing corporate social and environmental responsibility communications for two different clients, both with vast, global supply chains.  Supplier responsibility was an area of constant focus and opportunity for these companies.
The forum was a quiet, routine affair as these things go, and polite.  I saw a few participants looking a bit sleepy at the end of one session in particular – where representatives from three Fortune 500 multi-nationals spent the better part of an hour outlining the steps their companies had taken to eliminate child labor from their supply chains (the inspections and audits, on the ground partnerships, tracking and reporting).
Everything changed when, during the Q&A period, a young woman in the audience stood up and posed a question to the panelists.  She worked for a small NGO with operations in India, and noted that many families there desperately rely on the income of all family members – parents, grandparents, and yes, children.  She spoke briefly but compellingly, painting a picture of poverty and need that most in the room couldn’t comprehend.  The panelists look puzzled, and there were murmurs of surprise and disbelief throughout the audience.

Mixing It Up On Nonprofit Boards: Diversify or Fail

I love Scott E. Page's book, "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies." First of all, he is a kindred spirit, talking about joy, diversity, and Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk (my favorite). He also opens his chapters with delightful and illuminating quotations from an eclectic array of historians, rock stars, writers, comedians, philosophers, and others.


Non-Profit Service: A Key to the Executive Suite?

According to Harold ("Terry") McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO, The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP), nonprofit board service is a key qualification for any executive he might hire or promote. In a private interview with me, Terry McGraw explained that "If I don't see that [board service], I'm discouraged about the candidate. I want to see how complete a person is. Board participation tells me a lot about someone's interest and experience in teambuilding and openness toward coaching. A candidate who doesn't serve on nonprofit boards is...

Top CSR Companies. Or Not.

Corporate social and environmental performance is all the rage in today’s investment environment. With increasing frequency, analysts are monitoring, evaluating, and ranking that performance. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) lists – ranging from Corporate Knight’s Global 100 to Ethisphere Institute’s Most Ethical Companies and Corporate Responsibility magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens – grow more plentiful and visible each day. Publishers...