I talk to companies every week about employee volunteer programs. It doesn’t seem to matter if the company is local business or a multi-national Fortune 500 corporation. Invariably the conversation begins with the question of how to get more employees to participate as volunteers. Next, we explore how the volunteering program fits within the company and what the outcomes have been so far. Finally, we talk about metrics. What is the data telling you? Usually, this brings us right back to the beginning of the conversation: participation rates and how to increase that number.
This is the final excerpt from a series of interviews I conducted with four MBA candidates (see footnote for biographical information) who graduated—or expect to soon—with a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR). In this portion, the graduates discuss their internship experiences and the dilemmas of conducting a job search in corporate responsibility.
“But the gulf oil spill and the financial crisis have taught us, rather brutally, that the heart of the relationship between business and society doesn't lie with the charitable deeds that companies do in their off-hours but whether they are doing their day jobs in ways that help -- or hurt -- the rest of us.”
Chrystia Freeland, global editor at large for Thomson Reuters, wrote the article “What’s BP’s social responsibility?” (Sunday, July 18, 2010). Google reader brought it to my attention and halfway through the first paragraph I was hooked - particularly at the point where Chrystia suggests, “I would like to suggest a third, inanimate culprit: the cult of corporate social responsibility.”
This is the second excerpt from a series of interviews I conducted with four MBA candidates who graduated—or expect to soon—with a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR). [Read the first part on Vault's CSR blog: In Good Company] In this portion, the graduates discuss their myriad backgrounds, and how they came to focus on CSR as a career choice.
The issue of restitution is front and center in the Gulf. How does a publicly traded corporation like BP compensate business owners and workers who suffered severe economic loss due to its negligence?
In our survival-of-the-fittest world of capitalism, the traditional response is “tough luck sucker” if you are on the losing end of the deal. In the late 20th century model, compensation for BP’s mistakes would not even be on the table.
This was one of the most educational interviews I’ve done. Mike is able to admit when he’s wrong, to explain the internal motivations and strategy behind his company’s social responsibility programs and to go beyond corporate sound bites.
"Why do business people on nonprofit boards make decisions they'd never make on behalf of their companies?" This was one of the intriguing questions from the audience this evening when Matthew Bishop interviewed Nancy Lublin at the 92nd Street Y.
The handling of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is a textbook study of how not to manage a crisis. The government seems to have ceded responsibility to BP, which seems to have acted to protect the Macondo oil field rather than the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Coast.
It seems clear that neither BP nor the government were prepared for an event like this. At a minimum, both BP and the government should have had an understanding of the potentially catastrophic ramifications of an accident and, more importantly, an ability to shut off the flow of oil – to minimize the damage - as is the case with rigs operating in the waters of the North Sea.
BP's initial public statements were clearly inaccurate. On May 14, 2010, while BP was emphasizing 5,000 barrels per day reaching the surface, NPR reported scientific analysis suggesting 70,000 barrels per day was gushing from the well. On June 15, 2010, the U. S. Government revised its estimate to 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day. We now know that crude oil gushing from a broken well on the sea floor is like an iceberg - most is below the surface. BP and the government should have been accurate, open, and forthcoming in their statements.
BP answers to stockholders and to the governments of the jurisdictions in which it operates. The U. S. government's regulatory regime should have been stricter and more comprehensive. While BP might not be expected to go beyond what is mandated by law, it can neither be expected to regulate itself nor act in the interest of anyone but shareholders.
What do a small chocolate maker, a global tire manufacturer, a natural-foods company and an insurance company have in common? They all believe that acting with integrity is helping their businesses perform better.
The recession was caused by a culture of capitalism that was characterized by an all-consuming pursuit of profit that put integrity on the back burner and made irresponsible business practices acceptable. As the recession eases, our expectations of corporations have changed radically. Today, we expect corporations to have a social purpose, and we need new ways to assess performance that are not just in black or red.
How should we account for the feelings that employees have toward their employers? What are the best ways to measure the bottom-line impact of a partnership with a community organization? What is the value of authenticity and transparency? What is doing the right thing really worth?
While there are no easy answers to these questions, integrity has become a common denominator to many of the intangible assets that together are adding up to a new idea about what business success looks like. And return on integrity is a new measure that will help redefine how business operates.
PricewaterhouseCoopers recently launched a global call to action for business integrity. Its framework for integrity involves: establishing integrity as a C-suite and boardroom priority; putting integrity at the core of a company's mission and making it a business, not a moral issue; establishing company codes and standards based on models recommended by leading standard-setting organizations; establishing internal controls to ensure compliance; and reinforcing standards with rewards and compensation schemes.
The act of raising a family alone is not easy, but being a women entrepreneur with only a small coffee plot to provide for your children is downright heroic. For Peruvian female farmers in this situation, Green Awakening created Café Mujer. The company works directly with cooperatives to source organically grown coffee, which results in an increase in farmer income by at least 30% when compared with farmer sales to importers.
(LEARNED) "The End of Men?" A recent article by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic got me thinking. And her words were not as inflammatory as you may imagine. Instead, her article takes a sweeping look at how our culture has evolved from an organizing principle of patriarchy to a situation that looks much the opposite. She makes the point that times have simply changed with regard to measures of economic success. The talents of all adults - not just half of them - are the key.
So if time’s up for the patriarchy, does that mean we’re heading full speed to a matriarchy? No. We need to equally value what men and women contribute, and to encourage them to do so using their own unique styles. We can get there if our culture, and the media that covers it, stops emphasizing the extremes.
In my mind, what lies in the center of the pendulum swing between extremes is most important. And this middle ground is key in both our gendered work culture and our sustainable business practices.
The "women’s era" seems to be all the buzz right now. But the truth may be that things have shifted to give men the opportunity to learn as much about "feminine" ways of thinking as women have already learned about "masculine" ways of thinking. Times are indeed different. But both men and women are adapting. We are all settling in to that pendulum center.
One of the greatest challenges for the upcoming generation of leaders, active citizens, and responsible adults is to figure out ways to reclaim balanced lifestyles from a contrived system of over-consumption and credit card debt. Luckily, this generation is equipped with visionary and innovative solution-making skills that combine contemporary thought and respect for time-tested wisdom. The result: quirky, out-of-the-box thinking that just might help society kick some nasty habits.
"I'm okay with giving money to a nonprofit that I care about, but do I have to ask friends and colleagues for money if I serve on a nonprofit board?" That's another question that many business executives ask me when I interview them in preparation for conducting board trainings.
This post, with FAQs 6 - 12, follows Part I where you can find the first 5 FAQs and my responses.
“Business started long centuries before the dawn of history, but business as we now know it is new – new in its broadening scope, new in its social significance. Business has not learned how to handle these changes, nor does it recognize the magnitude of its responsibilities for the future of civilization.”
Wallace Donham, Dean of Harvard Business School – 1929
At the Global Leaders Summit last week, an octogenarian economics professor from a Southern German university asked, “But will it be enough?” He was referring to the financial reform agreement reached in Congress and passed by the House this week that President Obama calls “historic.”
Attend a sustainability-themed conference or peruse through the web, and you will hear from academics who urge for companies to be more transparent in their business practices. Much of the debate over issues like climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and what happened to global financial markets is due to the research and hard work of university academics. For that enormous body of work, we should be thankful. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a hot topic now, especially after a certain spill in the Gulf. And corporations’ behavior in the past has spurred this interest.
As I watch the news, I’m hearing both sides of debate regarding the deepwater, offshore drilling moratorium, which was sparked by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama Administration believes it is critical to “push the pause button” for six months until a full investigation is completed.
In Good Company debuted a little over a year ago with a broad focus in mind: To track how corporate responsibility and sustainability evolves at companies and explore how they along with academic institutions react to increasing demand for accountability and transparency in the marketplace.
Sometimes, I think we forget what we're talking about when it comes to the sustainability movement. Even the ardent professionals among us who try everyday to help the world's people consume a little less or those trying to make the products and services that can create a better, more resourceful world, even the most globally conscious among us...they too sometimes forget what it is we're really talking about when we say "sustainability."
We're not talking about anything less than the advancement of human civilization. I know that sounds a little ridiculous, but it's absolutely true. I would never pretend to know what political turmoil will come next or what piece of art will move the culture. But I do know none of that advancement will take place without a powerful movement toward sustainability. There are simply more and more people on the planet competeing for the same number of resources. So if we do not rapidly change the way people consume and create those resources, we will not advance as a global civilization. Everything we do as modern people consumes energy: moving from place to place, writing our next piece of research, listening to music. Every bit of that requires energy and we don't know where we're going to get it all.
Buildings are no small part of that struggle. When taken together all sectors of existing buildings use 48% of the energy consumed in America, according to the folks at Architecture 2030. So the built environment is half of the energy crisis, half of the problem. As building professionals, when we tackle a problem like that--a problem so large--we aren't just making things better for our client, we are advancing civilization.
When people see that their neighbors have more energy efficient households, it GETS them! My absolute hero (and someone whose work I am closely studying for my master’s thesis), Robert Cialdini, is now leveraging his “social proof” compliance technique for sustainability purposes. A New York Timesarticle by Saqib Rahim reports on Cialdini’s post-academic career in studying consumer behavior and energy efficiency as chief scientist for