Green is the new black. In recent years being “green” has become more popular than ever before. With the old stigmas about green-mindedness vanquished, the citizens of the world have embraced sustainable technologies and environmentally sound innovations. As a result businesses are starting to take notice, and many are scrambling to “green up” their practices and improve their appearance and marketing techniques.
“CSR represents mining companies of the future. The mining industry, more than any other, is aware of the problems more than other industries and understands the impacts of the past.” –Wes Hanson, President and CEO ofNoront Resources Ltd.
This week, I reviewed the CSR Event Series program and had the opportunity to connect with some of the people who will be participating in the series. Although PDAC hasn’t defined a CSR theme, my conversations revealed a common thread: how companies in the mineral exploration and development industry can help solve social problems in a way that is also good for business.
Last Wednesday, President Drew Gilpin Faust sent an email to the Harvard community announcing a university-wide contest on social entrepreneurship.
“The world’s most pressing problems heed no borders, and to better address them we need to work across boundaries to formulate solutions. I can think of no place better prepared to take on such challenges than Harvard,” Faust said in a statement.
The contest is sponsored by Faust and supported by the Harvard Innovation Lab. Ten finalist teams will be given $5,000 each to develop their solution to five global issues that the University will determine.
In case you hadn't noticed, the majority of online content and conversation in the Corporate Social Responsibility space originates in the good old US of A. Maybe that is no surprise as population size alone provides robust reasoning in addition to a more communicative culture, than many more of my reserved UK based compatriots.
In an effort to redress the balance, this is the first of a series of weekly blogs offering a focus on CSR related activity from the European side of the Atlantic, where we stumble into two immediate hurdles. We need to clarify what we mean by CSR, and to also define what Europe actually is - briefly.
Europe first - in a few words...
If you thought CSR was a tough nut to define 'Europe' is another playground of hyperactive cats to attempt to herd. Common usage of the term can vary between cultural, geographical and political perspectives so here are a few useful points to help understand this vague and multi-cultural beast:
While some see the threat of climate change as pitting the needs of the planet against those of progress and business, some brave entrepreneurs will seize the opportunity that efforts to build a more sustainable future will create.
Give a man a fish and he will eat today. Teach a man to fish and he will eat tomorrow – or until his nets break. Invest in a man’s fishing business and he will feed himself and others for a long time to come. This is what it means to shift from paternalistic charity to venture philanthropy. It is an evolution that is important to root in a long and varied cultural tradition of philanthropy.
Confucius (551-479 BC) said: ‘When wealth is centralized, the people are dispersed. When wealth is distributed, the people are brought together.’ Hence, ‘a man of humanity is one who, in seeking to establish himself, finds a foothold for others and who, desiring attainment for himself, helps others to attain.’ When asked, ‘Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?’ he replied, ‘Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’.
This so-called Golden Rule, which we find in all the world’s major religions, has come to represent the very essence of charity. In fact, the word charity derives from Latin caritas, which meant preciousness, dearness, or high price. However, in Christian theology, caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agapē, meaning an unlimited loving-kindness to all others. Hence, in St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, we read, in the King James Version of the Bible, of ‘faith, hope and charity’. Of course, it is not only giving that is important, but also the nature of giving. There is a Jewish proverb that says: What you give for the cause of charity in health is gold; what you give in sickness is silver; what you give after death is lead.
With global corporations actively pursuing growth opportunities in emerging markets, Harvard Business School Professor Bill George raises the compelling leadership development challenge facing these businesses in this HBR blog.
More than a coincidental number of people have asked me in the past couple of weeks as to what I am seeing as trends in the sustainability arena, a top 5 trends of 2012, so to speak. So, here is what I’m seeing this year.
Nearly every business is on Facebook and Twitter, but YouTube is often overlooked as a social media site. That’s a missed opportunity, because video is a powerful tool for creating authentic communication and engaging online audiences.
The most important thing I’ve learned over the last year is that social change has real business value. While corporations that are seen to be “responsible” benefit in many ways including improving reputation, attracting employees, and increasing market share, the real value goes to corporations that understand their social purpose and profit from making social change.
The most common explanation for the global financial crisis is to point a finger at the banks. And rightly so. But I believe we also need to shine a spotlight on the greed and irresponsibility of executives, fat-cats like Lehman Brothers’ former CEO Richard Fuld. These are the enriched 1% that suck the lifeblood out of the fleeced 99% and which the Occupy Movement is justifiably targeting. Naming and shaming is important, but we need to realise that this is a systemic cancer in our economic and financial system.
It is also not a new phenomenon, but worrying it is showing signs of getting worse, not better. In 2000, Enron was the 7th largest company in America, with revenues of $111 billion and over 20,000 staff. When the company collapsed in 2001, due to various fraudulent activities fuelled by a culture of greed, the average severance payment was $45,000, while executives received bonuses of $55 million in the company's last year. Employees lost $1.2 billion in pensions; retirees lost $2 billion, but executives cashed in $116 million in stocks.
At the end of 2007, just before the crisis went public, Lehmans’ CEO Fuld and president Joseph Gregory paid themselves stock bonuses of $35 million and $29 million respectively. At the time, Fuld lived in an enormous Greenwich mansion, over 9,000 square feet, valued at $10 million. He had four other homes and an art collection valued at $200 million. Hardly a picture of responsible restraint.
Statistics tell an important story: the more engaged a company is, the more positive contribution and commitment it receives from stakeholders – and vice versa. This energetic give and take is of interest to a growing number of senior leaders, as it has a direct impact on the bottom line.
According to Gallup, the US economy loses an estimated $370 billion annually due to “actively disengaged” employees. On the other hand, 59% of engaged employees say their job brings out their most creative ideas. Also according to Gallup, companies with superior customer engagement approaches outperform competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth. “Their customers buy more, spend more, return more often, and stay longer,” Gallup says. And as for engagement with partners, the supply chain and wider communities, the message seems just as clear.
“We learned early on in our corporate responsibility journey the dangers of not engaging, not listening,” says Nike on its corporate responsibility web site. “Today, we see engagement with multiple stakeholders as a key enabler of both risk mitigation and innovation.”
Conflict minerals — tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — are at the heart of warfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo and nearby countries. Violent groups are fighting to control profits, with tragic and deadly results.
“The problem may seem far away, but conflict minerals are closer than you think,” said Tellabs’ lead program manager of environmental affairs, Jesse Kevan, “They are essential to most electronic products, including smartphones, TVs and computers. They’re in every Tellabs product, too.”
Qatar has something every country needs. I’m not referring to oil or natural gas, although Qatar has both in abundance. I mean a national vision of and strategy for sustainable development.
In less than a generation, Qatar has experienced huge economic and social transformation. The discovery and development of its hydrocarbon resources has fuelled – pardon the pun – Qatar’s economic growth from a small nation dependent on fishing and pearling to one of the highest per capita income countries in the world.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics are calling all superheroes to help end one of the worst famines in over 60 years in the Horn of Africa. Network for Good is proud to be the giving partner for the ‘We Can Be Heroes’ campaign, which launched last Monday, January 23rd and supports the relief work of Mercy Corps, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee.
Imagine a company catalyzing a new approach to student learning and achievement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). And what if the company’s purpose were to prepare students around the world, from all corners and walks of life, to collaborate in solving social and environmental problems, beginning right now?
Imagine the power of the relationships these children will have when they are in their 20s and 30s as they continue to work with each other.
As 2012 begins, I derive a great deal of hope and inspiration for a better world from the people I met at Thunderbird School of Global Management’s Global Business Dialogue. There, I had the honor of moderating a panel on “Sustainable Prosperity: Can Greed Save the Planet.” And together with more than 1,000 business executives, government officials, social sector leaders, entrepreneurs and scholars, we spent two days engrossed in topics from emerging market growth to entrepreneurship and renewable energy.
Each year we go through the same cycle regarding our health: we get sick, go to the doctor, he or she prescribes us medicine, and we get better in most cases. This series of events is our idea of being treated for an illness. In a way, the medicine is the quick fix to our health problems. This modern approach to taking care of our health however neglects the other things we put inside of our bodies 365 days of the year, the food we eat.
Since we have been highlighting the issues around medical waste, we thought it was time to discuss some of the innovation approaches some organizations are taking to deal with the issue. And the timing was perfect as friend of ours just launched PharmaCares™.