Audeamus lists a number of great green technology news items today starting with information on venture capital fund based in the Netherlands which intends to focus on sustainable technology startups.
…And another interesting press release from CSRwire catches my eye…
The release, TerraCycle Plant Food™ Becomes First Consumer Product to Earn Zerofootprint™ Seal, introduces TerraCycle Plant Food and is my first exposure to the Zero Footprint organization. The product and the organization sound compelling, though I wonder if the word choice will help or hinder the company’s efforts.
I caught an interesting press release on CSRwire this morning that prompted me to do a bit of extra digging. The release, Total Corporate Responsibility (TCR): New Sustainability Approach Addresses Critical System Change Issue, covers a recent article by Frank Dixon which, “claims that evolving economic and political systems into sustainable forms is the best way to ensure business prosperity and probably the only way to provide a sustainable world for our children.”
Sounds intriguing. Here’s another clip from the press release:
“Effectively addressing these extremely complex systemic issues requires collaboration and adoption of a systems perspective. A new approach to sustainability, called Total Corporate Responsibility (TCR), does just this. TCR is being implemented by Gazeley Ltd, a wholly owned but independently operated Wal-Mart subsidiary based in the UK. Gazeley is a global real estate developer of distribution warehouses. It provides Wal-Mart and many other clients with environmentally-superior facilities that lower energy use and carbon emissions by as much as seventy percent.”
Navigating to Dixon’s site and reading more about Total Corporate Responsibility and Global System Change (GSC), it is somewhat difficult to figure out what GSC or TCR are exactly. There is a considerable amount of information on the site, both in text and linked articles, yet none of it gives me a clear idea about the specific changes or improvements Dixon suggests when working with a client. That doesn’t mean that GSC and TCR are simply catchy acronyms meant to muster up some more sales, but without some concrete information about the specific changes Dixon recommends, it is quite difficult to perform a more substantial evaluation.
If you are interested in learning more about either concept, I have a few suggestions. As a starting point, I’d recommend visiting Dixon’s website. From there, you will find a number of articles he has authored including one titled, System Change. Beyond those resources, a deeper search may be necessary.
A bit of a brief post for the afternoon–here are a few articles/posts that I thought I should pass along:
- CSRwire.com has a press release about socially responsible investing (SRI) analysts’ opinions about the state of corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting.
- Jack Yan discusses why “New Zealand Made” should be afforded to companies that are located and manufacture in New Zealand.
- Michael Standaert covers the issue of increasing scrutiny of the power industry.
- Stanford economist Ward Hanson discusses Google’s China dilemma (audio file — thanks to Dr. Chris Carr for the link), a topic mentioned on this blog a number of times in the past (here, here, here, here, and here).
- Shel Horowitz contemplates his patronage and praise of BP.
Jeffrey Hollender blogs about his decision to not sell Seventh Generation products through Wal-Mart:
First, I applaud Jeffrey for holding his ground and making a very tough choice. Second, this issue is huge and is fodder for a fantastic discussion on so many ethics and governance-related issues.
Seventh Generation is a private company that was once public. Accordingly, Jeffrey has far more latitude following his personal ethics when making business decisions than he did when the company was public. In fact, turning down Wal-Mart as a customer, as much as it pains me to say so, would have been very poor form for a public company, on a strict corporate governance basis. In order to do so ethically, and according to his fiduciary duty to the company and its shareholders, Hollender would have needed to vet the idea to shareholders, achieve majority buy-in, and financially justify the rejection. It may not have been so difficult, especially given that Seventh Generation shareholders are theoretically more likely to warm to such action than might shareholders of Altria (…for instance), and it is equally plausible to justify an increase in sales due to the controversy and positive PR that might be garnered from the rejection. Even so, it is very interesting to look at this issue in relation to Seventh Generation’s current governance situation vs. its former governance situation.
I encourage you to read both of Hollender’s posts and see how his mix of ethical principles jive with business motives. They sit fantastically well with me, but could just as easily seem inane to someone as equally passionate about CSR and business ethics.
I came across an interesting article this afternoon that I thought I should pass on. The article, Corporate Giants Face Social Responsibility Abroad, is from the English edition of a South Korean news site and covers the issue of CSR abroad for large South Korea-based corporations.
While the content of the article wasn’t remarkably surprising, I think it is quite interesting to read about CSR from such a viewpoint. For instance, note the focus on ISO 26000 and the related recommendation:
“Experts recommend basic welfare activities such as free medical treatment in developing nations, building schools and scholarships, and volunteer work and support for cultural activities in advanced nations. They say corporations need to start doing this in a systematic way from the moment they set up operations there.”
I am equally as curious about the state of CSR expectations domestically for South Korean companies. I’ll see if I can dig up any relevant information…
Another plug for CSRwire.com — check out a recent press release for Care2′s launch of the “world’s largest listing of jobs at socially responsible companies.” The release, Socially Responsible Companies Rank High With Job Seekers, covers the topic of potential employees’ willingness to take pay cuts to work for non-profits or socially responsible companies but also mentions the launch of the job search site.
Curious about what Care2′s screening criteria are and what definition of socially responsible they use, I took a gander at the site’s “Learn More” page (actually a F.A.Q. page). The information was interesting and left quite a bit of room for huge variations in social responsibility.
From the answer to “What’s ‘Socially Responsible’?”:
“Perhaps one of the most important attributes of a Socially Responsible Business (SRB) is that they demonstrate a commitment toward continuous improvement. Social values change, new challenges emerge, and companies face challenges balancing their values and the bottom line.”
Interesting. There is more text there (I encourage you to read the whole page) but I thought that sentence was particularly interesting.
…And about their screening methodology:
“We worked with social responsibility screening experts, KLD Analytics, to help us identify the best public companies in the U.S. KLD reviews numerous sources to analyze positive and negative attributes including community impact, corporate governance, diversity, employee relations, environment, human rights, and the product itself.
“We started with this list, then kicked out a number of companies we felt just weren’t making the grade, then added a number of private companies we respect most. We also got lots of feedback from our members to further refine our list.”
Again, curiously vague. How many companies were kicked out? For what reasons? What were the private companies that were added? How many of those are there? Do they fit the grade, or are they simply companies worthy of the site creators’ “respect”?
…And, of course, the disclaimer (the response to the question, “How can you say Company X is ‘Responsible’ when they….”):
“The challenge with ever publishing a list of socially responsible companies is that almost every company (particularly the big ones) has some (non-organic) dirt in its closet. See our definition for “what’s responsible” above.
“And for some folks, ‘business’ almost by definition is evil. On this point we strongly disagree. Businesses have to part of the solution, and have the potential for enormous good. It’s important to support the companies making great progress.”
The response continues by noting that the site is in “beta,” further deflecting accountability, but the point they make is still valid. Creating a list of socially responsible companies that we can all be proud of (and find no fault in) is nearly impossible. I don’t like half-baked solutions, but in lieu of fully-baked ones, I’ll take a job site that at least attempts to differentiate the socially responsible from the what-the-heck-is-CSR ones.
That said, I did a quick search for jobs in the Boston area and didn’t really see a difference between listings on the site and what I would expect to find elsewhere. The companies that had job listings didn’t scream “socially responsible” to me, nor did the positions that were listed. Without further research, it will be difficult to determine if this service is merely trying to ride a wave or truly doing the due diligence to filter out all but the most socially responsible companies.
As a matter of comparison, here are a few sites to check out that I have visited before:
- Idealist.org: Primarily non-profit jobs, but definitely a large selection depending on the search area. Searching in the Boston or Washington D.C. area provides a nice contrast.
- Green Dream Jobs: A bit more focused on the environment, but a broader selection of for-profit company listings than on idealist.org.
Here’s another interesting press release from CSRwire.com: Highlights of Toyota’s Environmental Progress. I found the information regarding the Brazilian market to be the most interesting piece of data.
What do fatherhood and corporate social responsibility have to do with one another? A lot, I have found.
Earlier this afternoon I picked my son and wife up at Logan Airport, having been separated from them for just over 8 days. Less than a month prior I was away for 18 days while traveling overseas. The time away from my family was very tough, especially given my son’s age. He is just shy of one year, and each day seems to bring a huge milestone or accomplishment. I feel like I missed so much of his life during the 26 days we were apart.
After saying hello and herding their luggage into the car, the three of us spent some time driving around and getting lost together. My son napped on and off, and my wife and I had a chance to catch up. Once home, we fed him, played a little, and then my wife gave him a bath (there is a point to all of this…) and I started his bedtime routine of gathering a bunch of books to read to him. Alone in his nursery, he seemed more interested in hanging out than checking out books and heading to bed. I let him play and explore, and occasionally picked him up, held him, or played a little. All the while, I was more happy than I have been in months, simply watching my son explore, enjoy himself, and learn new things.
As it turns out, I’m not the only person I know that finds happiness and fulfillment in raising their children or spending time with their family. Apparently, quite a few people are like that… The point being, at least in my life, being there for my son and wife is extremely important to me, and very fulfilling. And when I feel fulfilled, I am not only more happy, but also more energetic, productive, and ambitious.
…And happy, energetic, productive, and ambitious people make damn good employees and leaders (I have found).
An element of corporate social responsibility for many progressive companies is the duty to enhance and enrich the lives of their employees. Rather than just seeing them as cogs in a wheel, these companies view their employees as resources, individuals, stakeholders, and powerful members of their communities. In turn, these companies make an effort to provide great benefits, ample time off, flexible schedules, and other niceties that go beyond the norm.
There is always the element of giving away too much, or burning all of your capital trying to make employees happy (lavish lunches and daily massages anyone?), so a focus on ensuring that the extra benefits lead to increased returns is always a good policy. And if done well, and combined with good leadership, a greater focus on employee enrichment and happiness will certainly lead to increased returns.
If you have ever tried to put into words what makes a good leader and have struggled a bit, take a gander at The Magic of a Great Business Leader. Jeannine Bauer does a great job of introducing some of the qualities of a great leader and also touches on ethics:
“These leaders have one primary and broad-based goal — that is, to do the right thing for their organization. In general, this means to pursue the success of the organizations according to the goals set for it. But on a more subtle level, doing the right thing will also be reflected in how this leader treats customers, employees, and suppliers. This leader’s underlying sense will be that using a win-win approach with every level of stakeholders will always lead to greater net results for the organization. Thus, the daily life in such an organization, in both its internal and external interactions, will feel positive, ethical and satisfying to all involved.”
I think she is spot on in her overview of great leaders, but I would take the ethical angle a bit further even. In my idealistic world view, great leaders have to be the most ethical individuals you have ever met, whom are not willing to compromise on moral issues for the sake of making a few bucks. Further, they need to be consistent in their representation of their ethical framework and how it comes into play during the regular mix of daily business. Employees, peers, customers, and any other stakeholders, should all have a relatively strong certainty that the leader will or will not jive with a certain scenario based upon their ethical framework. Such consistency removes uncertainty and doubt, and also sets a good example for everyone.
As a practical example, imagine you are in the finance department of a company with a great leader, whose actions have established a clear precedent for what to do in questionable situations. You come across a journal entry that is an error but makes the company look more profitable. You realize that your boss is responsible for the error and know that correcting it, or pointing it out might negatively impact your career. However, you also know that the great leader whom has exemplified strong ethics (let’s assume he or she is the CEO or CFO in this situation) would unwaveringly expect you to correct the error and identify it to prevent future errors. Your ability as an employee to do the right thing is greatly increased by the ethical example set by the company’s great leader.
I would also argue that companies lead by great ethical leaders have a greater propensity for stronger overall business ethics and a desire to pursue corporate social responsibility initiatives than those lead by less ethical leaders.