CSR and Sustainability
Corporate Responsibility - Personal Responsibility
With corporate social responsibility (CSR) in mind, corporations are going all over the world to help people in developing nations in all sorts of ways. It is heartwarming to see the good that companies can do if they try. I went going through the website for the Corporate Citizenship Conference and the various video clips submitted by organizations on their corporate citizenship projects.
From a sustainability perspective there are several ethical issues with corporate social responsibility that bother me. I have a personal problem with do goodership. We, in the Western world, think that our life style is the best and often our approach to 'helping' is to change the life style of developing nations to match our own. Now we all know where that is going...we can't sustain our own life style and moving others into the same wasteful and unsustainable habits is not exactly a recipe for success - in the long-term.
I know we feel guilty in not letting others in on the 'best' way to live, but maybe that is actually our arrogance talking. Maybe that attitude is the rationale for 1) not really paying attention to how others live, 2) a cover up for making us feel comfortable about why we don’t make any changes, 3) embarrassment in having to learn for others 'less fortunate' than ourselves.
I mean most of these countries have managed to live the same ways for thousands of years, while we've only been at it for about 200. Who is the wiser? Yes they have to deal with drought, famine, disease, war, but they are often actually 'happier' than we are when measured on the Gross Happiness Index. We all 'know' that stuff doesn't make us happy, but that doesn't seem to change our behavior any
The ethical issues I see are several: we tell and don't listen - we try to 'save' instead of facilitate; we introduce methods that are not sustainable, thus pushing developing countries into the same unsustainable ways of thinking and living that currently threaten our planet; we don't see ourselves a equals and therefore make the interactions mutual, i.e. we do not learn and change our own behavior, thus setting up an artificial hierarchy with us on top. Being a 'good' corporate citizen can placate our conscious mind, but it can also be used as an excuse for not changing our own behavior.
Reciprocity is a key value in natural systems. Everything is interconnected and therefore everything contributes, even as it receives. This means that receiving is as important as giving. In Western societies, however, giving is seen as 'better' and so becomes a way to manipulate and control instead of being a way in which relationships are enriched. This is our poverty!
Kathryn Alexander, MA: futurist, speaker, author coach, her systems thinking approach to values and ethics enables deep change by impactful leaders.