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Social Research Digest – July 2012
The report examines long-term aims and impacts of development. It summarises results of four workshops across the UK, explores public attitudes towards aid and development.
- While there is broad public support for UK development efforts, there is also increasing sceptism.
- Government and non-profit organisations must find a new approach to campaigns and communications to retain public supprt.
- While the public broadly supports UK development efforts, a growing number of people support a reduction in aid spending.
- Others believe that “charity should begin at home” and that government refocus efforts to local communities.
- There is also a call to focus on the quality of results rather than the amount of money spent.
- People who represent the middle ground of public opinion do not fully understand the complex realities in developing countries.
- However, individuals want to better understand impacts and how and why development works.
- Development is viewed more favorably than aid since it focuses on long-term change and incorporates local participation.
- Most people felt that governments, NGOs, international institutions and companies all have a role to play in development.
- Recommendations for the UK development community to maintain public support include:
- communicate how change happens in developing countries in campaigns;
- understand the impact of communications and campaigns on the wider public;
- generate greater public involvement;
- link debates about ‘responsible capitalism’ to challenges faced by developing countries.
Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
Part 6 of 13 in Wayne Visser’s Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.
By Wayne Visser
By May 2008, it was clear to me that the evolutionary concept of Web 2.0 held many lessons for CSR, and I began to develop my thinking around CSR 2.0. It quickly became clear, however, that a metaphor can only take you so far. What was needed was a set of principles against which we could test CSR. These went through a few iterations, but I eventually settled on five, which form a kind of mnemonic for CSR 2.0: Creativity (C), Scalability (S), Responsiveness (R), Glocality (2) and Circularity (0). These principles, which will be explored in detail in the next blog posts, can be described briefly as follows:
Creativity – The problem with the current obsession with CSR codes and standards (including the new ISO 26000 standard) is that it encourages a tick-box approach to CSR. But our social and environmental problems are complex and intractable. They need creative solutions, like Free-play’s wind-up technology or Vodafone’s M-Pesa money transfer scheme.
Scalability – The CSR literature is liberally sprinkled with charming case studies of truly responsible and sustainable projects. The problem is that so few of them ever go to scale. We need more examples like Wal-Mart ‘choice editing’ by converting to organic cotton, Tata creating the affordable eco-efficient Nano car or Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen microfinance model.
Responsiveness – More cross-sector partnerships and stakeholder-driven approaches are needed at every level, as well as more uncomfortable, transformative responsiveness, which questions whether particular industries, or the business model itself, are part of the solution or part of the problem. A good example of responsiveness is the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change.
Glocality – This means ‘think global, act local’. In a complex, interconnected, globalising world, companies (and their critics) will have to become far more sophisticated in combining international norms with local contexts, finding local solutions that are culturally appropriate, without forsaking universal principles. We are moving from an ‘either-or’ one-size-fits-all world to a ‘both-and’ strength-in-diversity world.
Circularity – Our global economic and commercial system is based on a fundamentally flawed design, which acts as if there are no limits on resource consumption or waste disposal. Instead, we need a cradle-to-cradle approach, closing the loop on production and designing products and processes to be inherently ‘good’, rather than ‘less bad’, as Shaw Carpets does.
I believe that CSR 2.0 – or Systemic CSR (I also sometimes call it Radical CSR or Holistic CSR, so use whichever you prefer) – represents a new model of CSR. In one sense, it is not so different from other models we have seen before. We can recognise echoes of Archie Carroll’s CSR Pyramid, Ed Freeman’s Stakeholder Theory, Donna Wood’s Corporate Social Performance, John Elkington’s Triple Bottom Line, Stuart Hart and C.K. Prahalad’s Bottom of the Pyramid, Michael Porter’s Strategic CSR and the ESG approach of Socially Responsible Investment, to mention but a few. But that is really the point – it integrates what we have learned to date. It presents a holistic model of CSR.
The essence of the CSR 2.0 DNA model are the four DNA Responsibility Bases, which are like the four nitrogenous bases of biological DNA (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine), sometimes abbreviated to the four-letters GCTA (which was the inspiration for the 1997 science fiction film GATTACA). In the case of CSR 2.0, the DNA Responsibility Bases are Value creation, Good governance, Societal contribution and Environmental integrity, or VEGS if you like. Each DNA Base has a primary goal and each goal has key indicators.
Hence, if we look at Value Creation, it is clear we are talking about more than financial profitability. The goal is economic development, which means not only contributing to the enrichment of shareholders and executives, but improving the economic context in which a company operates, including investing in infrastructure, creating jobs, providing skills development and so on. There can be any number of KPIs, but I want to highlight two that I believe are essential: beneficial products and inclusive business. Does the company’s products and services really improve our quality of life, or do they cause harm or add to the low-quality junk of what Charles Handy calls the ‘chindogu society’. And how are the economic benefits shared? Does wealth trickle up or down; are employees, SMEs in the supply chain and poor communities genuinely empowered?
Good Governance is another area that is not new, but in my view has failed to be properly recognised or integrated in CSR circles. The goal of institutional effectiveness is as important as more lofty social and environmental ideals. After all, if the institution fails, or is not transparent and fair, this undermines everything else that CSR is trying to accomplish. Trends in reporting, but also other forms of transparency like social media and brand- or product-linked public databases of CSR performance, will be increasingly important indicators of success, alongside embedding ethical conduct in the culture of companies. Tools like Goodguide, KPMG’s Integrity Thermometer and Covalence’s EthicalQuote ranking will become more prevalent.
Societal Contribution is an area that CSR is traditionally more used to addressing, with its goal of stakeholder orientation. This gives philanthropy its rightful place in CSR – as one tile in a larger mosaic – while also providing a spotlight for the importance of fair labour practices. It is simply unacceptable that there are more people in slavery today than there were before it was officially abolished in the 1800s, just as regular exposures of high-brand companies for the use of child-labour are despicable. This area of stakeholder engagement, community participation and supply chain integrity remains one of the most vexing and critical elements of CSR.
Finally, Environmental Integrity sets the bar way higher than minimising damage and rather aims at maintaining and improving ecosystem sustainability. The KPIs give some sense of the ambition required here – 100% renewable energy and zero waste. We cannot continue the same practices that have, according to WWF’s Living Planet Index, caused us to lose a third of the biodiversity on the planet since they began monitoring 1970. Nor can we continue to gamble with prospect of dangerous – and perhaps catastrophic and irreversible – climate change.
In this blog series, I will explore what a different approach – CSR 2.0 – may look like.
About the author
Dr Wayne Visser is Founder and Director of the think-tank CSR International and consultancy Kaleidoscope Futures Ltd. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business (2011), The World Guide to CSR (2010) and The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility (2010). He is the author of over 180 publications (chapters, articles, etc.) and has delivered more than 170 professional speeches on in over 50 countries in the last 20 years. In addition, Wayne is Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, Visiting Professor of Sustainability at Magna Carta College, Oxford, and Adjunct Professor of CSR at Warwick Business School, UK.
- Powerpoint Slides – Part 1 [Download]
- Powerpoint Slides – Part 2 [Download]
- Powerpoint Slides – Part 3 [Download]
- Powerpoint Slides – Part 4 [Download]
- Summary article – The Ages and Stages of CSR [Download]
- Summary article – The Rise & Fall of CSR [Download]
- Summary article – CSR 2.0 [Download]
- Book link – The Age of Responsibility [More info]
By Dr. Wayne Visser
Quest for CSR 2.0 Series No.12
We face a crisis of leadership. Our global challenges loom large and clear, but we seem to lack leaders who can make change happen at a scale and speed that match the size and urgency of the problems we face. In an attempt to understand this leadership impasse, I’ve done some research with the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership on how change happens. In this blog, I’ll briefly outline some of our conclusions.
Let’s start with what kind of change we’re talking about. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, observes that companies that went from being ‘good to great’ did not rely on revolutions, dramatic change programs or wrenching restructurings. ‘Rather, the process resembled relentlessly pushing a giant flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.’
A tipping point on sustainability?
So we’re talking about catalyzing and scaling up change. And for this change to be successful, leaders need to foster and entrench new values, culture, incentives, rules and resources. In Accenture and the UN Global Compact’s 2010 survey, 54 percent of CEOs felt that a cultural tipping point on sustainability is only a decade away—and 80 percent believe it will occur within 15 years, so perhaps we are nearing a moment of infectious change. Meanwhile, at the organizational level, leaders must catalyze change for sustainability through a suite of actions, including innovation, empowerment, accountability, closed-loop practices and collaboration.
We found that effective sustainability leaders are good at promoting creativity in business models, technology, products and services that address social and environmental challenges. Sustainability leaders also implement structures and processes for good governance, transparency and stakeholder engagement.
A culture of discipline
Accountability does not have to be all about structures and controls however. Collins believes great leaders foster a culture of discipline, saying “When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls.” According to Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of G.E., “Enron and 9/11 marked the end of an era of individual freedom and the beginning of personal responsibility. You lead today by building teams and placing others first. It’s not about you.”
The best sustainability leaders adopt principles of cradle-to-cradle production, internalizing externalities and extending these principles to the supply chain. Sustainability leaders also build formal cross-sector partnerships, as well as innovative and inclusive collaborative processes such as social networking (Web 2.0). Betty Sue Flowers, co-author of Presence, poses the challenge as a question, saying, “We know a lot about heroic action because that’s in the past of leadership. But how do you have leadership in groups across boundaries, multi-nationally?”
Achieving sustainability through storytelling
At the people level, leaders catalyze change for sustainability by providing a compelling vision, encouraging long term thinking, making strategic investments and promoting intergenerational equity. Immelt says “every leader needs to clearly explain the top three things the organization is working on. If you can’t, then you’re not leading well.”
Ray Anderson, the late CEO of Interface, saw this as a process of inclusion, saying, “For Interface, sustainability is broader than before: sustainability reaches out to embrace people, processes, products, place, the planet and profits—we now know that none can long be afforded allegiance at the expense of the others.”
Sustainability leaders have to deep knowledge and skills and provide opportunities and resources for appropriate action. This embraces Robert Greenleaf’s notion of servant leadership. He explains that “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”
Transformational sustainability leaders also focus on creating a culture and structure that provides peer support and encouragement and recognizes achievement. Immelt says, “Today, it’s employment at will. Nobody’s here who doesn’t want to be here. So it’s critical to understand people, to always be fair, and to want the best in them.”
In the end, I believe the best leaders are effective storytellers. And they realize that we need a new collective story. As I wrote in Beyond Reasonable Greed, “each time the world changes – when civilizations rise and fall, when new scientific theories challenge our understanding of the universe, when technological innovation reinvents our lifestyle, when political revolution breaks down the old structures of society, or when a global crisis threatens to destroy our planet – humanity is forced to let go of some of its most cherished beliefs in order to create a new mythology to guide its collective psyche.”
Small actions lead to big changes
We are at just such a fulcrum of change, and the beliefs we need to challenge and modify are many. Maybe it is our belief in the beneficence of the “invisible hand” of the market. Or our belief that a global political deal is all we need to solve the climate crisis. Or that that business has the power to act unilaterally in bringing about a more sustainable and responsible future.
If my experience of living through the political changes in South Africa has taught me anything, it is that change is systemic. It happens because of millions of small actions by millions of people all over the world, some coordinated, some diffuse. Yes, change also happens because of bold leadership, but it always needs an enabling environment, a society or an organization that is ready to change.
Change is something organic. It is worth remembering that the largest living thing in the world is a honey mushroom in Oregon – an interconnected fungus measuring 3.5 miles across. It is said to be 2,400 years old and takes up 2,200 acres (1,665 football fields), with the small mushrooms visible above ground representing only a tiny proportion of its real girth and substance. I think change is something like that too: spread out, interconnected, growing where the ground is most fertile ground and often invisible.
Welcome to this international dialogue, Quest for CSR 2.0, with Dr Wayne Visser, pioneering author, academic and social entrepreneur. The dialogue, hosted by CSRwire Talkback, is based on his groundbreaking book, The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business. For the next several weeks, Dr Visser will summarize the main points and key lessons of each chapter of his book, exploring why CSR 1.0 has failed, the 5 Ages and Stages of CSR, the 5 Principles of CSR 2.0 and how to make change happen. Readers will be invited to share their views on each posting. This exciting new series is co-published by CSRwire and CSR International.
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