PROmotion

Sustainability (and such)

CSR is dead.

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on December 6, 2012

Admit it:  We’ve been hearing the “CSR” death knoll for awhile now, that bleak march of an outdated effort.  And, according to a bevy of global experts at today’s Global Washington conference, it’s being replaced by PERSONAL Social Responsibility to better recognize our individual and collective interest in human rights and values.

I love this rebranding. (After all, corporations aren’t people, yeah?) We should be thinking of the actual faces attached to supply chains and such. Plus, increased corporate transparency is extinguishing smarmy greenwashing and other token efforts. Simply, the movement has expanded beyond slick reports to actual narratives, ranging from Northern consumers to the poorest of the poor who must survive beyond foreign aid.

Free of the corporate framing, we can more easily get to the nitty-gritty discussions of socially-oriented cultural, social and environmental business impacts.  Today, some of the best CSR insights came from a panel featuring Amir Dossal (Founder and Chairman of the Global Partnerships Forum), Raymond Offenheiser (President of Oxfam America), and my newest hero, Joe Whinney (Founder and CEO, Theo Chocolate).

“Companies aren’t just asking ‘How can we make profits?’,” says Dossal, but also, “How can we do good at the same time?” For Oxfam, it means a philosophical shift to trade show discussions and “quiet dialogues” with companies eager to move forward but not ready to go public with new social practices in “Globalization 2.0.”

Educate your consumers, argues Whinney, and they’ll pay higher prices for higher quality.  (In fact, he goes so far as to suggest USAID budget should be partially used to educate the global north in terms of responsible consumerism to pull future investment.)

For a great example of the new corporate leadership in terms of individual social responsibility, check out Theo’s Eastern Congo Initiative for organic and fair trade chocolate and vanilla.   It’s a daring business model for the private sector; that is, transparency and consumer engagement reigns supreme. And next time you hear about the latest CSR campaigns, smile just a little bit, because you’re already part of the cultural shift toward real change.

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