Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

What will success look like for the CSR Movement?

Posted by jembendell on July 27, 2009

In recent months Ive been talking more widely about the existence of a new social movement of people who are making business and finance contribute to a world that is sustainable and fair. Im talking more with social entrepreneurs and social activists, and I find many people who have a sense of urgency and leadership are surprised at my view, as they regard mainstream CR or CSR as an effort to maintain the corporate status quo, not fundamentally transform it. In response I agree that much CSR is lacking, but I point to those initiatives, projects and people within the corporate world who are working of more systemic transformations of markets – whether through influencing standards, regulations, mindsets or financing systems. Yet, in these conversations, I realise that we dont have a clear set of successes to point to – so many of the examples are about the incredible efforts that people are making, rather than the results being achieved. Any movement needs to know what success looks like. So, it was interesting last month to hear a CR leader, Simon Zadek, ask a class of students to reflect on what they considered real CSR successes to date. I encourage you to reflect on these questions.

What is the most successful multistakeholder initiative and why?
What is the most important piece of CSR legislation, from a CSR perspective?
Think of three CSR CEOs who you believe have demonstrated CSR success, and what have they been successful at?
Think of a civil society leader who has promoted CSR really effectively?
What is it that you still dont know about CSR, and is critical to you future work?

Perhaps you could forward this email to your colleagues in your team, so you can discuss your responses together. I also invite you to post your responses on my blog, at https://jembendell.wordpress.com/

If you are interested in what it could mean for your own work to be part of a CSR movement,  I encourage you to get my book on the topic for your organisation’s library. “The Corporate Responsibility Movement”, available from.  http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com/productdetail.kmod?productid=2767

This message was included in the Lifeworth CSR jobs Bulletin for July.  To sign up for that bulletin, issued about once a month, visit http://lifeworth.com/main/sign-up/

6 Responses to “What will success look like for the CSR Movement?”

  1. Tom Linton said

    I’ll just respond to one of the questions that you have posed:

    “What is the most important piece of CSR legislation, from a CSR perspective?”

    In fact, though, I suppose that what I am actually going to answer is: “What is the most important piece of law affecting CSR?”

    There is a very strong case for saying that this is competition law (certain specific parts). This is because competition law prevents companies from adopting ethical behaviours where this will cause cost increases to consumers. In fact, of course, it is precisely the consumers who should be paying for the ethical costs of their products.

    Changes to this area of law, then, would cause structural changes to the way that the economy/markets function. It is this type of structural change that we argue has the most potential: enabling the finding and development of solutions within the marketplace, rather than imposing them. Businesses would be empowered to cooperate – a radical shift in direction to the usual trend towards ever greater competition, which, while helpful in terms of encouraging growth and prosperity, needs to be treated differently where ethical concerns are at stake.

    Australia is so far the only jurisdiction where these competition law modifications are in place. There is successful implementation but the model indicates (in a preliminary sense) that external stimulus is also necessary: thus the competition law changes are one ingredient amongst a number of others:
    – This can be impetus from government (either through direct suggestion to businesses in specific industries for ethical agreements and help in achieving sign-up, or through help in achieving sign-up to agreements suggested by some businesses);
    – In the longer term, combining ethical consumerism, ethical investment, and input from NGOs, employees etc. could create the additional pressure necessary to promote ethical agreements in business.

    Andrew Dakers and I are working jointly in developing and promoting this area. Please contact me for any further details and with any queries or comments (tom@ethonomics.org). Some examples of resource materials that we have produced and collected are below for reference:

    Business in the Community Response to the Conservative Party Commission on Waste and Voluntary Agreements December 2008 (http://www.bitc.org.uk/document.rm?id=8579)

    (The Commission’s report is due to be published soon (for information about this Commission see, for example, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7300152.stm).)

    Some more technical analyses:
    – Integration of non-efficiency objectives in competition law – Ofer Green – 2008

    – An Assessment of the Public Benefit Test in Authorisation Determinations by the ACCC – Vijaya Nagarajan – September 2005

  2. Tom Linton said

    Links to final two papers, which did not load properly above:

    Integration of non-efficiency objectives in competition law – Ofer Green – 2008
    https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/17173/1/Green_Ofer_200811_LLM_Thesis.pdf

    An Assessment of the Public Benefit Test in Authorisation Determinations by the ACCC – Vijaya Nagarajan – September 2005 http://cccp.anu.edu.au/projects/VijNagaraganPaperSept05PubBenefit.pdf

  3. Tom Linton said

    I’ll just respond to one of the questions that you have posed:

    “What is the most important piece of CSR legislation, from a CSR perspective?”

    In fact, though, I suppose that what I am actually going to answer is: “What is the most important piece of law affecting CSR?”

    There is a very strong case for saying that this is competition law (certain specific parts). This is because competition law prevents companies from adopting ethical behaviours where this will cause cost increases to consumers. In fact, of course, it is precisely the consumers who should be paying for the ethical costs of their products.

    Changes to this area of law, then, would cause structural changes to the way that the economy/markets function. It is this type of structural change that we argue has the most potential: enabling the finding and development of solutions within the marketplace, rather than imposing them. Businesses would be empowered to cooperate – a radical shift in direction to the usual trend towards ever greater competition, which, while helpful in terms of encouraging growth and prosperity, needs to be treated differently where ethical concerns are at stake.

    Australia is so far the only jurisdiction where these competition law modifications are in place. There is successful implementation but the model indicates (in a preliminary sense) that external stimulus is also necessary: thus the competition law changes are one ingredient amongst a number of others:
    – This can be impetus from government (either through direct suggestion to businesses in specific industries for ethical agreements and help in achieving sign-up, or through help in achieving sign-up to agreements suggested by some businesses);
    – In the longer term, combining ethical consumerism, ethical investment, and input from NGOs, employees etc. could create the additional pressure necessary to promote ethical agreements in business.

    Andrew Dakers and I are working jointly in developing and promoting this area. Please contact me for any further details and with any queries or comments (tom@ethonomics.org). Some examples of resource materials that we have produced and collected are below for reference:

    Business in the Community Response to the Conservative Party Commission on Waste and Voluntary Agreements December 2008 (http://www.bitc.org.uk/document.rm?id=8579)
    (The Commission’s report is due to be published soon (for information about this Commission see, for example, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7300152.stm).)

    Some more technical analyses:
    – Integration of non-efficiency objectives in competition law – Ofer Green – 2008 https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/17173/1/Green_Ofer_200811_LLM_Thesis.pdf

    – An Assessment of the Public Benefit Test in Authorisation Determinations by the ACCC – Vijaya Nagarajan – September 2005 http://cccp.anu.edu.au/projects/VijNagaraganPaperSept05PubBenefit.pdf

  4. michael said

    Jem

    Good initiative. Yet, I somehow feel troubled by these questions, perhaps because as you say above, they lack ‘laughter’. They are also very top down. Perhaps because I cant answer them? Perhaps because I would prefer other questions since they are all too hurried. On the other hand, hurrying is important given the current catastrophe – half the planet suffer in poverty. Oh yes, the other catastrophe is about to hit us but we can all move to Siberia where it will be lovely and hot – from nuclear waste?

    I hope you keep me posted as to any reactions.

  5. […] article is in reaction to a post What will success look like for the CSR Movement? on Jem Bendell’s […]

  6. Tom said

    Global finance and its financial engineering games have run us off a cliff. The making money with money easy credit schemes appear to have inflated asset values, “too much money chasing too few goods,” but it turned out that even the fees for the debt weren’t paybale, much less the principle. What William K. Black calls “control fraud” is unethical, except to sociopaths. See: Gresham’s Law: The Race to the Bottom of Ethics, Finance and Institutions,” William K. Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law, University of Missouri – Kansas City, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, July 30, 2008 – http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/business/bcep/greshams-Law.pdf

    No doubt many business people, their associates and workers, have lost much due to the financial gaming, even those within that industry.

    The perspective of interdependent planetism is needed for the long term. How will the human community do that? I think an important step is the recognition of Humanity as a single race, which is a community of communities. That is what I advocate on my website. I think it fits planetism, which is what caused me to search the word and find your site. Cheers.

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