Creating shared value

Creating shared value:

How South Africa led the world in corporate governance & economic empowerment

Blog by Wayne Visser

The concept of shared value became increasingly important for business in South Africa during the 1990s, long before it was coined by the Harvard academic duo of Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. Fortunately for me, I had a front-row seat.

In 1997, having helped to kick-start the South African New Economics (SANE) Foundation, I then joined the global accounting firm KPMG. My mandate was to establish an Environmental Unit, which later evolved to incorporate social, economic and ethical dimensions and become KPMG Sustainability Services. Over the next six years, I advised numerous companies, many of them multinationals, on how to improve their sustainability performance.

So, what of lessons? There are two that I want to share and both are areas in which I believe South Africa has made a significant contribution to the worldwide quest for sustainable business. The first is corporate governance and the second is economic empowerment.

Challenging shareholder supremecy

Following the success of the UK’s Cadbury Report in 1992, South Africa launched its own King Report on Corporate Governance in 1994, under the chairmanship of former High Court judge and company director, Mervyn E. King. King went much further than Cadbury in recognising the non-financial aspects of corporate governance and incorporating the concept of wider stakeholder accountability. In later updates, in 2002 and 2009, the King Report placed sustainability and responsibility at the heart of corporate governance.

When I caught up with Mervyn King in Turkey a few years ago, he told me that directors are accountable to the company first, not to shareholders, and that a broader set of stakeholders provides a better perspective on what is good for the company in the long term. It is no coincidence that he went on to chair the GRI and now spearheads the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC).

Although the King Code is a voluntary standard, in common with other corporate governance codes around the world, the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) made compliance with the code a listing requirement. This had a dramatic effect. By 2003, 85% of South Africa’s top companies were already practising annual reporting on sustainability-related issues, and 77% of the companies referenced the existence of an internal code of ethics or code of corporate conduct.

There is a downside to the boom in sustainability reporting since the 1990s, evident not only in South Africa but around the world. I believe it has distracted us from a related, and in some ways far more important trend, namely social and environmental accounting. This refers to financially quantifying the social and environmental impacts of business, or to use economics jargon, pricing the ‘externalities’.

In fact, while at KPMG, I helped a large chemical company to design an environmental accounting system. At the time, social and environmental accounting was a strongly emerging field, under the intellectual leadership of UK academic Rob Gray, and the pioneering efforts of companies such as BT, Baxter International and Ontario Hydro. Today’s much-hailed environmental profit and loss account of Puma is actually 15 years behind the times …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/blog_csrwire5_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Creating shared value: How South Africa led the world (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) Creating shared value: How South Africa led the world in corporate governance & economic empowerment, Wayne Visser Blog Series, 17 July 2013.

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Ties that Bind: Experiments in Community Business

Ties that Bind: Experiments in Community Business

Blog by Wayne Visser

After graduating in business studies from Cape Town, in 1992 I started a 4-month management traineeship programme with the Royal Bank of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. During this time, I came across the inspiring research of Professor Greg McLeod from Cape Breton University, written up in his Community Business Series booklets (and later, in From Mondragon To America – Experiments In Community Economic Development). Having worked in community development for over 30 years, McLeod was concerned about rootless capital – the trend of companies funded by absentee investors with no stake in the communities in which the business operates.

This is when I first learned of the amazing experiment in community business that had being going on for decades in Mondragon, a small town in the mountainous region of north-eastern Spain. Here, based on the teachings and initiatives of a Roman Catholic priest, a business comprising one electric stove manufacturer with five employees established was in 1955. Today, the Mondragon corporation is a complex of co-operatives with €36 billion ($46 billion) in assets and €13 billion ($17 billion) in sales, employing 80,000 people – all of which actively pursue a philosophy of local community development based on the values of co-operation, participation, social responsibility and innovation. With companies operating across four divisions (finance, industry, distribution and knowledge), Mondragon is today the foremost Basque business group and the seventh largest in Spain. For those who are interested to know more, there is a great series of blogs about Mondragon by co-founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation, Jeffrey Hollender.

Of course, not all community businesses are large. A much smaller-scale venture that interested me at the time was New Findhorn Directions (NFD), established in 1979 as an umbrella body for businesses operating from the Findhorn Foundation eco-community in Scotland. As it happened, I visited the community after my traineeship in Canada, and again in 1996 when I began my Masters in Human Ecology in Ediburgh. The businesses in place at that time included the Wood Studio, Bay Area Graphics, Findhorn Bay Apothecary, Weatherwise Solar and Alternative Data. They also had a pioneering eco-housing project (which included houses made from whisky barrels). What united these diverse companies were that they were all trying to demonstrate a broader community philosophy of ‘spiritual management’ and ‘work as love in action’.

What can we learn about corporate responsibility from these somewhat eccentric experiments in community business? The first point to note is that these businesses exist within a different (some might say counter-mainstream) micro-culture. The common objective in places such as Findhorn in Scotland and Mondragon in Spain is community and environmental improvement, including through enterprise. They are not hungry for short-term profits; rather, they are pursuing long-term sustainable development strategies. The desire is to be autonomous and self-sustaining and, most of all, to promote local self-development rooted in history and tradition. These two examples serve to illustrate that success stories in alternative ways of doing business do exist. The details of exactly how they are different, however, still need more thorough exploration …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/blog_csrwire4_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Ties that Bind: Experiments in Community Business (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) Ties that Bind: Experiments in Community Business, Wayne Visser Blog Series, 10 July 2013.

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Meme-Splicing in the Land of the Rising Sun

Meme-Splicing in the Land of the Rising Sun

Blog by Wayne Visser

Kaizen, Sushi and Toyota

My career in sustainable business really got started in September 1990, when I attended AIESEC’s World Theme Conference on Sustainable Development in Tokyo, Japan. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. As a management student, I was all too aware of the rise of the Asian tiger economies, especially Japan. The West was spellbound by the revolution of total quality management (TQM), which the American statistician Edward Deming had introduced to Japan in the 1970s. The Japanese had perfected TQM through their kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement or ‘change for the better’.

The aim of the conference was to create a contribution to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which we called ‘A Youth Action Guide on Sustainable Development’. We also had study tours, most notably to the Toyota headquarters in Nagoya, where we met with the senior management team. I remember being served a sushi style lunch in square plastic trays, each morsel neatly and aesthetically arranged. Apart from glimpsing the highly automated production line, we had a chance to explore the company’s R&D display area. I was amazed by numerous eco-efficient and alternative fuel technologies already in the mature stages of development.

Having seen all this in 1990, it was no surprise to me that Toyota led the motor industry with its sustainability reforms nearly 20 years later, launching the Toyota Prius hybrid technology and RAV4 EV all-electric vehicle in 1997. With around 3 million Prius cars sold and the RAV4 EV relaunched in partnership with Tesla Motors in 2012, other automotive companies have been falling over themselves to catch up and introduce their own hybrid and electric models. This is one of those rare moments when we are seeing a ‘race to the top’ on environmental performance.

Earth Charter, Zero Waste and Fuji-Xerox

One of my great insights from the trip was that ‘vision’ is something the Japanese really understand. Shortly after my visit and ahead of most companies in the world, in 1992 Toyota issued its Environmental Guiding Principles and adopted its own Earth Charter. What is interesting is not that it has these principles (after all, many companies have flowery statements on their boardroom walls now), but rather the way they are expressed, which I believes conveys a qualitative difference in aspirations.

For instance, in its Guiding Principles it commits to ‘honour the language and spirit of the law’; to ‘enhancing the quality of life everywhere’; to ‘foster a corporate culture that enhances individual creativity’; and to ‘pursue growth in harmony with the global community’. And in its Earth Charter, it is already striving to ‘pursue production activities that do not generate waste’ and to ‘participate in the creation of a recycling-based society’. Note that it does not say ‘activities that reduce waste’; they say activities that ‘do not generate waste’. Hence, long before Ray Anderson at Interface conceived his much-celebrated ‘Mission Zero’ or McDonough and Braungart had popularised cradle to cradle concept, Toyota had understood and integrated the concept of a circular economy.

Of course, it is not just Toyota that has understood these principles. In August 2000, Fuji Xerox  …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/blog_csrwire3_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Meme-Splicing in the Land of the Rising Sun (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) Meme-Splicing in the Land of the Rising Sun, Wayne Visser Blog Series, 3 July 2013.

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Lessons from Africa’s Wild Frontiers

Lessons from Africa’s Wild Frontiers

Blog by Wayne Visser

Birthplace of blood diamonds

We start our journey around the world in Africa, in the country known today as Zimbabwe. This is the place where I was born and spent my childhood years. At that time, however, the country was still called Rhodesia – so named after the colonialist Cecil Rhodes in the late 1800s. Rhodes, an English-born explorer turned entrepreneur and business magnate, is the focus of my first story – a lesson in the abuse of corporate power.

In 1871, Rhodes joined the diamond rush and headed to Kimberley in South Africa. By 1889, he had formed an effective monopoly through a strategic partnership with the London-based Diamond Syndicate, which agreed to control the world supply of diamonds – around 90% at one point – and thereby maintain high prices. In the same year, Rhodes established the British South Africa Company, which was empowered under royal charter to trade with African tribal leaders, as well as to form banks; to own, manage, grant or distribute land; and to raise a police force.

In return, the company agreed to develop the territory it controlled, to respect existing African laws, to allow free trade within its territory and to respect all religions. Four years later, however, the very same company had recruited its own army and invaded tribal king Lobengula’s territory in what became known at the 1893 Matabele War. The troops and white settlers occupied the town and Bulawayo was declared a settlement under the rule of the British South Africa Company. Rhodes ordered that a new town be built on the ruins of Lobengula’s royal place.

For me, the lesson to learn from Rhodes and his British South Africa Company is clear: when companies have too much power—either political power or economic power – they will tend to abuse that power to enrich themselves. The fusion of private economic interest with public political sanction is the ultimate toxic recipe for corporate irresponsibility. We see it in all the classic cases of business crimes against society and the environment, whether it is through the regressive political lobbying of the oil industry in the United States (going all the way back to Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company), or the majority ownership of Shell by Nigeria’s former military dictatorship government.

Man versus wild

My second story from Zimbabwe is about how greed and exploitation is decimating wildlife on the planet. I have a childhood memory of visiting Hwange National Park (then called Wankie), which is

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/blog_csrwire2_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Lessons from Africa’s Wild Frontiers (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) Lessons from Africa’s Wild Frontiers, Wayne Visser Blog Series, 26 June 2013.

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The Life Story of a Global Movement

The Life Story of a Global Movement

Blog by Wayne Visser

This new blog series for CSRwire is based on my book, The Quest for Sustainable Business. The book, in turn, follows a journey – around the world and through time; a journey of discovery and ideas. In the blog posts that follow, I will give you some glimpses into the search that has taken me to over 65 countries in the past 20 years. The path begins in Africa and winds its way through Asia, North America, Europe, Australasia and Latin America.

Along the way, I will share what I have learned in my encounters with mega-corporations and small farmers; and in conversations with CEOs and social entrepreneurs. I draw on facts and figures about world trends, and interviews with thought leaders and activists. This is a tale that consciously weaves the personal and the professional, mixing anecdotes and case studies. It looks outwards and reflects inwards, and is both autobiography and the life story of a global movement.

My inspiration for the book came when I decided, in 2010, to leave the security of the University of Cambridge – where I had been developing a Master’s in Sustainability Leadership – and set out on a ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) quest world tour’, which took me to 20 countries on five continents, travelling continuously for nine months. It was one of those great ironies of my life that I had to leave one of the world’s premier educational institutions in order to advance my learning.

Suffice to say I had an itch and I needed to scratch it. I wanted to reconnect with what was happening on the ground in countries around the world; and I was excited by the prospect of making new friends, seeing new lands, soaking up diverse cultures and discovering fresh case studies. More than anything, I needed to rekindle the passion that had started me on this career in sustainable business 20 years before.

My intention was always to capture my insights along the journey and share them with a wider sustainable business audience. One of the ways I did this was to conduct nearly 100 video interviews, all of which are shared on the CSR International channel on YouTube, and referred to throughout the text of the book.

The other way was to keep a diary and to write a book about my travel experiences—the book which forms the basis for this blog series. However, when I started to write, I repeatedly found myself referring to earlier parts of my career. Gradually, I began to wonder if there was a bigger story to be told. After all, my journey began in the lead-up to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and here we were, 20 years later, preparing for Rio+20.

In the interim, I had been fortunate to work, study, teach and research in the field of sustainable business, tracking its path as it emerged from a fringe concern to a mainstream movement and a global profession. There were stories to tell that ranged from hippie-like adventures in eco-villages and community enterprises to hard-nosed consulting assignments for big global brands. I had worked as a strategy analyst for Cap Gemini and set up and ran KPMG’s Sustainability Services in South Africa.

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/blog_csrwire1_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] The Life Story of a Global Movement (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) The Life Story of a Global Movement, Wayne Visser Blog Series, 19 June 2013.

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!nspire Better! A new blog

exclamation_markAn !nspiration shared is a change multiplied. I recently created a new blog called !nspire Better!  This is a place where I share stories that are inspiring me and, more importantly, inspiring a better world.

  • You can find the blog at http://inspirebetter.blogspot.co.uk
  • Follow us on Twitter @inspirebetter
  • Like us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/InspireBetter
  • Email us on inspirebetterblog@gmail.com.
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CSR in Nigeria

CSR in Nigeria

A few thoughts and reflections

Blog by Wayne Visser

Interview questions by Heini Purho, Aalto University School of Business in Finland

What is the most effective way of helping the local communities in Nigeria (e.g. infrastructural development projects, social investments (offering education, employment, health services), minimizing the environmental effects, giving money to the Nigerian government)? Please state why.

The GMOUs (Global MOUs) that some multinationals have set up with communities are a good approach, and have seen some success. I would say the first strategy is to approach community development as a cross-sector partnership (with government, civil society and labour unions) rather than philanthropy, which only creates dependence and is open to corruption. The second strategy is to invest in improving governance, i.e. the capacity and efficiency of local and regional government. This can take the form of secondments of skilled staff into government for a period, or shared training. The third strategy is to engage actively with social entrepreneurs and to support them financially and in kind. This creates a possibility of scalable solutions to sustainable development challenges.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges or issues in Nigeria at the moment that should be addressed by Shell’s CSR policies and how should they be addressed?

The three areas that continue to challenge Nigerian society are corruption, pollution (especially spills and gas flaring) and human rights (including conflict and kidnappings). It is not for me to say how these should be tackled, but there is extensive guidance by organisations like Transparency International, EITI, UNEP and the new Protect-Respect-Remedy framework on business and human rights by the UN (requiring human rights due diligence investigations by companies).

Do you think Shell effectively helps the local communities and what could be done differently or is missing?(e.g. the level of communication between Shell, the government and communities, addressing the real needs of communities)

Shell operates in a very difficult environment in Nigeria, with high levels of corruption, conflict and poverty. Despite extensive efforts since the Saro-Wiwa incident in 1995 by Shell, levels of mistrust remain high, partly because of the government’s active participation in the operation of Shell, partly because of a very poor environmental record and partly because of ongoing conflict with activists. Shell faces the additional challenge of organised crime (sabotage, staff kidnappings, etc.). There are no easy solutions to these problems. Shell can only continue to focus its efforts on transparency (publish what you pay) and anti-corruption efforts, environmental improvements (to reduce spillages & flaring), community relations (partnerships with credible civil society organisations), creating shared value (more of the profits must be invested in the community) and reducing dependence on government.

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) CSR in Nigeria: A few thoughts and reflections, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 9 April 2013.

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Press release: Dr Wayne Visser in South Africa

It has been confirmed that sustainability expert, voted one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders and one of the Top 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders, Dr Wayne Visser will be visiting South Africa in a professional capacity after working in London, UK for the last 10 years.

Wayne, who was born in Zimbabwe and spent some time living in South Africa, where he was the Director of Sustainability Services for KPMG and Strategy Analyst for Cap Gemini, will be in South Africa from 18th February – 1st March 2013.

This visit has been made possible by The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), with them having him work with their 2013 MBA students.

“GIBS’ purpose is to significantly improve the competitive performance of individuals and organisations through business education”, and believes that brining the context of sustainability into their course curriculum will not only give their students a competitive advantage when entering the market place, but will also give them an opportunity to address the sustainability challenges faced by today’s business world.

 

In addition, Wayne will be working with various corporate and government clients in Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as delivering keynotes sharing his latest work, including his latest book: THE QUEST FOR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS: AN EPIC JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS.

In an article Wayne wrote entitled “Setting the Global Agenda for Ubuntu Capitalism”, Wayne notes the ground breaking, 1994 King Report on Corporate Governance (that marked the institutionalisation of corporate governance in South Africa), as being the first governance code in the world to stress the importance of wider stakeholder interests, beyond narrow shareholder demands. He also notes the significant role South Africa is playing in shaping a new agenda for capitalism through the value-based philosophy of Ubuntu, which is transforming corporate culture towards a more inclusive, integrity-based approach to business.

South Africa (and other parts of Africa), are faced with a great opportunity to leapfrog industrialised nations to create a fresh approach for a sustainable future.

“South Africa is a petri dish of experimentation on issues of business ethics, corporate governance and sustainability – in some cases leading, such as the integration of sustainability into corporate governance and in some cases lagging, such as the narrow focus on CSI (corporate social investment). I look forward sharing best practices from my travels to 60 countries around the world and exchanging lessons learned with professional colleagues in South Africa.” – Dr Wayne Visser.

 

Included in Wayne’s 17 books are some that have focused on Africa:

Contact

For more information about Wayne’s availability in Cape Town and Johannesburg, contact his agent in South Africa:
Greer Blizzard

greer@theuniverse.co.za

@greerblizzard

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To Scare or Inspire?

To Scare or Inspire?

Bringing Admission, Ambition & Pragmatic to CSR

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 13 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

What is the most effective CSR/sustainability strategy – to scare or to inspire? How do you get the balance between sharing the bad news (i.e. the state of the world) and the good news (i.e. the innovative solutions)?

Betty Sue Flowers, co-author of Presence, told me that ‘if you attempt to scare people with the enormity of the problems, the tendency is simply to give up. And so when you dispirit people, when you remove the spirit, you also remove the capacity to change.’ This is a common refrain – and indeed a dilemma. We can’t deny the severity of the crises that we face, and yet we can’t paralyse people with fear.

Jonathon Porritt, author of Capitalism as if the World Matters, told me, ‘I’m impaled on this every day of my life at the moment. What do you do?  I think we still owe it to reality and to integrity in any communications process to share the empirical reality. But how you come out of that without leaving people spread eagled with despair and just utterly disempowered?

Porritt elaborates, saying, ‘We’re trying to create these upbeat, opportunity driven wish lists about what would happen if businesses seized hold of this set of opportunities here, and started to do things completely differently over there, and if politicians started to construct societal and economic responses based on a world not on growth hormones. But then you look at the scale of their responses and you set it against the scale of the analysis, and of course it looks frail. It looks insubstantial in terms of where we need to be. So I think the mechanisms we’re using are the only ones available to us, but we haven’t got it right yet. Whether we can get there building, building, building gradually over a period of time or whether we need some shocks in the system to accelerate the emergence of that positive energy, that for me is still a hard one to call.’

Jorgen Randers, co-author of the original 1972 Limits to Growth report and author the recently released book 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, is equally ambivalent. Speaking to me, he reflected, ‘Are scare tactics better than carrots?  There are groups pursuing both avenues. I think I’ve moved to thinking that having a positive view has a stronger motivational force than scare tactics. But then you can ask the question, is it possible to come up with sufficient carrots to make society act?  And it looks as if some support from some scare tactics or some of the disasters would help.’

The 21st Century Living project, undertaken by Acona in conjunction with Homebase and The Eden Project, may provide some answers. Based on an 18 month study of 100 households in the UK, the findings showed that most people will act, given the right tools and information specifically for their needs. ‘The data say clearly that environmental values are not a good predictor of action. The message we got back was clear: we can get on with cutting our environmental footprint without having to win the battle for the long-term soul of the nation. Don’t browbeat people, don’t frighten them – just show them where they are wasting money and resources and they will change themselves. Frame the topic like this and everyone is interested – young and old, wealthy and poor, green or not.’

Like all of us in the CSR/sustainability field, I have also been grappling with the issue of whether it is best to scare or inspire …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/blog_scare_inspire_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] To Scare or Inspire? (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Link[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2012) To Scare or Inspire? Bringing Admission, Ambition & Pragmagic to CSR, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 1 May 2012.

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Will Anyone Join Your Revolution?

Will Anyone Join Your Revolution?

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 12 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

Margaret Mead once said, ‘The only person who likes change is a wet baby’, to which Hunter Lovins added ‘and the baby squalls all the way through the process.’ So change is never easy, especially on the big issues of sustainability. In thinking about this, I have found Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher’s Formula for Change rather useful: D x V x F > R. This means that three factors must be present for meaningful organisational change to take place. These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
V = Vision of what is possible; and
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.

If the product of these three factors is greater than R (Resistance), then change is possible. I have seen sustainability change efforts fail for all four reasons. Deep-seated resistance often exists because the benefits of the status quo to those in power are considerable. Sustainability initiatives, especially if they are integrated into the core business, are often seen as extra burden. For instance, an operations manager of a plant really doesn’t want the extra hassle of collecting emissions data for a sustainability report, or subjecting his staff and facilities to an audit.

Most often, I think, the dissatisfaction that we may feel with the state of the world or the company’s actions really isn’t widely shared enough. Jonathon Porritt, author of Capitalism as if the World Matters, after many years in the sustainability game (he started the UK’s Green Party and chaired the government’s Sustainable Development Commission among other things), told me: ‘Looking at people all over the world today, rich and poor world, they are not remotely close to a state of mind that would call for anything revolutionary. There’s no vast upheaval of people across the world saying, “This system is completely and utterly flawed and must be overturned and we must move towards a different system.”  There isn’t even that, let alone an identification of what the other system would look like.’

Likewise, on creating a compelling vision, Porritt concludes that ‘we have not collectively articulated what this better world looks like – the areas in which it would offer such fantastic improvements in terms of people’s quality of life, the opportunities they would have, a chance to live in totally different ways to the way we live now.  We haven’t done that. Collectively we’ve not made the alternative to this paradigm, this paradigm in progress, work emotionally and physically, in terms of economic excitement.  We’ve just not done it.’ Taking first steps is something companies are generally much better at, especially picking the so-called ‘low hanging fruit’. But the reason these steps so often don’t get beyond the pilot or peripheral stage is because the other two factors – dissatisfaction and vision – are not strong enough.

Another way to think of change in a structured way is Peter Senge’s concept of the learning organisation, popularised in his book, The Fifth Discipline …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/blog_join_revolution_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Will Anyone Join Your Revolution? (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Link[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2012) Will Anyone Join Your Revolution? Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 24 April 2012.

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