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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Family Friendly Enterprise

Family Friendly Enterprise:

Slovenia leads the way

Article by Wayne Visser

An International Sustainable Business column for The Guardian

Only 14% of employees in the UK (compared with a 21% global average) are fully engaged in their work and one in four (24%) are not satisfied with their job, according to a Towers Watson global workforce survey. Furthermore, nearly one in three (30%) do not feel engaged by their employer.

This is no trivial matter. Gallup estimates the cost of employee disengagement to the UK economy to be somewhere between £59.4bn and £64.7bn. Part of this cost is sickness-related absence; engaged employees in the UK take an average of 2.7 sick days per year, compared with 6.2 for those who could be described as disengaged.

The Centre for Mental Health estimates that employers loose around £8.4bn a year this way. However, nearly double this amount (£15.1bn a year) is due to productivity loss from people not feeling well in the workplace, so-called presenteeism.

Turn the trend around, however, and there are big upsides to having an engaged workforce. Research by the Corporate Leadership Council suggests that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their organisation. According to the IES/Work Foundation, if companies increased investment in workplace engagement by 10%, they would increase profits by £1,500 per employee per year. That is because engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than disengaged ones and highly engaged organisations have the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87% and improve performance by 20%.

Given these statistics, it is hardly surprising that issues of wellbeing in the workplace are on the rise. In the UK, Business in the Community (BITC) promotes this agenda through their Workwell campaign, while globally the Great Place to Work Institute partners with more than 5,500 organisations with around 10 million employees to conduct the largest annual set of workplace culture studies in the world.

According to their research, employees believe they work for great organisations when they trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with.

Great Place to Work’s annual surveys and awards give kudos and some PR-driven reputational payback for companies that are investing in workplace wellbeing. For example, Microsoft topped the leader board in 2011 for the best multinational to work for globally, as well as in Europe.

“For us that means greater creativity, greater productivity and, ultimately, continued success as a market leader,” says Michel Van der Bel, managing director for Microsoft UK says. Kimberly Clark scored top in Latin America and the Admiral Group leads in the UK. Importantly, Great Place to Work also recognises large national companies and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Awards are one way to recognise best practice. Another is certification of management systems, which tends to encourage greater embedding of the values in the organisation. One place where this is happening is Slovenia, where the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, in partnership with auditing firm The Ekvilib Institute, has run a family friendly enterprise certification scheme since 2007 …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/article_slovenia_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Family Friendly Enterprise (article)

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. (2012) Family Friendly Enterprise: Slovenia Leads the Way, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 1 October. First appeared in The Guardian.

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Practising Social Responsibility Without the CSR Label

Practising social responsibility without the CSR label

Article by Wayne Visser

An International Sustainable Business column for The Guardian

Mexico’s small and medium sized enterprises account for more than 99% of the four million businesses in the country, generate 52% of GDP and provide 72% of employment. The government’s business accelerator programme supports these SMEs by funding institutions that can help the sector grow by improving competitiveness, business opportunities and market scalability.

One such business accelerator is the IDEARSE Center at Anahuac University in Mexico City. The centre’s business model for SME acceleration is built around CSR, incorporating environmental impacts, human rights, self-regulation, social impacts and community involvement and stakeholder engagement.

More remarkable still is that, by working with the supply chains of big brands such as Sony, Coca-Cola and Cemex and having trained more than 150 SMEs since 2007, the SMEs achieved sales growth of between 5% and 37% and jobs growth of between 5% and 19%. At the same time SME performance across all six CSR areas has improved between 23% and 46%. These numbers debunk several popular myths, most notably that CSR is not relevant, too expensive or not incentivised for SMEs. Let’s look more closely at these myths.

Is CSR relevant for SMEs?

The issue of relevance largely hinges on whether you adopt a very literal and narrow interpretation of CSR. Laura Spence, director of the Royal Holloway, University of London’s Centre for Research into Sustainability, says that the terminology of CSR is both inaccurate (as small firms are unlikely to be corporations) and off-putting jargon for SMEs.

“Also since CSR practice is often associated with reporting, SMEs don’t stand a chance. They are unlikely to have external financial reports, let alone the time resources or need to produce a glossy CSR report,” says Spence.

So first, we need to get the labels and definitions right. The IDEARSE centre, for example, describes CSR as “a permanent and continuous commitment, voluntarily adopted by the business, to respond to the economic, social and environmental impacts of its activities, and to guarantee the sustainable and human development to all its stakeholders.” No doubt, it helps that CSR in Spanish (responsabilidad social empresarial or RSE) translates more accurately as socially responsible ‘enterprise’.

Explicit or implicit CSR?

The second issue – whether CSR is too costly – is a real concern, but once again, it depends what we mean by CSR. Work by CSR academics Dirk Matten and Jeremy Moon distinguish between explicit and implicit CSR. Explicit CSR refers to many of the formalised practices we associate with large corporates, such as CSR codes, standards, managers, systems, reports and audits. These are resource intensive and mostly not feasible for SMEs …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/article_mexico_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Practising Social Responsibility Without the CSR Label (article)

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 article

Visser, W. (2012) Practising Social Responsibility Without the CSR Label, The Guardian, 12 September 2012.

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Open Sourcing Sustainability

Open Sourcing Sustainability:

Web 2.0 Meets CSR 2.0

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 9 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

CSR 2.0 responsiveness goes beyond traditional partnerships and CSO effectiveness; it is also about innovative ways to collaborate. I want to flag several Web 2.0 inspired experiments in responsiveness that are opening up sustainability and responsibility solutions to the public. One is a platform called the Eco-Patent Commons, which allows companies to share their intellectual property for the common good. The Commons was launched by WBCSD and covers issues like waste, pollution, global warming and energy. ‘The premise of the Commons,’ says Björn Stigson, president of the WBCSD, ‘is that the free sharing of these patents leads to new collaborations and innovation aimed at helping others become more eco-efficient and/or operate in a more sustainable way.’

The Eco-Patent Commons’ publicly searchable database already contains over one hundred eco-friendly patents from companies like Bosch, Dow, DuPont, Fuji Xerox, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, Ricoh, Sony and Taisei. Xerox, for example, has eleven pledged patents that cover a process that cuts the time it takes to remove toxic waste from soil and water from years to months, as well as a patent that covers technology that makes magnetic refrigeration less harmful to the environment.

Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, believes that ‘innovation to address environmental issues will require both the application of technology as well as new models for sharing intellectual property among companies in different industries … In addition to enabling new players to engage in protecting the environment, the free exchange of valuable intellectual property will accelerate work on the next level of environmental challenges.’

Similarly, Donal O’Connell, Director of Intellectual Property for Nokia, thinks that ‘environmental issues have great potential to help us discover the next wave of innovation because they force us all to think differently about how we make, consume and recycle products.’ Nokia have pledged a patent designed to help companies safely re-use old mobile phones by transforming them into new products like digital cameras, data monitoring devices or other electronic items. ‘Recycling the computing power of mobile phones in this way could significantly increase the reuse of materials in the electronics industry’, concludes O’Connell.

Even more significant than the individual patents that have been added is the shift in thinking that this signals among some of the largest companies in the world. It is true none of them are exactly ‘giving away the family silver’ – they are not opening all their patents – but they are demonstrating responsiveness on a scale never seen before. They are recognising that the global problems we face are larger than whatever individual solutions can accomplish. If we are truly going to be effective in tackling our most intractable challenges, we will need the wisdom of crowds and the collective efforts of millions of entrepreneurs …

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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_open_sourcing_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Open Sourcing Sustainability (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) Open Sourcing Sustainability: Web 2.0 Meets CSR 2.0, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 3 April 2012.

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The Long Tail of CSR

The Long Tail of CSR:

When Smaller is Bigger

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 8 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

Is bigger always better or can we still say ‘small is beautiful’, as the pioneering economist E.F. Schumacher argued way back in 1973? Certainly, the ‘muesli-eating, sandal-wearing’ New Age approach to small-is-beautiful has been rather more of an advert for ‘small is groovy, but ultimately ineffectual’. But what if we could do both big and small at the same time?

I discussed the issue of scalability with Simon Zadek, a widely respected thought leader on the civil corporation and accountability, who posed the rhetorical question: ‘Is scale large institutional functionality, or is it a flotilla of little boats?’ This is where Chris Anderson’s Web 2.0 concept of ‘the long tail’ is very useful. The Long Tail – named after the extended tail of a statistical distribution curve – is the idea that selling less to more people is big business. It’s the business model that has spawned the most successful companies of the Web 2.0 age. The Long Tail questions the conventional wisdom that says success is about generating ‘blockbusters’ and ‘superstars’ – those rare few products and services that become runaway bestsellers.

Anderson sums up his message by saying that: 1) the tail of available variety is longer than we think; 2) it’s now within reach economically; and 3) all those niches, when aggregated, can make up a significant market. He also notes that this Long Tail revolution has been made possible by the digital age, which has dramatically reduced the costs of customised production and niche distribution. There are three enablers of successful long tail businesses, according to Anderson: 1) democratising the tools of production (e.g. digi-cams, content editing software, blogging tools); 2) democratising the tools of distribution (e.g. Amazon, eBay, iTunes, Netflix); and 3) connecting supply and demand (e.g. Google, blogs, Rotten Tomatoes).

So I got to wondering: Is there a Long Tail of CSR? And if so, what does it look like? To me, the Long Tail of CSR is all about extending the reach of CSR, and improving its ability to satisfy specific social and environmental needs. Let’s use Anderson’s enablers as a framework for thinking about this.

Democratising the tools of CSR production

This is about breaking CSR silos and extending CSR beyond multinationals. At the early stages of CSR adoption, it is often confined to Public Relations, Corporate Affairs or Marketing departments. As CSR implementation matures, responsibility tends to migrate to specialised CSR departments of various descriptions (environment, health & safety, accountability, corporate citizenship, etc.). However, these versions of CSR are like the Hollywood model of blockbuster films. They suggest that CSR is about a few, high visibility programmes that are designed by CSR experts and delivered by big companies.

By contrast, democratising CSR production would mean firstly embedding CSR across the organisation – making it the responsibility of operations managers, financial managers, shop floor workers, basically everyone. This is only possible if CSR becomes part of the culture and incentive systems of an organisation. CSR would also need to be extended beyond the usual suspects (i.e. the high profile, branded multinationals) to the less visible B2B (business to business) and national (rather than multinational) organisations, as well as to SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) and down the supply chain …

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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_long_tail_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] The Long Tail of CSR (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) The Long Tail of CSR: When Smaller is Bigger, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 27 March 2012.

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Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture:

Are Social Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 7 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

What do Taddy Blecher, Anurag Gupta, Wang Chuan-Fu and all of the other social entrepreneurs have in common? Is this a special breed of human being? Are social entrepreneurs born or can they be made? In the academic literature, there is an interesting thread of research that is around the concept of ‘champions’ in organisations, especially ‘environmental champions’. The idea draws on prior conceptions of the human resources champion in the 1970s and 1980s, before HR became institutionalised.

Academics define environmental champions as people who can attractively express a personal vision about environmental protection that is in tune with both industry’s needs and wider public concern and who convince and enable organisation members to turn environmental issues into successful corporate programs and innovations. Environmental champions have been showed to imbue a combination of characteristics, including being a catalyst, champion, sponsor, facilitator and demonstrator. Their skills include the ability to identify, package and sell environmental issues within their organisations.  Their effectiveness in engaging others rests heavily on expertise, top management support and a strong appreciation for the problems that every business unit or operations manager faces.

Research on champions is not confined purely to the environmental dimension of sustainability. Others have written about socially responsible change-agents, as well as managers’ individual discretion as a component of corporate social performance. British academic Christine Hemingway, for example, finds that CSR can be the result of championing by a few managers, based on their personal values and beliefs, despite the personal and professional risks this may entail. Individual managers are also often mediators in corporate philanthropy and stakeholder influence. Hence, the notion of CSR champions has emerged as an important concept, which I will return to this in the final blog on individual change agents.

Bill Drayton, who has been involved in selecting and tracking the progress of the 2,700 Ashoka Fellows, believes social entrepreneurs ‘focus everyday on the “how to” questions. How are they going to get from here to their ultimate goal? How are they going to deal with this opportunity or that barrier? How are the pieces going to fit together? They are engineers, not poets. … The entrepreneur’s job is not to take an idea and then implement it. That is what franchisees do. The entrepreneur is building something that is entirely new – by constantly creating and testing and recreating and then testing and recreating again’ …

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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_nature_nurture_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Nature vs Nurture (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) Nature vs. Nurture: Are Social Entrepreneurs Born or Made, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 20 March 2012.

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CSR 2.0: The New DNA

CSR 2.0 as the New DNA of Business

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 6 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

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 chapters, 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  …

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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_csr2_new_dna_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] CSR 2.0: New DNA (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) CSR 2.0 as the New DNA of Business, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 13 March 2012.

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Cracking the CSR Codes Puzzle

Cracking the CSR Codes Puzzle

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 5 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

Looking back, we can see that the 1990s were the decade of CSR codes – not only EMAS, ISO 14001 and SA 8000, but also the Forest Steward Council (FSC) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification Schemes, Green Globe Standard (tourism sector), Corruption Perceptions Index, Fairtrade Standard, Ethical Trading Initiative, Dow Jones Sustainability Index and OHSAS 18001 (health & safety), to mention just a few. But all that was just a warm up act when we look at the last 10 years, when we have seen codes proliferate in virtually every area of sustainability and responsibility and all major industry sectors. So much so that in the A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility, we included over 100 such codes, guidelines and standards – and that was just a selection of what it out there. To illustrate the point, here is a sample of what has been thrust onto corporate agendas since the year 2000:

The Carbon Disclosure Project; Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation; GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines; Kimberley Process (to stop trade in conflict diamonds); Mining and Minerals for Sustainable Development (MMSD) Project; UN Global Compact; UN Millennium Development Goals; Voluntary Principles on Human Rights; FTSE4Good Index; Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS; Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Business Principles for Countering Bribery; Publish What Pay Campaign; Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development; London Principles (finance sector); AA 1000 Assurance Standard; Equator Principles (finance sector); Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil; Global Corruption Barometer; UN Convention Against Corruption; UNEP Finance Initiative; UN Norms on Business and Human Rights; World Bank Extractive Industries Review; AA 1000 Standard for Stakeholder Engagement; EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; ISO 14064 Standard on Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Verification; Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change; Bribe Payers’ Index; UN Principles for Responsible Investment; ClimateWise Principles (insurance sector); UNEP Declaration on Climate Change; UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME); Bali, Poznan and Copenhagen Communiqués (climate change) … and many, many more.

No wonder companies are suffering from code fatigue and audit exhaustion. It is the supreme paradox of the Age of Management – companies are pressured to standardise their efforts on sustainability and responsibility, while stakeholders and critics (myself included) remain unconvinced that this approach identifies or addresses the root causes of the problems we face. Many of the institutional failures over the past 20 years have, I would argue, been systemic failures of culture, rather than bureaucratic failures of management; they have more to do with a prevailing set of values than a particular set of procedures.

The latest in this code-mania is ISO 26000 on Social Responsibility. I have suggested before that ISO 26000 is like a teddy bear – something cute and fluffy, which may help companies sleep better at night, but nothing like the grizzly bear that we really need to shake business out of their CSR complacency. Of course, it is unfair of me to make so …

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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_codes_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Cracking the CSR Codes Puzzle (blog)

Related websites

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

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

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2012) Cracking the CSR Codes Puzzle, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 7 March 2012.

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Broken Promises

Broken Promises:

BP’s Slide Backwards into Promotional CSR

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 4 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

By 2000, John Browne, then-CEO of BP, felt the company had earned enough sustainability kudos to risk a major rebranding. The company reportedly spent $7 million in researching the new ‘Beyond Petroleum’ Helios brand and $25 million on a campaign to support the brand change. When Browne justified the exercise by saying ‘it’s all about increasing sales, increasing margins and reducing costs at the retail sites’, perhaps more people should have tempered their expectations. Certainly Greenpeace wasn’t duped, concluding at the time that ‘this is a triumph of style over substance. BP spent more on their logo this year than they did on renewable energy last year’.

Antonia Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil (2008), was similarly sceptical, claiming that at its peak, BP was spending 4% of its total capital and exploratory budget on renewable energy and that this has since declined, despite Browne’s announcement in 2005 of BP’s plans to double its investment in alternative and renewable energies ‘to create a new low-carbon power business with the growth potential to deliver revenues of around $6 billion a year within the next decade.’

Sceptics notwithstanding, Browne had earned his new title as the ‘Sun King’ and his reputation was not only being earned with green stripes. BP was also one of the first companies to declare their support for the Publish-What-You-Pay campaign.  But success or failure is all about timing. If Browne had been a politician and had retired in 2003 after two four-year terms of office, he may still have been covered in glory, with his Sun King crown firmly in place. After all, he had turned BP into an oil major – perhaps even a competitor for Exxon Mobil – by creating a lean, mean, green machine. Instead, he hung onto power long enough to face the consequences of his own legacy of cost-cutting and rhetoric. As a result, between 2004 and 2007, the proverbial chickens came home to roost. Browne was left tarred and feathered.

On 23 March 2005, when an explosion and fire at BP’s Texas City refinery killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others. An investigation into the accident by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ultimately found over 300 safety violations and fined BP $21 million – the largest fine in OSHA history at the time. In 2007, in a separate settlement related to the explosion, BP pleaded guilty to a violation of the federal Clean Air Act and agreed to pay a $50 million fine and to make safety upgrades to the plant. Two years later, in 2009, OSHA imposed an additional $87 million in fines, claiming that the company had not completed all the safety upgrades required under the agreement and alleging 439 new ‘wilful’ safety violations.

In March 2006, BP was found to be criminally liable for  …

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

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Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2012) Broken Promises: BP’s Slide Backwards into Promotional CSR, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 28 February 2012.

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