Open Letter to Young People on Donald Trump’s Election as President

Open Letter to Young People on Donald Trump’s Election as President

Read by the author, Dr Wayne Visser, on 12 November 2016

Transcript

To the Next Generation of Leaders:

As Donald Trump prepares to take up office as US President, I (like so many others) am trying to make sense of it all. And whether you care about politics or not, this is a seismic event, which is shaking the foundations of the world and will affect you in one way or another.

I don’t know how you feel about it – amused, indifferent, shocked, disappointed, or outraged. But whatever your emotions, we all must now accept the disturbing fact that 60 million educated people have voted for a chauvinist, bigoted, racist, old white man to be the so-called ‘leader of the free world’.

Of course, the choice was not unambiguous – Hillary was far from a perfect alternative. I have heard commentators say that this was a vote by the ‘common people’ for change, fuelled by a deep mistrust of the corrupt political and business elites of Washington and Wall Street, which is not entirely unjustified.

Be that as it may, while the media and the public are still in an apoplectic frenzy of recrimination (or celebration, depending on their political perspective), I want to rise above the storm and reflect on what this might mean for you and your future, beyond the next four years.

My first plea to you is: Do Not Panic! Martin Luther King said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. And as someone who lived through South Africa’s triumph of democracy over a 40-year brutal, racist apartheid regime, I have seen the truth of these words.

Trump, for all his bluster, cannot turn the tide of history, nor change the momentum of decades of progress on human rights, peace and the environment. He can try to renege on the global climate deal or any number of other responsibilities, but the world (and you) will move forward, with or without him.

The future belongs to the youth and I am optimistic, because you have grown up empowered by global connectivity and with access to the best that science and knowledge has to offer. I am convinced that you will not allow your opinions to be dictated by narrow-mindedness and shallow sloganeering.

At the same time, I am encouraged that the nature of leadership has changed in the past few decades. The way you live your life – and the values you choose to express – is no longer determined by politicians. Today, the people creating a better world are young social entrepreneurs, activists and change-makers.

I am not saying that we can or should ignore calamitous leadership when we see it. On the contrary, as right wing forces grow – in reaction to increased uncertainty and fear in the world – we must be extra vigilant and stronger advocates for social justice and sustainability than ever before.

No doubt about it, the work of defending liberal values just got harder in the wake of Trump’s election. But as Lebanese poet and mystic Kahlil Gibran said: “Every dragon gives birth to a St George who slays it”. And we are the knights who will take up the challenge to fight for the better future you deserve.

My simple message to you is this: Do Not Be Disheartened. Sometimes it takes a crisis to remind us of what is really important in life. And in the darkest hours, that is precisely when the human spirit shines brightest. So do not be distracted by the ensuing circus in the White House. Stay focused on the big picture and the long view.

Build your future on strong ethical foundations – those values that many before you have fought and died for, and which you now cherish. Then, rest assured, you will triumph, no matter what political earthquakes, social upheavals, environmental catastrophes or moral storms may come your way.

You are not alone.

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Open Letter to Young People on Donald Trump’s Election as President

Open Letter to Young People on Donald Trump’s Election as President

A blog by Wayne Visser, first published on Huffington Post

To the Next Generation of Leaders:

As Donald Trump prepares to take up office as US President, I (like so many others) am trying to make sense of it all. And whether you care about politics or not, this is a seismic event, which is shaking the foundations of the world and will affect you in one way or another.

I don’t know how you feel about it – amused, indifferent, shocked, disappointed, or outraged. But whatever your emotions, we all must now accept the disturbing fact that 60 million educated people have voted for a chauvinist, bigoted, racist, old white man to be the so-called ‘leader of the free world’.

Of course, the choice was not unambiguous – Hillary was far from a perfect alternative. I have heard commentators say that this was a vote by the ‘common people’ for change, fuelled by a deep mistrust of the corrupt political and business elites of Washington and Wall Street, which is not entirely unjustified.

Be that as it may, while the media and the public are still in an apoplectic frenzy of recrimination (or celebration, depending on their political perspective), I want to rise above the storm and reflect on what this might mean for you and your future, beyond the next four years.

My first plea to you is: Do Not Panic!

Martin Luther King said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.

And as someone who lived through South Africa’s triumph of democracy over a 40-year brutal, racist apartheid regime, I have seen the truth of these words.

Trump, for all his bluster, cannot turn the tide of history, nor change the momentum of decades of progress on human rights, peace and the environment. He can try to renege on the global climate deal or any number of other responsibilities, but the world (and you) will move forward, with or without him.

The future belongs to the youth and I am optimistic, because you have grown up empowered by global connectivity and with access to the best that science and knowledge has to offer. I am convinced that you will not allow your opinions to be dictated by narrow-mindedness and shallow sloganeering.

At the same time, I am encouraged that the nature of leadership has changed in the past few decades. The way you live your life – and the values you choose to express – is no longer determined by politicians. Today, the people creating a better world are young social entrepreneurs, activists and change-makers.

I am not saying that we can or should ignore calamitous leadership when we see it. On the contrary, as right wing forces grow – in reaction to increased uncertainty and fear in the world – we must be extra vigilant and stronger advocates for social justice and sustainability than ever before.

No doubt about it, the work of defending liberal values just got harder in the wake of Trump’s election.

But as Lebanese poet and mystic Kahlil Gibran said: “Every dragon gives birth to a St George who slays it”.

And we are the knights who will take up the challenge to fight for the better future you deserve.

My simple message to you is this: Do Not Be Disheartened.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to remind us of what is really important in life. And in the darkest hours, that is precisely when the human spirit shines brightest. So do not be distracted by the ensuing circus in the White House. Stay focused on the big picture and the long view.

Build your future on strong ethical foundations – those values that many before you have fought and died for, and which you now cherish. Then, rest assured, you will triumph, no matter what political earthquakes, social upheavals, environmental catastrophes or moral storms may come your way.

You are not alone.

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Book Quotations – From “Sustainable Frontiers”

Sustainable Frontiers

Book Title: Sustainable Frontiers: Unlocking Change Through Business, Leadership and Innovation

Authors: Wayne Visser

Publication details: Greenleaf Publishing, 2015

For more information: See the Book Profile

Quotations

  1. So much of making a successful transition to a more sustainable future depends on letting go
  2. We must find ways to let go of an industrial system that has served us well, but is no longer fit for purpose
  3. We have to let go of old styles of leadership & outdated models of business, high-impact lifestyles & selfish values
  4. We must learn to let go of cherished ideologies that are causing destruction
  5. We must learn to let go of beliefs about ways to tackle problems that are failing to resolve crises
  6. We are scared to let go, because we are comfortable clinging to our consumptive habits & selfish behaviours
  7. The future is uncertain – and our greatest fear as humans is a fear of the unknown
  8. We would rather trust (and fight to protect) the present we know than gamble on the future we don’t know
  9. Civilizations that fail to change are civilizations that ultimately fall
  10. The decline of civilizations starts with the failure to open the public and political mind to new possibilities
  11. People become trapped in a paradigm – a pattern of thinking – and are closed to a different, emergent world-view
  12. If we are to reach sustainable frontiers, it must begin with changing our collective minds
  13. First, we must change our collective minds – and only then will we change our collective behaviour
  14. We will all have to let go of cherished beliefs and strategies that are not working
  15. Sustainability I’ve discovered to be many things, but not an effective strategy for change – at least, not yet
  16. The essential idea of sustainability is about as exciting as watching lettuce wilt under the midday sun
  17. Sustainability has won many battles, but has lost the war for the hearts and minds of the people
  18. Sustainability has been warning of scarcity & survival, when what people want is prosperity & thriving
  19. The sustainability movement has failed to understand what it means to be human
  20. As human beings, our lives are all about change – about growth & development & making things better
  21. Sustainability “wonks” believe that they are all about Progress with a capital P. The world remains unconvinced
  22. Sustainability is like a geeky, pimply teenager who has come to our party & turned off the music
  23. Sustainability folks keep telling us that we would really be much happier if we stopped having so much darn fun!
  24. The key to having a good time, declares the sustainability mantra, is to practice a lot more self-restraint
  25. All those on board the sustainability austerity train, say “Hell, yeah!” … What, no one?
  26. If we are to survive (let alone thrive), the world is going to have to change – dramatically, radically & irreversibly
  27. When change does turn our lives upside down (as it will), how can we become more resilient?
  28. Change is all about connection. In other words, connectivity is the underlying catalyst for change
  29. Learning only happens when synapses are formed: they connect the neurons to each other
  30. Scaling the number of networked relationships is at the heart of change, including biological & social evolution
  31. If we want to save the sustainability movement, we will have to get much smarter about change
  32. We desperately need transformational leadership in order to advance the frontier of sustainability
  33. Calamitous leadership led us all, Pied Piper-like, into the 2008 global financial crisis
  34. The global financial crisis was ushered in while leading companies happily chanted “greed is good” in unison
  35. To survive in the sustainability era, companies will have to move beyond their aggressive tendencies
  36. Companies need to become genuinely concerned about the perspectives & wellbeing of all their stakeholders
  37. Stakeholders, if maltreated, can bite bite back – & even the most macho multinationals can bleed
  38. Too many companies have grown used to speaking to stakeholders only on a ‘need to know’ basis
  39. There is no shortage of companies that mistake ‘telling’ for ‘dialogue’ & get backchat from angry stakeholders
  40. Our incumbent global cadre of executive leadership is being forced to shapeshift, like it or not
  41. Those that have the foresight to change fundamentally are more likely to survive and thrive
  42. When it comes to sustainability, we are actually talking about changing a vastly complex system
  43. It takes a complex mix of different players to bring about lasting change for sustainability
  44. The bottom line is that we are gambling with our climate future, but we can still spread our bets
  45. If we want real transformation in society, our best chance is to keep spinning the wheel of systems change
  46. If there is one reason why organisational change fails, it is because we underestimate resistance to change
  47. Resistance to change comes from inertia – and inertia happens because change is like an iceberg
  48. Shifting our habits, attitudes, beliefs and values is the real secret to making change happen
  49. Changing a leader’s world-view is the first step to changing an organisation
  50. Sustainability reports are practically burping with all the ‘low hanging fruit’ companies have gorged on
  51. As humans, we are always ‘chasing the blue’ – so we have to be convinced that where we are going is sunnier
  52. Most people in most parts of the world don’t believe a sustainable future is necessarily a better future
  53. A blue skies strategy means being willing to take a risk as a leader & to set big hairy audacious goals
  54. Blue-sky leaders know that we are only inspired by reaching for an impossible dream
  55. We desperately need more Apollo-like sustainability missions that the public can get genuinely excited about
  56. Impacts that are far away, or in the future, are like smoldering fires in the distance: not action-worthy
  57. People need to feel the heat: directly, personally, here and now. That might mean lighting a few fires
  58. If you’re trying to make change happen, use burning platforms to create the urgency for change
  59. Use blue skies to create the reasons to change, baby steps for momentum & big beliefs to sustain energy
  60. Unlocking change is not only about what you do, but also whether you are tapped into your own power
  61. There are deep psychological – even existential – reasons why we “do” sustainability
  62. Sustainability allows us to feel that our work is aligned to our personal values
  63. Sustainability is a bit like chess – it is complex, dynamic & challenging, like an earth-puzzle that needs solving
  64. There are four sustainability leader archetypes – experts, facilitators, catalysts & activists
  65. Experts, facilitators, catalysts & activists each represent a different kind of sustainability change agent
  66. In the world of sustainability superheroes, you should know which cape and tights fits you best
  67. Aligning with your inner superhero allows you to be more professionally effective and purpose-inspired
  68. For change to be sustained and transformational, we need the joint efforts of the sustainability Fantastic Four
  69. The sustainability Fantastic Four superhero powers are knowledge, collaboration, imagination & compassion
  70. The first step to overcoming short-termism is to challenge the prevailing wisdom
  71. Sustainability must be recast as being fundamentally about the way a company does business
  72. We must keep identifying & promoting actions that question shareholder supremacy & financial speculation
  73. Trust comes from investing in long-term relations, rather than attempting to buy positive opinions
  74. Companies lose the trust of stakeholders because they over-promise and under-deliver
  75. Only if there is a genuine strategic commitment to sustainability from the top will we see meaningful change
  76. Stakeholders remain skeptical of companies’ motives & commitment to societal improvement – & rightly so
  77. To overcome stakeholder skepticism, companies must commit to bold strategic social & environmental goals
  78. To succeed, sustainability has to be translated into the language of the business or sector or functional area
  79. Unless sustainability is built into the company’s compensation schemes, middle managers will not align
  80. We need sustainability leaders to be consistent role models & to put their money where their mouths are
  81. When employees feel proud of their organization’s sustainability efforts, they become its biggest champion
  82. Unless the C-suite is on board with sustainability, all other efforts are bound to fail
  83. Sustainability leaders are able to think systemically, to see interconnections & to bridge silos
  84. Sustainability leaders will always find a way to put their values to work, no matter what industry they’re in
  85. We all share responsibility for inspiring & supporting each other to create a better world
  86. Revolutionary change is more often the result of new ways of thinking than new ways of doing
  87. CSR & triple bottom line efforts have been criticised as little more than window dressing & corporate spin
  88. Employees believe they work for great organisations when they trust the people they work for
  89. We must create work environments that support women who do not want to trade-off their career & family
  90. Creating a family-friendly enterprise requires a shift in leadership perceptions & organizational culture
  91. Let’s celebrate workplaces that support not only you & your job, but also your family & your quality of life
  92. Promoting cycling among employees is not only good for personal health, but also good for the planet
  93. It is a popular myth that CSR is not relevant, too expensive or not incentivized for SMEs
  94. Implicit CSR includes informal ethical practices that are not dependent on size or financial muscle
  95. I look forward to the day when “small is beautiful” applies as much to sustainable business as economic activity
  96. Understanding virtual water – embedded in the things we trade – is critical as our global water crisis increases
  97. To get us through the day, it takes about a hundred times our own weight in water [in industrialised economies]
  98. We all have footprints. But we can lighten the tread & ensure they are heading in a more sustainable direction
  99. Research shows that businesses with more women on their board of directors bring a string of sustainability benefits
  100. The circular economy – where closed-loop production brings us closer to zero waste – is a real business opportunity
  101. Our economy is so inefficient that less than 1% of the resources we extract still exist as products 6 months after sale
  102. Scaling up the circular economy requires concrete measures to meet mult-stakeholder sustainability targets
  103. The circular economy represents an annual $380-630 bn material cost saving opportunity in the EU
  104. If we fail to achieve a sustainable technology revolution, we will face “overshoot and collapse” as a civilization
  105. Not only is technological innovation booming, but it is rapidly shifting twoards sustainable solutions
  106. Many of the World Economic Forum’s top 10 most promising technologies have a clear enviornmental & social focus
  107. The market for clean energy technologies is projected to grow from $248 bn in 2013 to $398 bn in 2023
  108. More patents have been filed in the past 5 years than the previous 30 for climate change mitigation technologies
  109. Contrary to what some may think, emerging markets cannot be assumed to lag on sustainable technological innovation
  110. What does the future hold? The sustainable technology innovation wave is only just building
  111. According to McKinsey & Co., resource productivity opportunities could save us $2.9 trillion by 2030
  112. The challenges of the 21st century will stretch our collective capacity for innovation like never before
  113. To ensure food security, we need to find 175-220 million hectares of additional cropland by 2030
  114. To ensure food security, we need to increase total food production by about 70% by 2030
  115. We have to tackle the problem of 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted every year – a third of all food produced
  116. Resource productivity opportunities show that reducing food waste could return $252 bn in savings by 2030
  117. Creating a sustainable “cold chain” in the developing world could eliminate 25-50% of food wastage
  118. The sustainability revolution is as much about changing perceptions, attitudes & behaviours as changing technology
  119. Agricultural demand will require a 140% increase in water supply over the next 20 years compared with the past 20
  120. It is estimated that the global biofuels market could double to $185.3 bn by 2021
  121. We are all, with our modern lifestyles, hooked on chemicals, for energy, colourants, food, health & beauty
  122. The WHO estimates that the chemical industry causes around a million deaths globally every year
  123. Chemicals are harming people, yet because of their benefits & the world’s addiction, they cannot be eliminated
  124. The cost to the global economy of chemical pollution has been estimated at $546 bn, rising to $1.9 tn by 2050
  125. Can the chemicals ever be sustainable? The answer is maybe. The big leap forward is green chemistry
  126. The “green” label has been so abused over the past few decades that it is wise to suspect PR spin or greenwashing
  127. The green chemistry market is set to grow from $2.8 bn in 2011 to $98.5 bn by 2020, saving the industry $65.5 bn
  128. The top benefits from implementing sustainable technology are resource productivity & economic development
  129. The top barriers to sustainable technology adoption are the local of local qualified workers & institutional capacity
  130. The marketing benefits of demonstrating sustainable technologies in developing countries can be significant
  131. Major reductions in the environmental impacts of the chemicals industry can be achieved by adopting best practices
  132. Resource scarcity & human rights issues surrounding metals extraction mean the industry is facing some tough realities
  133. People living in extreme poverty could drop from 1.2 billion in 2010 to under 100 million by 2050
  134. An environmental disaster scenario could mean 3.1 billion more people living in extreme poverty by 2050
  135. Unless the world’s booming economies can lighten the weighty anchor of resource consumption, we will all sink
  136. The largest metals & mining companies have environmental external costs of $220 billion, 77% relating to carbon
  137. The picture that emerges is of a metals sector under seige, an industry that is soon to be the victim of its own success
  138. Iron & steel energy efficiency & end-use steel efficiency could deliver $278 billion in resource savings by 2030
  139. The sustainability impacts of the extractive sector are serious – sometimes even tragic & catastrophic
  140. Technology, the source of so much destruction in the mining & metals industry, can also be its saviour
  141. Today, less than a third of 60 metals analysed have an end-of-life recycling rate above 50% & 34 are below 1%
  142. The best available sustainable technology is not always the most applicable, especially in developing countries
  143. Technology can help to rescue the high-impact extractives sector from its siege by the forces of sustainability
  144. Extractives companies need to recast themselves as resource stewardship companies
  145. Extractives companies must become experts at circular production and post-consumer “mining”
  146. Customers & governments need to give up their compulsive throw-away habits & embrace the take-back economy
  147. Necessity, rather than an unexpected attack on conscience, will drive the transition to a circular economy
  148. Sustainable technologies are transforming our outdated industrial model, which is no longer fit for purpose
  149. Without innovation, we are unlikely solve many of global social & environmental problems
  150. Eco-innovation is the next evolution beyond eco-efficiency, to strategically transform the whole business model
  151. When it comes to reinventing capitalism, eco-innovation is one of the next waves business will want to surf
  152. Technology presents citizens with far greater opportunities to engage with sustainability issues than ever before
  153. Hyper-connectivity makes responsiveness more possible – and less likely
  154. Value-action gaps make stakeholder feedback more collectable – and less valuable
  155. The wisdom of the crowd can – without validation – also become the tragedy of the commons
  156. The proliferation of sustainability standards has led to market confusion for investors & consumers
  157. What is missing across the sustainability standards arena is greater clarity & more co-ordination
  158. It is inevitable that advances in “big data” analytics will start to be applied to sustainability databases
  159. Sustainability data structuring, searchability & signposting will become at least as important as a qualitative narrative
  160. What really matters for the fututre of transparency is how sustainability data is organised & made accessible
  161. Sustainability reporting is only one face of the transparency coin; on the other side is sustainability ratings
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Masterclass: Transformational Leadership for Sustainability

Masterclass: Transformational Leadership for Sustainability

24 June 2015, Johannesburg, South Africa

The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) invites you to an exclusive masterclass with globally recognised sustainability expert Dr Wayne Visser, Transnet Chair of Sustainable Business at GIBS and Senior Associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Dr Visser will share the latest research, standards and cases on what makes the best sustainability leaders effective as change agents in their organisations and in society.

Masterclass benefits:

  • This session combines theory and practical case studies and after attending you will be able to:
  • Identify the characteristics of good leaders for sustainable business (traits, styles, skills/competencies and knowledge);
  • Assess what makes leaders effective change agents, and self-assess what type of change agent you are or need your organisation to employ; and
  • Understand the new ISO standards (Annex SL) and the specifications of Clause 5 on Leadership.

Who should attend?

  • Learning and development practitioners, HR directors, heads of procurement, as well as management representatives for sustainability, environment, occupational health & safety, social responsibility and quality will benefit from this masterclass.

Masterclass outline:

  • Drivers of Sustainability Leadership: Internal and external context; and the rise and fall of sustainability leaders.
  • Characteristics of Sustainability Leaders: Traits, styles, skills and knowledge; competency frameworks; and actions of sustainability leaders.
  • Sustainability Leaders as Change Agents: Change frameworks by Kotter, Visser, Ainger and Gladwell; and purpose-inspired leadership types.

Masterclass details:

  • Date: Wednesday, 24 June 2015
  • Time: 08:30 – 12:30 (a light lunch will be served after the event)
  • Venue: GIBS Campus, 26 Melville Road, Illovo, Sandton, South Africa

RSVP

Please click here to confirm your attendance by 29 May 2015. For further information contact Bongiwe Ramaboea on 011 771 4161 or ramaboeab@gibs.co.za.

Please note that there is no charge for this event. Regrettably this invitation is not transferable and seating is limited.

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The 7 Habits of Effective Sustainability Leaders

The 7 Habits of Effective Sustainability Leaders

Article by Wayne Visser

Without bold and effective leadership – at a political, institutional and individual level – we will fail to resolve our most serious social and environmental crises. This short article summarises some of the findings from my work with the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership[1]. To begin with, we distilled the following simple definition:

“A sustainability leader is someone who inspires and supports action towards a better world.”

There are many characteristics (traits, styles, skills and knowledge) that are associated with sustainability leaders.[2] Our research suggests that the following seven key characteristics are among the most important in distinguishing the leadership approach taken by individuals tackling sustainability issues:

  1. Systemic understanding
  2. Emotional intelligence
  3. Values orientation
  4. Compelling vision
  5. Inclusive style
  6. Innovative approach
  7. Long term perspective

Although it is unlikely that any individual will embody all seven characteristics of sustainability leadership, to give a flavour for each characteristic, they are illustrated below by observations from a selection of leaders, many of whom we have worked with and who demonstrate some of these qualities themselves …

 


[1] See for example, the Cambridge State of Sustainability Leadership publication series since 2011.

[2] See my paper with Polly Courtice for a more comprehensive review of these characteristics

 

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/inspiration_sustainability_leadership_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] The 7 Habits of Effective Sustainability Leaders (article)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Page[/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. (2013) The 7 Habits of Sustainability Leaders, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 12.

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Theory U and CSR 2.0

Theory U and CSR 2.0:

Alignment of two conceptual approaches to create profound innovation and transformative change in corporate sustainability and responsibility

Paper by Jeroen A. Van Lawick van Pabst & Wayne Visser

Abstract

Wayne Visser’s CSR 2.0 Model provides a compelling vision of how business can create transformative improvements in society and the environment. Otto Scharmer’s Theory U describes how profound personal and collective change really happens. This paper explores how these two conceptual approaches can be aligned, thus providing insights into how to create the profound innovation and transformative change needed in the realm of corporate sustainability and responsibility.

Key words

Corporate sustainability and responsibility, systemic CSR, transformative CSR, CSR 2.0, Theory U, U-process, leadership, business, adoption, transformative change.

1. The radical and novel nature of CSR 2.0

CSR 2.0, or radical CSR, provides a compelling vision for transforming the role of business in society. Essentially it advocates a paradigm shift in which the purpose of business is redefined: CSR or sustainability-related activities are no longer simply another means towards a narrow, shareholder-focused commercial end. Rather, CSR becomes a purpose in and of itself. It is an end-state in which business’s interactions with society and the earth are inherently sustainable and responsible. Companies only provide products and services that enhance our wellbeing, without sacrificing the environment or human dignity [1]. CSR 2.0 becomes transformative by shifting the organizational perspective from isolation (us versus them, business versus society) to relationship: operations connected to and serving society and the world. The essence of sustainability is about honoring and advancing such relations, among ourselves, within ourselves and with the earth [2]. These three dimensions of interconnectivity in turn address the triple crises of social, spiritual and ecological disintegration [3].

CSR 2.0 is instructive as it helps us to see how organizations typically move through ‘ages and stages’ from greed-centered, philanthropic, marketing and strategic approaches to a more sustainable way of working and living; a journey that eventually leads to a transformative approach to CSR. Boundaries in our thinking become more fluid or diminish and our thinking becomes more inclusive. For instance, we stop thinking about business and CSR as separate categories; the essence of doing business, of innovation and of sustainability merge. In the process, renewed relationships are formed. CSR 2.0 is also innovative, proposing five principles (creativity, scalability, responsiveness, glocality and circularity) as a coherent base for a new model of sustainable and responsible business, in which governance and leadership are integrated with value creation, societal contribution and environmental integrity [1].

CSR 2.0 reflects the most advanced stage of CSR practice,  shifting from a cost-perspective on CSR to perceiving CSR as an opportunity [4]. However, most corporations still operate from the mindset that embracing CSR/sustainability is a market-savvy way to improve reputation and brand, or at least “that it does no harm to financial performance” [4]. Dominance of short-term thinking, shareholder-value and financiers’ power are still deeply ingrained in the corporate and collective way of thinking and doing.

A few exceptions do exist, such as Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who plans to help 1 billion people improve their health and wellbeing, halve the environmental footprint of its products and source 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably [5]. Another example is the emerging Economy of  …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/paper_theoryu_csr2_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Theory U and CSR 2.0 (paper)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/corporate-sustainability-responsibility”]Page[/button] Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1947221″]Link[/button] Social Science Research Network (website)

Cite this article

Van Lawick van Pabst, J.A. & Visser, W. (2012) Theory U and CSR 2.0: Alignment of two conceptual approaches to create profound innovation and transformative change in corporate sustainability and responsibility, SSRN Working Paper Series, 22 February 2012. Published on SSRN at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2009341

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Changing the World, One Leader at a Time

Changing the World, One Leader at a Time

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 12 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for CSRwire.

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 programmes 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.’

So we’re talking about catalysing 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% of CEOs felt that a cultural tipping point on sustainability is only a decade away—and 80% believe it will occur within 15 years, so perhaps we are nearing a moment of infectious change. Meanwhile, at the organisational level, leaders must catalyse 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.

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, internalising 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?’

At the people level, leaders catalyse 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 …

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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_change_leader_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Changing the World, One Leader at a Time (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) Changing the World, One Leader at a Time, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 12 January 2012.

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