The Business Poet – Chapter 6

The Business Poet – Chapter 6

On Marketing

Merlin took a sip of water and gazed around the room. He caught the eye of his Marketing Director, who was shifting slightly in his seat. Merlin raised his eyebrows, inviting him to share his thoughts. He stood and declared, somewhat defensively:

“Stakeholder engagement is all very well, but at the end of the day, we are a business. And if people don’t know about us, or our great products, we will soon by out of business. How do you see the role of Marketing?”

Merlin was aware that Marketing often got a bad rap these days. It was seen as pure spin. But he disagreed. Marketing was vital, if it was done right. He found his writing on the subject and spoke in reply:

“Marketing is the art of making music: skilfully played, it has the power to move all who hear its sweet melodies; badly recited, it offends the ear and renders the intended listener deaf.

“The secret of effective marketing is resonance.

“Communication becomes a symphony when the information echoes with the clear ring of truth and honesty, when the message reverberates with the rich tones of meaning and relevance, and when the medium combines to strike a harmonious chord of reach and direction.

“The curse of poor marketing is dissonance.

“Exaggerated claims jar with the reality of experience, monotonous repetition dulls the battered senses, and disingenuous tricks sound the alarm bells of suspicion.

“The wise marketer is the master of music, while the fool is the king of noise.

“The wise marketer is the student of pianissimo, while the fool knows only fortissimo.

“The wise marketer is the conductor of an orchestra, while the fool beats only his own drum.

“The true purpose of marketing is matching genuine needs with tailored services.

“The corrupted practice of marketing is associating coveted emotions with generic products.

“The grand masters of marketing are jazz musicians, adept in the art of listening, practiced in the skill of blending, refined in the intuition of creativity.

“The false prophets of marketing are paid pipers, playing on people’s dreams and desires, calling the tune to suit their own pockets, leading the innocent children away.

“The market is a lively place of songs, but beware: though some are music pure and true, many are designed to cast their spell.

“Beware of melodies sweet and alluring, for many are those who have met a rocky end with the mesmeric notes of sirens still singing in their ears.

“Beware of rhythms pounding with calls to impulsive action, for many before you have marched to their needless graves to the deadly beat of a drum.

“And beware of the fevered pitch of inspiring summons, for many have suffered under dictator kings heralded by the passionate salute of trumpets.

“The most exquisite music of marketing is pure silence, played on the precious instruments of quality and caring, resounding with crystal clarity up and down the scales of human trust.”

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

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

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Exposing the CSR Pretenders

Exposing the CSR Pretenders

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 4 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for CSRwire.

“Industrialism created a limitless appetite for resource exploitation, and modem science provided the ethical and cognitive license to make such exploitation possible, acceptable, and desirable” – Vandana Shiva

Can Big Tobacco ever be responsible? British American Tobacco (BAT) have engaged in extensive stakeholder consultation exercises and, since 2001, their businesses in more than 40 markets have produced Social Reports, many of which have won awards from organisations as diverse as the United Nations Environment Programme, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants. BAT has also been ranked in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the FTSE Ethical Bonus Index and Business in the Community (BITC) Corporate Responsibility Index, and they funded Nottingham University’s International Centre for CSR.

Yet this is the industry where, in 1994, the CEOs of 7 of America’s largest tobacco companies[1] testified before the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of Congress, all denying that cigarettes are addictive. They lied under oath. And this is the business that, according to the World Health Organization, kills more than AIDS, legal drugs, illegal drugs, road accidents, murder and suicide combined.’ Of everyone alive today, 500 million will eventually be killed by smoking, and while 0.1 billion people died from tobacco use in the 20th century, ten times as many will die in the 21st century. Isn’t responsible tobacco an oxymoron?

Of course, it’s not just Big Tobacco. What about Big Oil? This is the industry that set up and funded the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) to lobby against the emerging consensus of climate science and policy development until it was embarrassed into disbanding in 2002. A 2007 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, entitled Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air, documented how ExxonMobil adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organisations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. According to the report, ExxonMobil funnelled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organisations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.

Or what about BP? In 2000, 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. Greenpeace concluded 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), is 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. That’s even before we factor in the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, or the catastrophic Gulf spill in 2010, or BP’s ongoing investments in the Alberta tar sands. Isn’t sustainable oil a contradiction?

While many of these examples – and I could cite countless more, from automotive, agricultural, chemicals and other industries – are a little more than the familiar toxic mix of old-fashioned dirty lobby tactics, many companies today in engage in far more subtle and seemingly plausible campaigns of misdirection – investing in environmental management systems, producing  …


[1] Philip Morris U.S.A., RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, U.S. Tobacco, American Tobacco Company,  Lorillard Tobacco Company, Liggett Group, Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company

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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)

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Visser, W. (2011) Exposing the CSR Pretenders, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 27 October 2011.

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The Ages and Stages of CSR

The Ages and Stages of CSR:

Towards the Future with CSR 2.0

Paper by Wayne Visser

Abstract

This article argues that CSR, as a business, governance and ethics system, has failed. This assumes that success or failure is measured in terms of the net impact (positive or negative) of business on society and the environment. Hence, we need a different kind of CSR if we are to reverse the current direction of many of the world’s most pressing social, environmental and ethical trends. The article reviews business’s historical progress over the Ages and Stages of CSR: moving through the Ages of Greed, Philanthropy, Marketing and Management, using defensive, charitable, promotional and strategic CSR approaches respectively. It then examines the Three Curses of CSR 1.0 (incremental, peripheral and uneconomic), before exploring what CSR might look like in an emerging Age of Responsibility. This new CSR – called systemic or radical CSR, or CSR 2.0 – is based on five principles (creativity, scalability, responsiveness, glocality and circularity) and forms the basis for a new DNA model of responsible business, built around the four elements of value creation, good governance, societal contribution and environmental integrity.

If CSR is the answer, what is the question?

First let me say what I understand by CSR. I take CSR to stand for Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, rather than Corporate Social Responsibility, but feel free use whichever proxy label you are most comfortable with. My definition is as follows: CSR is the way in which business consistently creates shared value in society through economic development, good governance, stakeholder responsiveness and environmental improvement. Put another way, CSR is an integrated, systemic approach by business that builds, rather than erodes or destroys, economic, social, human and natural capital.

Given this understanding, my usual starting point for any discussion on CSR is to argue that it has failed. I provide the data and arguments to back up this audacious claim in my new book, The Age of Responsibility, but the logic is simple and compelling. A doctor judges his/her success by whether the patient is getting better (healthier) or worse (sicker). Similarly, we should judge the success of CSR by whether our communities and ecosystems are getting better or worse. And while at the micro level – in terms of specific CSR projects and practices – we can show many improvements, at the macro level almost every indicator of our social, environmental and ethical health is in decline.

I am not alone in my assessment. Indeed, Paul Hawken stated in The Ecology of Commerce in 1993 that ‘If every company on the planet were to adopt the best environmental practice of the ‘‘leading’’ companies, the world would still be moving toward sure degradation and collapse.’ Unfortunately, this is still true nearly 20 years later. Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation, agrees, saying: ‘I believe that the vast majority of companies fail to be ‘‘good’’ corporate citizens, Seventh Generation included. Most sustainability and corporate responsibility programs are about being less bad rather than good. They are about selective and compartmentalized ‘‘programs’’ rather than holistic and systemic change’ …

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Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (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. (2011) The Ages and Stages of CSR: Towards the Future with CSR 2.0, CSR International Paper Series, No. 3. First published in Social Space 2011.

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The Ages and Stages of CSR

The Ages and Stages of CSR:

From Defensive to Transformative Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility

Article by Wayne Visser

I have found it useful to view the evolution of business responsibility in terms of five overlapping economic periods:

  1. The Age of Greed;
  2. The Age of Philanthropy;
  3. The Age of Marketing;
  4. The Age of Management; and
  5. The Age of Responsibility

Each of which typically manifests a different stage of CSR, namely:

  1. Defensive CSR;
  2. Charitable CSR;
  3. Promotional CSR;
  4. Strategic CSR; and
  5. Transformative CSR.

My contention is that companies tend to move through these ages and stages (although they may have activities in several ages and stages at once), and that we should be encouraging business to make the transition to Transformative CSR in the dawning Age of Responsibility. If companies remain stuck in any of the first four stages, I don’t believe we will turn the tide on the environmental, social and ethical crises that we face. Simply put, CSR will continue to fail  …

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

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2010) The Ages and Stages of CSR: From Defensive to Systemic Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 8.

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