Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is huge in businesses today. What is it really about? Watch Anita Roddick of the Body Shop talk about the issues with Social Responsibility, what it means to her and the impact of bringing the 'corporate' into social responsibility.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), I don't think it is working. It think its, its been taken over by the big management houses, marketing houses, been taken over by the big groups like KPMG, like Arthur Anderson. Its a huge money building operation now, and I think maybe, its the word corporate.
When I was part of the architects of the responsibility in business movement, that was so different. That was an alternative to the international chamber of commerce. It was a trader's alliance, but it had progressive thinkers and progress academics, it had, it had, you know, ummm... people who were philanthropists. It worked alongside start up business that were really creative, like the Body Shop then, like Ben and Jerrys, that had a social purpose.
No a lot of the thinking came out of the 60s. Came out from the anti-war movement, came out from the grass roots movement. So much of our thinking was influenced by the Scandinavian business practices. And so much of my thinking came out because I was learning about the Quakers who were extraordinarily good at running a business, but never lied, never cheated. You know, put more money back into their enterprises then they took out and had a social purpose.
So the beginning - the architect for that new thinking which was really simple how do you make business kinder, how are you embedded in the community, how do you make community a social purpose for business.
Things happened, you know, I don’t think we in that movement, we took our eyes of the ball. We didn't… we were getting to be umm… so in love with each other’s voice and each other’s networking that we didn't see what was going on. We didn’t see the whole growth of the corporate globalization we didn’t see the immense power that business was playing especially in the political arena, we didn’t look at the language, the economic language which was about control, which was about, you know, everything had to be about the market economy. We were just flouing (sp?) around in our own thinking. And so what, we took our eyes of the ball and when we put it on the ball again we thought, you know, it’s been hijacked this social responsibility in business, and it became corporate social responsibility.
And it was a huge money earner, for these big management companies like KPMG, Arthur Anderson, like Price Waterhouse Coopers all of those, they were making shed loads of money by doing a system of analysis, about how you measure your behaviour. But it was no good it was like this obsession for measurement, and it wasn’t ever showing you how you could put these ideas into practice and they never told you a truth. A truth that nobody wants to discuss, if it gets in the way of profit, business aren’t going to do anything about it.
So we still have rapacious government, ah, rapacious businesses, you still have businesses in bed governments. You still have government’s inability to measure their greatness, by how they look after the weak and frail. You still have government whose only true measurement of success as economic measurement, and you still have businesses that can legitimately kill, can legitimately have, you know board room murder; can legitimately have a slave labour economy, so that all of us in the west, primarily in the west, or all of us who are wealthy, are guaranteed a standard of living to which we are used to.
And then you have the complicity of the media, you know, who dumb us down consistently, by saying nothing is more important than entertainment, and celebrity, and by the way you’ve got to keep purchasing.
So I think the Corporate Social Responsibility movement has to got to have a bit more courage, and I don’t think anything will happen until we get the financial institutions to change. And so that we’re not measured by this one standard, this unimaginative, financial bottom line, when we are measured by a bottom line. When we are measured by a financial bottom line, that does include human rights and social justice and workers justice and if we start listening to the real forerunners on the planet the environmental movement, the social justice movement to help shape our thinking, then something will change.
But for me corporate social responsibility in my life, for what its, I think its shi(t?), I don’t think it’s worked and that’s a shame, because its controlled the language and its hijacked the language.