Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)… Why is it that seemingly harmless words or phrases are somewhat tainted nowadays? In an ideal world a commitment to CSR would focus on all aspects of your business- from how you source and manufacture your product, to how you sell it. In reality CSR can many times mean a corporation continues to do exactly what it wants to do to improve the bottom line while dedicating a small amount of time to a charitable commitment.
What if we had the power to influence a company’s behaviour?
The fact is that CSR isn’t that far removed from personal social responsibility. Many of us like the lives we lead. Or maybe we are just reluctant to change. It may not improve our bottom line all the time but sometimes we do things to make life as easy as possible. We drive to work (no time to organize a car pool or take the bus), we buy our lattes in the disposable cups (forgot the reuseable one at home again, thank god they are now recycling), we shop to alleviate stress (it’s good for the economy right?) and from time to time we support a charitable cause (that just happened to tug at our heart strings). We lead busy lives and our priorities may conflict with doing the right thing all the time.
So where does that leave us?
Not much better off than before. Life is a little like those shopping sprees we love. We feel good for a little while, but eventually in the not to distant future (probably long before the credit card bill arrives) we start to feel a bit bummed again. And likely a bit guilty. And the cycle starts again.
So how do we alleviate this cycle?
We need to change… come on folks just a little bit. It really isn’t that difficult.
First, we have to recognize that our actions have consequences and these consequences can have global implications. The good news is that for some of us that have the privilege of not living dollar to dollar, we have the ability to make choices that go beyond the bottom line. The very coffee that we bought this morning is a great example. How you choose your coffee can impact the lives of people half way around the world. And I am not just talking about remembering your reuseable coffee mug! I am talking about how the workers are treated and paid, what chemicals are used as pesticides, and how far the coffee has to travel.
In a world where we often choose quantity over quality, this decision making process is more important than ever. We love to buy, and we love a great deal. But someone always pays the price eventually for your 50c a pound broccoli or $20 jeans.
So how do I tie this back to CSR?
Well, the crazy thing is if we start to think about how we spend our money… And we recognize that our decision making has consequences… Then quite naturally we will support those companies that are socially responsible.
And maybe, just maybe we will look past superficial corporate charitable partnerships and start to ask the questions that really matter. Like, where do you produce the goods you sell? And how are the workers treated? What is the impact on the environment?
Funny how when you put money where your mouth is you can actually affect change.