CSR Blogs

Do we need a list of corporate responsibility lists?

As usual the fast approaching end of the year is bringing forward the typical slew of "best of" lists, though with a end-of-decade twist that is pushing the list-maniacs out there into overdrive. Of course there are the usual cultural lists - best album of the decade, best book of the year, best media moments, etc - but even in our own little world of corporate responsibility there has been a growing number of "best of" lists seeking to garner a little attention from the trend spotters out there.

For example, fresh in our inbox today was a notice about "the 100 ethics blogs every business student should read" put together by an outfit called onlinecourses.org. It's an eclectic mix with a tendency towards the more scholarly corners of the blogosphere. Some that it lists, like the "brain ethics" blog, or "mindhacks" sound kind of intriguing, and will take the intrepid business ethics reader quite far away from their usual stamping grounds. They even give us a mention, which I guess is why they told us about the list.

Another list, which came out a little earlier in the year, but is still generating quite a bit of attention is Chris Jarvis's "51 Great Sites for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability". Chris is a fellow Torontonian who writes his own blog on corporate volunteering called Realizing Your Worth, and also published the top 51 (why 51 Chris?!) with the business magazine Fast Company. It's a great list of blogs, resource pages, and a top 10 'must-have sites on CSR' .

Greenwash Of The Week: Flying The Private Jet To Copenhagen.

OK, so the title of the article I am going to link to doesn’t actually have a lot to do with “taking the private jet to Copenhagen” but it sure is catchy…and somewhat true. Instead, the article does a great job of pointing out the greenwashing and greenpocrisy of well-known “green” celebrities. A few fantastic tidbits from this Greenwash of the Week article include:

- John Travolta notoriously encouraged the British public to do its bit to fight global warming — after flying into London on one of his five, yes, five private jets (one of which is a Boeing 707)....

Watch Don Shaffer, President and CEO of RSF Social Finance, Speak at The Economics of Peace Conference

By Kyle Foley

RSF recently co-convened The Economics of Peace conference in Sonoma with the Praxis Peace Institute.  The conference, which took place over the course of five days, focused on alternatives to our current economic system and highlighted successful business and economic models that incorporate collaboration, sustainable business practices, and respect for all stakeholders.

Read an overview of the conference from John Bloom, RSF staff member and one of the conference organizers, by...

Curating Sustainable Solutions

As I have said in previous posts, managing the stream of green communications info online is not easy. My attempts thus far have been the Green Communicators list on Twitter and the Green Communications bundle on Google Reader. They're not perfect, but they're where I go to get the news I need.

But that's the large end of the funnel (see crude artwork to the left). Once you have identified the stream of information coming in (although you're never really done, the stream must be constantly managed), how do you present it on the other end? What does the small end of the funnel look like?

Let's put this another way. For the sake of the argument, pretend that my two lists above are the complete and best sources for information on green communications (I know that's a big stretch, but stay with me). Even with that stream of information gathered in two places, it still represents 49 feeds and 128 twitterers. That's a lot for anyone to wade through, which would explain why only 16 people have subscribed to the Google Reader bundle and 35 people are following the Twitter list.

Poor in the U.S. = rich

A single-parent family of three in New York, making $8000 per year, makes under half the income level of the Federal poverty line and qualifies for food stamps, TANF (direct cash benefits) and Medicaid. (Details at our guide to U.S. public assistance)

And yet, at $2,667 per person per year, this family is wealthier than 70% of the people in the world. (See the Global Rich List calculator as well as the...

In CSR, Dialogue and Substance Each Inform the Other

Just read an outstanding article on corporate social responsibility at Forbes.com.  C. B. Bhattacharya, a distinguished professor at the European School of Management and Technology and Boston University, really hits some important CSR insights spot on.

Despite CSR’s increasing importance in board rooms and among C-level executives, they often “don’t understand the most effective ways to design and implement sustainability programs,” Bhattacharya...

Corporate Volunteering: Top 7 Requests & the Bad, Better and Best Responses (1 of 7)

“We want a volunteer experience that can be done in no more than a day, and no less than a half-day.”

Companies want to engage their communities through employee volunteering programs. For most, this means calling a non-profit and scheduling an activity. But how should non-profits respond? Is there a “best” answer for everyone?

Everybody wants to volunteer. And those who don’t....well, they’re bound to feel a little left out of conversation at the next cocktail party....

How to Build a More Effective Nonprofit Sector by Transforming Boards

Flaunting Socially Responsible Consuming

We are at an interesting crossroads in consumer culture.  Where luxury purchases used to be the ultimate sign of affluence or, at least, aspiring affluence, more consumers now may be driven to make conspicuously conscious purchases.  According to research co-authored by Aronte Bennett and mentioned in her MediaPost article, corporate social responsibility (CSR) seems to be becoming a strong motivator influencing consumers today – even in these bad economic times.  As...

CSR stakeholder differences cited in new report

The BCCC blog recently described a new Global Education Research Network (GERN) report that reveals how stakeholder groups differ around the world, and the need to balance the variation at the local level with interests shared globally. The GERN is a network of 12 global institutions, including the Boston College Center, focused on responsible business working together.

Key findings include:

  • Many stakeholders —
  • ...

New Media and Corporate Responsibility

The results of Cone’s 2009 Consumer New Media Study include two points that I found to be remarkable:

“Forty-four percent of American new media users are searching for, sharing or discussing information about corporate responsibility (CR) efforts and programs…”

“Sixty-two percent of users polled believe they can influence business decisions by voicing opinions via new media channels. ”

While the findings about how much consumers are using new media are important, what...

Applying the product evolution model to sustainable marketing

Your sustainable brand’s “green” product competes within a product category, like household cleaners, interior paint, or iced tea. Each brand in your category differentiates its product differently as it passes through its life cycle; you are likely to emphasize your product’s low environmental impact or health benefits.

Competition between individual products is just one part of the story. According to Clayton Christensen, cumulative changes in individual product features determine the nature or basis of competition within categories, which shifts in cycles of evolution. The shift from one cycle to another occurs when the product’s features surpass the customers’ demand or absorption rate. That the basis of competition progresses from functionality to reliability to convenience to price poses a significant challenge to “green” products: sustainability is markedly absent from the model. Let’s look at the product evolution model to identify opportunities for “green”.

The initial basis of competition within a category is functionality. A major challenge “green” products used to face was the results they delivered. It turned out consumers cared less about the environmental attributes of a cleaning product than about its ability to perform the intended function – clean.

New Online Catalogue for Philanthropy in Washington, DC

Want Good Volunteers? Dump The Altruistic, Find The Self-Interested (Part 2 of 2)

Selflessness and altruism make for bad volunteers. Without self-interest, volunteers easily opt out of commitments and objectify those they are trying to help.

Good: just not good enough

When people show up to volunteer for the first time there are multiple reasons behind that decision. Almost certainly, those reasons are extrinsic. A motivation is extrinsic when it exists outside of the person - like an athlete who feels compelled to run harder when he hears the crowd cheer him on. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation exists within us - like when that athlete runs harder because of the pleasure the sport brings. (For more on extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation read Part 1 of this series). When it comes to volunteering, it’s not that extrinsic motivation isn’t good - it’s just not good enough.

Extrinsic motivations aren’t good enough because they don’t last. On the other hand, when our motivation is intrinsic, personal, and tied to our identity, it becomes a priority. If we want people to volunteer with us over the long haul, then we must leave behind the glorified altruistic, for genuine self-interest.

But wait, isn’t volunteering is about giving back? Isn’t it about appreciating how much we have, and helping someone who doesn’t have so much? Volunteering is selfless, isn’t it? Doing good, solving problems, making the world a better place?

It’s Us. Helping Them.


Well, that’s certainly where we all start. But there comes a point when our good intentions toward others threaten to transform them from people into objects.

My true value

Want Good Volunteers? Forget The Altruistic, Find The Self-Interested(Part 1 of 2)

Many argue that volunteer rates are falling. They complain that people today (usually young people) won’t make commitments to a cause. The problem, people tell me, is that volunteers want to know what’s in it for them. Yep, it’s true. But self-interest isn’t the problem. It’s the solution.

Why we do what we do

People volunteer for every imaginable reason.

“I have so much, I just want to give back.” or, “We wanted to be part of the solution.” or, “There are people out there who need our help.” Or so on. And so forth.

Some are prompted by an advertisement on the subway. Others are invited to volunteer by friends or family. It may be that they were urged to get more active in the community by our religious leaders. Or possibly, someone took President Obama’s message of activism to heart.

All good reasons. Just not good enough.

The best reason for volunteering is always self-interest.

I know, I know. You think I am drunk-blogging. Hold on, I’ll explain.

“Self-interested volunteering” seems generally at odds with everything we’ve come to believe about volunteering. Right? “Self-interested volunteers.” Isn’t that an oxy-moron? What about altruism and the greater good?

In Realized Worth training sessions we raise this controversial point and discuss two reasons why self-interest is an essential aspect of an outstanding volunteer experience. Both reasons have to do with motivation.

Creating Change from Within

I’ve often spoken on The Changebase about social entrepreneurs who’ve chosen to radically reinvent how business creates social change in our communities and around the world.

Organizations like Kiva (microfinance), Carrotmob (conscious consumerism), and Frontline SMS (information access through technology) have literally re-drawn the lines when it comes to creating sustainable, empowered and effective change through grass-roots social entrepreneurship.

While the...

Climate change and God

There’s a great new book out called How the West Was Warmed (www.howthewestwaswarmed.com), about responding to climate change in the Rockies. It’s got intros and conclusions from two of the nation’s leading implementers/rock stars of the new green economy—Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

It also offers readers a candy store of great essays by excellent writers and thinkers in the West, including Outside contributor/N.Y. Times journalist Florence


How To Be A Great Nonprofit Board Member, Especially Now

Web-Based World Change

Micro-lending website Kiva.org recently hit a major milestone. Since launching four years ago, the organization has facilitated $100 million in microloan transactions between individual lenders and low income entrepreneurs all around the world. Lots of charities target the poor, you may ask, so what makes this organization unique? It’s the approach.

In order to achieve its mission of connecting people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty, Kiva employs a strategy of inclusion. It turns what was once an opaque process in both lending and charitable giving on its head, creating greater levels of personal involvement and future commitment.

A few weeks ago Kiva founder Premal Shah described this process to an audience of thousands at the 2009 Women’s Conference, saying: “When you give to big organizations, you don’t know where your money is going. Here you do. There are short feedback loops and direct transparency. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on Kiva, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you know exactly where your money is going. You can see that you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence. Because of the technology we enable, you get an e-mail from that person and establish a connection. That makes it personal.”

What Shah describes also encourages the experience of web-based world change to go viral. People excited about a new process tend to spread the word, and Shah says Kiva has benefited tremendously from this natural momentum: “We don’t even have a marketing person at Kiva, it all just spreads from word of mouth. For every dollar we spend at Kiva, we raise $10 online.”

Making Copenhagen Personal

No, this isn’t the new ad slogan for the Danish board of tourism (fortunately for them).  Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and they have certainly done a better job than that in marketing themselves to the world.  I’m talking about the need to make a personal, human connection between the bureaucratic and technocratic workings of next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, and the planet’s 6.8 billion people.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (or COP15, as this will be the 15th Conference of the Parties), will host political leaders and top government officials from 192 countries who are coming together to develop a new framework to combat climate change.  The new agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Most of what has been written thus far about the conference has focused on scientific, political and economic considerations – namely, what must the world do to slow and reverse the effects of climate change, what kind of an agreement can be reached, and what impact will it have on the global economy?  Less has been said about the efforts of individuals and small groups who have been working to humanize and personalize the issue.

HR: Gateway to Better Corporate Responsibility

The article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail about business schools introducing oaths of ethical conduct for MBA graduates is worth reading. (Here’s a link to MBA oaths from Harvard, Telfer School of Managements, and Richard Ivey School of Business: Sampling of Oaths.)

I support these student-sponsored initiatives and also have a practical suggestion for ensuring...

My red, white and blue (and green) marathon

Today was a special day for me. I completed the 34th running of the Marine Corps Marathon, a 26.2-mile run through the streets of Washington and Arlington, Va., with a finish at a famed statue of Iwo Jima known as the Marine Corps War Memorial. I’ve run 17 marathons, but the Marine Corps has a unique place in my heart because it was the first marathon that I ran, back in 1994.

Two things struck me about today’s race. The first is that the MCM made a significant effort to “go green.” Marathons are, inevitably, messy affairs and they generate enormous amounts of trash. An estimated 850,000 (!) paper cups are needed to stock the water and Powerade stops to keep 21,000 runners well hydrated. Add to that 26,000 Clif shots, 25,000 bag of sports beans, 10,000 sliced oranges—well, you get the idea. Lots of garbage, much of it unavoidable.

The MCM says its goal this year was to cut the trash in half, and produce less than a pound of landfill waste per runner. Sponsor Aquafina set up recycling kiosks near the start and finish line. Race waste, including cups, is composted. And, in an experiment, the race bibs given out at a fun run for kids were made of recycled post-consumer and wildflower seeds. The young runners can plant their bibs and enjoy growing Black-Eyed Susans along with the satisfaction of being green. MCM also collected used running shoes at its expos, for donation to people who need them.

Moody's Mega Math Challenge: Wall Street's Strategic Philanthropy

More spending on Brands with a Social Purpose

According to the 3rd annual Edelman goodpurpose survey that was launched today, despite the prolonged recession, the social purpose of brands is more important than ever.  The Edelman survey sampled 6026 adults in the U.S., China, Canada, U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Brazil, Japan and India to track attitudes and actions regarding the social purpose of brands and corporations.

The report contains some remarkable findings. Here are a few highlights:

71% think brands and companies spend too much on advertising...

Nestle Waters' Hit and Miss

There is a great deal at stake in the bottled water business. Perhaps Nestlé Waters North America knows this better than anybody. The company presently controls approximately 41 percent of the $11.7 billion US bottled water market. Like every other competitor in the space, it faces shrinking category sales, as well as mounting pressure from groups complaining about the toll that water corporations take on the planet.

Bottled water activists point to plastic waste, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental effects of water extraction, water privatization issues and a range of social problems generated by the industry. Could such “road blocks” deter long-term growth for corporate bottled water empires? Nestlé thinks not.

According to a 2009 document entitled “The Future of Bottled Water” authored by Nestlé CEO Kim Jeffery, the company’s broad portfolio of bottled water products, including Poland Spring, Perrier, Arrowhead, Deer Park and Zephyrhills, are well-positioned to recover from the present economic slump. “Bottled water is perfect as it is,” the company says. “[There are] limited opportunities to innovate.”


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