To Scare or To Inspire? Bringing Admission, Ambition & Pragmagic to CSR

Part 13 of 13 in Wayne Visser's Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.
May 1, 2012 6:45 PM ET

Posted by Wayne Visser

What is the most effective CSR/sustainability strategy – to scare or to inspire? How do you get the balance between sharing the bad news (i.e. the state of the world) and the good news (i.e. the innovative solutions)?

Betty Sue Flowers, co-author of Presence, told me that ‘if you attempt to scare people with the enormity of the problems, the tendency is simply to give up. And so when you dispirit people, when you remove the spirit, you also remove the capacity to change.’ This is a common refrain – and indeed a dilemma. We can’t deny the severity of the crises that we face, and yet we can’t paralyse people with fear.

Jonathon Porritt, author of Capitalism as if the World Matters, told me, ‘I’m impaled on this every day of my life at the moment. What do you do?  I think we still owe it to reality and to integrity in any communications process to share the empirical reality. But how you come out of that without leaving people spread eagled with despair and just utterly disempowered?’

Porritt elaborates, saying, ‘We’re trying to create these upbeat, opportunity driven wish lists about what would happen if businesses seized hold of this set of opportunities here, and started to do things completely differently over there, and if politicians started to construct societal and economic responses based on a world not on growth hormones. But then you look at the scale of their responses and you set it against the scale of the analysis, and of course it looks frail. It looks insubstantial in terms of where we need to be. So I think the mechanisms we’re using are the only ones available to us, but we haven’t got it right yet. Whether we can get there building, building, building gradually over a period of time or whether we need some shocks in the system to accelerate the emergence of that positive energy, that for me is still a hard one to call.’

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