Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vandana Shiva on "The Age of Responsibility"

A world based on rights without responsibility can only lead to destruction. And when the rights are unbridled rights of giant corporations they trample on the earth and people. Wayne Visser's The Age of Responsibility calls for a vital shift from rights to responsibility. It is a must read for all.

- Vandana Shiva, author of Earth Democracy and Soil Not Oil and board member of the International Forum on Globalization

The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business, by Wayne Visser is available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and other leading book retailers (ISBN-10: 0470688572, ISBN-13: 978-0470688571).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Redefining CSR

[An extract from Chapter 1 of The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business by Wayne Visser]

Responsibility is the choice we make to respond with care. This book, then, is a way of taking stock. What choices have we made – in the way we live our lives, in the way we do our work and in the way we run our businesses? How have we responded to the needs of our day – especially the social, environmental and ethical crises we face? And have our actions been taken with care – have we cared about our impacts on others?

I must admit to being slightly surprised (and a little dismayed) to find myself, 10 years after my first book, Beyond Reasonable Greed, still singing a similar refrain. I am once again arguing that business needs to ‘shapeshift’, to fundamentally rethink the purpose of business and to put into practice a genuinely sustainable and responsible ethos. There are fundamental differences though. Today, many of the problems are worse, more urgent and backed by more solid scientific evidence. In the interim, there has been a geopolitical shift away from the West, with the potential for more questioning of neoliberal economics and shareholder-driven capitalism. There are also more corporate corpses on the slab, allowing us to examine the nature of our greed disease. At the same time, awareness about our public social and environmental crises is much higher, and there are more genuine corporate sustainability and responsibility pioneers that provide living proof of what health and wellbeing could mean for business and society.

The fact is that now we know better what bad corporate magic looks like and the devastating consequences of practicing it. But we also know that magic spells can be broken by revealing the sleight of hand at work. It is my hope that by sharing some of the insights gained from the past 20 years of CSR wonder and trickery, we can move beyond magic to real responsibility – responsibility of the kind that makes a tangible, positive, sustained impact on the lives of the world’s poor and excluded and that visibly turns the tide on our wholesale destruction of ecosystems and species.

But I am getting ahead of myself. 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 will provide the data and arguments to back up this audacious claim in the paragraphs, pages and chapters that follow. ...

This is an extract from Chapter 1 of The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business
For more information and ongoing updates, follow the The Age of Responsibility Blog

Copyright 2010 Wayne Visser

Sunday, January 23, 2011

CSR in Russia (Guest Blog)

Guest Blog by Alexey Kostin

Russian leading companies, by embarking on major projects in the field of CSR and sustainable development, are moving to address two goals at the same time – gaining a socially responsible image domestically and bringing themselves closer to the level of international leaders. ”Social charity” or philanthropy is only one part of the social “pillar” of CSR, which in Russia often has a pronounced image-enhancing nature.

CSR in Russia is most developed in the following areas: personnel development, workplace health and safety, corporate philanthropy and related PR-support. Less development has occurred in the areas of corporate governance, quality, safety, and cross-sector partnerships, especially with government. The most neglected areas of CSR are environmental policies, clean manufacturing, resource conservation, supply chain responsibility and ethical consumerism.

For about twenty of the largest Russian companies, CSR is becoming a component of corporate governance rather than merely a part of public relations. This is what is new about CSR in Russia: companies are increasingly complying with international practice and with “soft” international standards, specifically those proposed by GRI and AA1000 SES. However, the majority of Russian companies are still lacking compliance international standards in social and environmental responsibility.

According to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs’ (RUIE) Register,by the end of 2010 only 91 companies published non-financial reports since 2001. Approximately one third of those reports used methods and indicators from the voluntary international “mild” standards, such as GRI and AA1000S.

At a governmental level in Russia there is no legislation or even officially approved public frameworks of CSR. It develops exclusively on a basis of companies’ voluntary initiatives and activities. In 2004 a Social Charter of Russian Business was initiated by the Russian business community and has been signed by 230 companies and organisations. This code is quite similar to the UN Global Compact’s principles and stimulates the participants to follow progressive CSR principles.

Alexey Kostin, PhD, is Executive Director, of the Corporate Social Responsibility – Russian Centre. This blog is a modified extract from his chapter in The World Guide to CSR, edited by Wayne Visser and Nick Tolhurst.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Philip Kotler on "The Age of Responsibility"

Guest comment on Wayne Visser's "The Age of Responsibility" by Philip Kotler, S. C. Johnson and Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and author ofCorporate Social Responsibility:

"Your new book deserves to become an instant classic. It brings together so many ideas, writings, and stages in the development of CSR. It is a liberal education on the relation of business to society. I hope that it is read not only by companies but becomes a required reading in business schools to prepare business students for a higher level of thinking about their future role and impact. I am happy to endorse the book: A most impressive book! I will recommend it to every company to figure out why they are practicing CSR and how to really practice it to make a difference to their profits, people, and the planet."

The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business, by Wayne Visser is available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and other leading book retailers (ISBN-10: 0470688572, ISBN-13: 978-0470688571).

Monday, January 17, 2011

WikiLeaks and CSR - The Era of Radical Transparency

By Wayne Visser

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, a Web 2.0 style whistle blowing site founded in 2006, has this week received a set of leaked documents that threaten to expose illicit activities of the clandestine Swiss banking industry. This is the latest chapter in the WikiLeaks saga, which has been one of the most explosive and significant CSR (and political) stories of recent times.

Without question, WikiLeaks has raised the debate on transparency, responsibility and the role of new media to a whole new level. There are major implications in two related, but distinct areas: whistle blowing and activism. It also raises questions about the sometimes blurry line between legality and ethics, the big-bully tactics of major corporations, and the accountability of whistleblowing organisations.

Whistle blowing - the act of raising concern (usually by anonymously leaking incriminating evidence) about alleged illegal or unethical activities by individuals or organisations - is widely regarded as improving transparency and being in the public interest. Hence, most countries have legislation to protect whistleblowers. In the U.S., this practice dates back to the Lloyd-La Follette Act of 1912, and was most recently reinforced and strengthened through the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

Some argue that Wikileaks has simply continued the honourable tradition of whistleblowing, and raised it to another level, appropriate to the open access age of the Internet – part of what Daniel Goleman, author of Ecological Intelligence, calls "radical transparency" (although he used it more in a supply chain context).

For instance, in September 2009, WikiLeaks posted a leaked internal report from Trafigura, a commodities multinational, exposing it for dumping hazardous waste in Côte d’Ivoire. The site has also been threatening since 2009 to release damaging information about the Bank of America, and caused their stock price to fall by 3% when it made the announcement. In a July 2010 TED interview, Assange claimed to have damaging inside information from BP as well.

Unsurprisingly, companies (and governments) are extremely nervous – even hostile – about the activities of Wikileaks. The issue came to a head in 2010 with ‘megaleak’ releases to The Guardian, New York Times and others of over 92,000 classified documents on the War in Afghanistan (released in July), around 390,000 previously secret US military field reports on the Iraq war (released in October) and more than 250,000 cables from more than 250 U.S. embassies around the world (released in November). When the U.S. government declared these releases ‘illegal’, several companies with commercial ties to WikiLeaks, notably Mastercard and Paypal, froze their transactions, resulting in a funding crisis for WikiLeaks.

What happened next revealed the new face of activism in the 21st century. Using methods that The Economist calls “guerrilla transparency” and which have been dubbed by the media as “hacktivism”, attempts by governments and commercial partners to shut Wikileaks down or cut off its financial oxygen led to a rapid proliferation of mirror sites – more than 700 in one week, according to The Economist – and counter-attacks by hacker groups like Anonymous. One of the tactics of these groups is to bombard the websites of organisations that are perceived to be obstructing WikiLeaks with online requests, thus causing them to crash. In the case of Mastercard, one such orchestrated DDoS (distributed denial of service) campaign by Operation Payback was successful.

Whatever we think of the merits or demerits of these tactics, one thing is clear: WikiLeaks has blown the debate about transparency wide open, raising many more questions than it answers. For instance, what is the role of CSR when one leak about a corporate malpractice can destroy years of conscientious work on corporate citizenship? Will this new generation of online whistleblowing – whether by WikiLeaks or others – increase transparency, or will it simply cause governments and companies to clam up even tighter; to invest more in data security and counter-hacking measures? And if they do react defensively, will this result in what Assange called an unwittingly self-imposed “secrecy tax”, whereby those organisations with the most to hide end up being less competitive as a result of their security-related expenditures?

In the brave new Wikileaks world, CSR laggard companies will clam up and adopt a seige mentality. They will bog down their staff with crippling red tape under the guise of better risk management and more secure document controls. By contrast, CSR leaders will see this as an opportunity to be pro-actively and proudly transparent. They will continue to invest in open engagement with stakeholders, while encouraging employees to safely raise concerns internally before going public with their complaints. CSR leaders know that in a WikiLeaks world, the only effective defence is to create a caring workplace where there are no disgruntled employees seeking revenge, and an ethical culture that has no dirty secrets waiting to be exposed.

Note: This blog is partly based on research and writing done for the forthcoming edition of the Journal of Corporate Citizenship.

Friday, January 14, 2011

John Elkington on "The Age of Responsibility"

CSR 1.0 did remarkably well through the latest Great Recession, despite having precariously little to say on the big issues of the day and no ready-to-go blueprint for economic transformation. As a result, we are seeing a massive reboot going in the CSR industry – and Wayne Visser is a consistently reliable guide to (and champion of) the emerging CSR 2.0 mindsets and practices.

- John Elkington, Co-Founder and Director of Volans Ventures and co-author of The Power of Unreasonable People

The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business, by Wayne Visser is available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and other leading book retailers (ISBN-10: 0470688572, ISBN-13: 978-0470688571).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oil on Troubled Waters (Guest Blog)

Guest Blog by Adrian Henriques

Why has the oil industry produced its own sustainability reporting guidelines – apparently leaving the GRI to its own devices?

The international oil industry has produced a new version of its sustainability reporting guidelines. This comes in the middle of the GRI oil sector supplement development. While the industry guidelines acknowledge the GRI – and even discuss how it differs – this is not a helpful step.

Some of the key problems with the new version of the oil industry guidelines include not addressing the major impact of oil: burning it. In the words of the external stakeholder panel:
“it does not provide more emphasis on the need for the industry to report on actions taken to reconcile the twin challenges of energy security and climate change. One notable example is greenhouse gas emissions related to the use of petroleum product”.

In addition, reporting on tax expenses is reduced to commentary, without the need to produce hard figures. And transparency over taxation is one of the most important ways to tackle corruption. In this sense, taxation is a crucial indicator of development impact.

Despite all this, the guidelines are described as the formulation of an “industry consensus on the most material sustainability issues and the associated choice of consistent indicators and reporting elements”. Well, they definitely represent an industry consensus, but could not be presented as any kind of cross-stakeholder view.

Even the industry’s own Stakeholder Panel is asking them to co-operate with the GRI.


Adrian Henriques is a commentator on corporate accountability. He is the author of ‘Corporate Impact’ and ‘Corporate Truth’. He also works with companies, NGOs and other organisations on issues of sustainability and transparency.

Reposted from Green Conduct

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Archie Carroll on "The Age of Responsibility"

The Age of Responsibility is an important book that should be studied carefully by all those seriously interested in the past, present and future of CSR. For me, the most noteworthy contribution is his “ages and stages” of CSR. Visser identifies five overlapping economic periods and classifies their stages of CSR, modus operandi, key enablers, and stakeholder targets. In forward-looking fashion, he crafts five insightful principles of CSR 2.0 and presents his DNA Model of CSR 2.0 which integrates knowledge and sets forth a more inclusive view of CSR. This book is a significant contribution to the theory and practice of CSR and it will be valued by academics and practitioners alike. I strongly recommend it.

- Archie B. Carroll, Professor of Management Emeritus, Terry College of Business and author of Business and Society

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Joel Bakan on The Age of Responsibility

Wayne Visser's The Age of Responsibility elegantly and persuasively demonstrates the limits and failures of traditional CSR and also the kinds of reforms needed to create conditions for genuine corporate responsibility. Rich with insight, information and analyses, and highly readable for its excellent writing and poignant stories, the book is a crucial contribution to understanding where we are with CSR and what we need to do to move forward.
- Joel Bakan, author of The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (book and documentary film)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Video: The Age of Responsibility by Wayne Visser

What does "responsibility" really mean? This is an extract from my new book, The Age of Responsibility. I hope you find it interesting and inspiring. If the words resonate, feel free to share it with your friends. And watch this space for more videos.

Read the full text