Economics and CSR

This blog was originally posted on Identity Campaigning.

I have written previously on this blog about veering dramatically from hope to despair, and I think I may have found the reason for it.  I think it’s because as a society we are travelling in two opposite directions, at the same time, at increasing speed.  Two recent articles relating to economics and CSR really bring this to a head for me, and so I wanted to share them.  First the good news.  Last week, the business thinktank Tomorrow’s Company, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales and WWF co-launched a report entitled ‘Qualitative Growth’, authored by Hazel Henderson and Fritjof Capra.  Thinking of Margaret Thatcher’s insight about economics as the path to the hearts and minds of a nation (Tom, if you wouldn’t mind posting the quote as a comment, I’d be much obliged), this feels like a hugely significant moment.  When we start to measure something other than money, we can have genuine hope of creating a system that will work for everyone (human and beyond!) – and to see this in the context of the House of Lords, and in the voice of accountants(!) was encouraging to say the least.  You can download the report here

Now for the bad news…  Cityboy, the banking whistleblower turned bestselling novellist, has turned his hand to a comment on CSR.  It’s not pretty reading, but according to friends of mine, it’s a lot closer to the day-to-day reality than is ‘Qualitative Growth’.

Jon AlexanderEconomics and CSR


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  • Joe Brewer - November 18, 2009 reply

    Hi Jon,

    If I may offer some minor relief to your quandry, I’d suggest that there are more than these two trends in the world… and there is still much to be hopeful for.

    While it is indeed the case that there is a vibrant culture of greed in the business world, this is but one trend in a highly diverse and pluralistic global web of activities. I have the great luck of getting to interact with some of the most inspiring young social entrepreneurs on a regular basis and I’ve found that there are some really smart and creative people working with micro-finance, values-driven corporate missions, sustainability goals, and cultures of sharing built into their business models.

    CSR will remain an ambivalent term so long as we have a seriously flawed financial system. In a very real sense, the problem is one of design. System level factors promote the perverse incentives that make it possible to get rich while destroying communities and nature.

    What is needed is a different paradigm for understanding markets, wealth, and prosperity in society. A large number of people are seeking this. And we’re making progress, albeit in stops and starts in small ways while the large world moves on.

    Tom and I are laying out some of the deep frames that will need to be a part of this transition in our upcoming report.

    Stay tuned!

    – Joe

  • jimmy greer - November 18, 2009 reply

    I don’t think CR will escape being related to growth as long as it is an exercise in the main for public companies.
    Pieces like the above report and things like Tim Jackson’s ‘Prosperity without growth’ are much more about the impossibilities of sustaining ourselves on earth as we move up to 9 billion people. Companies are more interested in working out things like how to decouple emissions from growth etc.
    As the West returns to business as usual against a new backdrop of mega unemployment and overleveraged consumers, I’m looking at Brazil and trying to work out how businesses in this high growth (190 million pop) country can feasibly be turned on to adapting to a new model of economic development.
    While the multinationals and others are adopting a mix of good CSR and bad CSR, in some places the transformation actually happening. Former environment minister Marina Silva is now presidential candidate of the Green Party and attracting support from progressive (listed) businesses, like cosmetics firm Natura, who cant wait any longer for a mainstream (old school) political process not in step with new realities. There is still a long way to go, but some have likened it to the rise of the Greens in Germany. So exciting times… Looking forward to your report

    I look at a few of these issues on my blog:

  • uberVU - social comments - November 21, 2009 reply

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by eyeoverfishing: @petra1973 I know you’re blogging about CSR – might find this interesting: (it’s a great site, too)…

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