Tuesday, April 18, 2006

3 Books on Corporate Social Responsibility

THE DIVINE RIGHT OF CAPITAL: Dethroning the corporate aristocracy
Marjorie Kelly
(Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2003)

THE ART OF CAUSE MARKETING: How to use advertising to change personal behavior and public policy
Richard Earle
(Mc-Graw Hill, 2000)

THE ANSWER TO HOW IS YES: Acting on what matters
Peter Block
(Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2002)

Are business organizations relevant and beneficial to society given the social ills (wealth inequality, wealth privilege, corporate welfare, industrial pollution and many others) they generate and perpetuate? Author Marjorie Kelly states: “The underlying illness is shareholder primacy, the drive to make profits for the shareholders, no matter who pays the cost. In the interest of making the rich richer, corporations are in effect levying absurd private taxes on the rest of us. Financial powers have become an economic aristocracy. Wealth controls not only corporations but also government.”

“Today, among the world’s one hundred largest economies, fifty-one are corporations. They have revenues larger than nation-states, yet maintain the guise of being the ‘private property’ of shareholders. Ownership function has shrunk to virtually one dimension: extracting wealth.”

That is why there is a growing pressure on business to contribute towards economic democracy and social change, to fulfill the social purpose that was the original reason for their existence and to be part of the solution to social ills, rather than the problem.

These changes need to be more than cosmetic, dole outs and public relations projects. Kelly articulates the need for a new economic ideal of sustainable prosperity for all with fundamental system reform and building a world of economic liberty and justice for all.

Kelly suggests six principles for economic democracy:
1. Enlightenment: Because all persons are created equal, the economic rights of employees and the community are equal to those of capital owners.
2. Equality: Under market principles, wealth does not legitimately belong only to stockholders. Corporate wealth belongs to those who create it, and community wealth belongs to all.
3. Public good: As semipublic governments, public corporations are more than pieces of private property or private contracts. They have a responsibility to the public good.
4. Democracy: The democracy is a human community, and like the larger community of which it is a part, it is best governed democratically.
5. Justice: In keeping with equal treatment of persons before the law, wealthy persons may not claim greater rights than others, and corporations may not claim the right s of persons.
6. (r)Evolution: As it is the right of the people to alter or abolish government, it is the right of people to alter or abolish the corporations that now govern the world.

This book is a stirring, albeit disturbing, reminder and guide for HR when they design and implement democratic and economic change projects. It appeals to the soul.

This whole Lenten Week (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday even!) I was enraged to receive incessant calls from banks, in particular, urging me to get their credit cards and loan products!!!!! Also, the internet and mass media (most newspapers took a rest on Good Friday) did not seem to take a solemn pause this week and continued business as usual.

Indeed every day, we are bombarded by savvy social marketers that prey on our vulnerabilities and make us buy things we do not need. Not to mention advertisements and commercials that insult the intelligences and sensitivities and destroy value systems.

And now comes cause marketing and cause branding that “contribute for the public good.” Author Richard Earle recalls his experience working at Benton & Bowles agency, “I realized then and there that it was possible to use the techniques of marketing in a way that could have an important and beneficial impact on the public—a result that had nothing to do with detergent or analgesic market share.”

Earle defines cause marketing as advertising in the service of the public. It consists of using the skills of advertising to effect social change, to benefit individuals or society at large. He writes, “Cause marketing seeks to impact personal behavior in a number of ways, including persuading the target to:
 avoid or discontinue to risky practices like smoking, drug abuse or unprotected sex
 discontinue antisocial actions such as littering or being careless with campfires
 seek counseling for destructive behavior such as compulsive gambling or spousal abuse
 take preventative measures such as getting inoculated, reducing cholesterol intake, or fastening a safety belt
 seek out and use information about various diseases
 reexamine personal attitudes toward issues like race and sexual preference
 identify and take action against inhumane or discriminatory practices
 organize, join or give financial support to groups that benefit society
 become involved in community activities such as mentoring and monitoring neighborhood crime

Earle asserts that cause marketing can also help create or change public policy, inform about and create action on behalf of a cause.

And, may I add, the idea of stewardship and preservation of the natural environment. Indeed, advertisements and commercials are potent tools for expressing corporate social responsibility. HR can work with top management and their marketing and sales units to make this happen.

I am sure that HR people are now asking, “How?” Who, where and when do we even begin?

Author Peter Block asserts that the work it takes to act on what matters is up to each of us as individuals. “My individual possibility needs to be part of a collective possibility through the concept of social architecture. The task of the social architect is to design and bring into being organizations that serve both the marketplace and the soul of the people who work within them. Where the architect designs physical space, the social architect designs social space.”

Earle writes that certain capacities are required by social architects:
1. Convening: How people gather. Focus on who is in the room. Care for the physical space of the room in which you meet. Include high-interaction activities. Design airspace so that all voices can be heard. Aim at capacities and strengths.
2. Naming the Question: Define the context, the playing field, and the right question to start with. Identify needs of all stakeholders. Stay with questions of purpose, feeling and relationships. Keep broadening the questions. Postpone the How? question.
3. Initiating New Conversations for Learning: We change the world when we create the time and space for heartfelt, unique conversations that discuss values and affirm doubts, feelings and intuition. Support idealism, intimacy and depth. Use high-contact and human being-based learning strategies.
4. Sticking with Strategies of Engagement and Consent: Talk the implications through. Establish commitment and accountability. Decide who should be in the room at various stages and what questions they should confront, and all while keeping to the ground rule that he questions of intent and purpose precede the questions of methodology.
5. Designing Strategies that Support Local Choice: If our intent is to create social systems that people want to inhabit, then the social architect’s job is to demand that the inhabitants join in designing the system. Some call this “participative design.” It may take longer, but the alternative is to be efficient in choosing a plan that will not be supported.

HR could expand their horizon and make their corporate life meaningful by taking on the lead of their organization’s aiming for economic democracy and social change. These books are helpful in that they detail the what, why, who, when, where and how.

Jerry R. Wilson, CSP
(Career Press, 2005)

Vijay Govindarajan & Cris Timble
(Harvard Business School Press, 2005)

Matilda Raffa Cuomo
(Book-of-the-Month Club, 2002)

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