I had not planned on writing this but Jim Spath’s post startled me. Here we have an architect with Black and Decker talking about the influences in his life and how they impact his perspective on CSR. That came right out of left field for me because I don’t usually associate these issues with tech people.
But then I sat back and reflected. That’s a perceptual pile of nonsense. Last week, 2,000 of probably the most innovative geeks in Europe descended on Paris for LeWeb3. There’s a ton of coverage around the event but to summarize – think of TED meets Davos for geeks.
One of the most important sessions? Ninemillion.org. This is a UNHCR education programme dedicated to educating 9 million children by 2010. Another important session – Hans Rosling, the guy who put design perspective into comparative visualisations of global relative wealth and healthcare. These examples allow me to make an assertion:
The truly innovative geeks are the ones who understand the value of other human beings. They are an important and influential minority.
For too long, CSR has been something that business puts up as meaningless statemnents of policy to pad out annual reports with little process to back up what they say. There’s almost always the obligatory donation, or the reference to a piece of good work but when it comes to their own back yards?
It is always good to give and I would never denegrate what any person or organization does in this regard. But CSR starts at home. So when Jim says:
My current project at work is trying to cut down on the water bottle distribution – one of the strangest trends I have ever seen. “Drink Tap Water”.
…then I can only smile.
CSR starts with individual action. Little things that have a cumulative effect.
Perhaps in 2008, the geek message I see in examples like Jim and at conferences like LeWeb3 can start to shine through. Perhaps in 2008, companies can be persuaded to honor the examples that the Jims of this world represent by detailing their achievements in the annual reports. Maybe then, when stakeholders see what is being done, they will start to recognize that even with our wonderful system of capitalism, we can still be responsible and accountable.
Ultimately though, it is about making those actions visible in ways that show business there is genuine corporate value to be had. How hard can that be?
Heck – if the suits won’t go for it, then maybe Mark Yolton’s team can do it.