Responsibility is kind of a dirty word in our society today. It brings to mind image of blame and finger pointing, and I think we associate the idea of responsibility with the transition from the freedom of childhood to the daily grind of being an adult. Still, is being responsible really a bad thing? If you look up the word ‘responsibility’ in the dictionary you’ll encounter words like duty, obligation, accountability, consequence… but you’ll also find other ways of defining responsibility – like trust, worth, or more simply, ‘able to respond’.
Elaine Cohen is an e-friend of mine (@elainecohen for all you Twitter users) who runs a business dealing with corporate social and environmental responsibility. It’s definitely a growing field, at least partly because the people who run those corporations are waking up to the fact that being responsible is good for the company, good for the planet, and good for business. I’m old enough to remember a time when ‘corporate America’ (not to pick on any one nation, but it was and is a common term) meant groups of companies that put their profit above all else, and some multi-national corporations not only had a larger footprint than some countries, they were also bound to the laws of no country in particular. If things got too ‘hot’ or too expensive to operate somewhere, they’d simply close down and move somewhere else. Such companies still exist of course, but they’re becoming the dinosaurs of this new age. CSRs (corporate responsibility reports) are showing up on websites all over the world, with varying degrees of success. Still, I think all of their efforts should be applauded. As has been said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Elaine also has a blog, here, and the first paragraph of her post for today (March 19, 2010) is what provided the inspiration for my topic this week:
“Burts Bees. Aspiring to be the Greenest Company on Earth. They have made a good start, apparently. The 2009 Corporate Responsibility Update of their “very first” 2008 report, attests to year on year increasing revenues since 2004 , growth from 400 to 480 employees , increased post consumer recycled product in packaging, lighter weight packaging, and reduced use of PVC, total electricity reduction by 21%, total water reduction of 20% , and a “net normalized reduction” of GHG’s (normalized means factoring in sales growth ) of 33.5% versus base year which is 2006 (though actual total emissions versus 2006 were 5.7% higher in 2008) . Burt’s Bees give preference to socially and environmentally conscious suppliers, spend 28% of purchasing costs in their home state of North Carolina, and 1.39% to minority or women’s businesses. Burt’s Bees employees contributed 6,006 hours of volunteer time in 2008 and 2009, and the Company donated cash of $295,500 to charitable purposes , and $600,000 of product . Burts Bees team members love their work (those who responded to the employee survey rated their job 4 on a 1-5 scale) and 30% of the Company’s executives and senior managers are women. Burt’s Bees employees have a great safety record and practice yoga as part of the Company’s well being program. The Company is engaged with partners such as Habitat for Humanity and Teach America and a wide range of intiiatives for the benefit of the community.And relations with parent Company Clorox are quite hunky-dory. OK. So far so good. Many good initiatives from this sustainability spirited Company and clearly strong efforts to manage their impacts. Their decision to issue an update demonstrates a commitment to continued progress and a degree of transparency.”
Further in her post Elaine did have some questions about the report; I’ll leave you to read the entire post for that. Still, as I say, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Some other links I’ve discovered from Elaine include: Sustainability meets big brands (there’s an 18-minute video here, profiling three companies), NGOs aiding IBM’s social responsibility in Hyderabad, Get Paid to Bike to Work (apparently there’s now a tax break in the US for this) and When Profit and Social Impact Unite. It may be some time yet before EVERY company gets behind such ideas, but more and more are coming onboard every day. And more and more companies are offering transparency about their operations, being aware of the environmental impacts of their products and their supply chains, offering incentives like exercise programs or daycare for their staff, and choosing different ways to make their footprint lighter on the earth. This is a very good thing. This planet may be some 25,000 miles (40,000 km) in diameter, but it’s also a tiny marble in the vastness of space.
Some other articles on corporate responsibility and the like are:
- New Report Shows Spike in CSR Job Postings Again: Is There a Market for CSR Expertise?
- How Companies That Aggressively Pursue Sustainability Reap Rewards
- ABWA: Women Leading on the Sustainability Front
- Ten companies line up for the European Business Awards for the Environment 2010
- FOR THE GENERAL GOOD: Modern takes on old school general stores are dotting the retail landscape
- Social media for Stakeholder Engagement
Okay the links for this week include:
- USGBC: LEED Subject Matter Expert Application Form – you have until Monday, March 22 to apply
- Understanding Green Schools – this webinar was held on March 17, but is available for viewing until March 17, 2011
- Understanding Green Schools – Master Slides (.pdf)
- Greenbuild 2010 – Generation Green: Redefining Our Future – USGBC conference in Chicago, November 17-19, 2010
- Public Comments Sought on International Green Construction Code First Draft
- Organizations Create International Green Construction Code
- How to Get Buy-in from Your Team When Going Green
- WaterLife: The Story of the Last Great Supply of Fresh Drinking Water on Earth – An interactive website from the National Film Board on the Great Lakes
- Nonprofit Guide to Going Green
- ICC, ASHRAE, USGBC and IES Announce Nation’s First Set of Model Codes and Standards for Green Building in the U.S. (.pdf)
- What is the future of sustainable architecture?
- Green Product Association Welcomes First Global Trade Partners and Opens Tiered Membership
- ED+C magazine: Articles
- What about Green?
- Sustainable Facility magazine: Articles
- The rain-catching skyscraper that’s built like a plant
- USGBC Rocky Mountain Green – conference, April 21-22, 2010, Denver, CO
- Lotus Leaf Demonstrates Business Case for Bio-Inspired Products
- USDOE, EERE, Building Technologies Program: Index of Archived Webinars
- Eco-mmunity Greenzine
- Planet Green
- Green Roofs.com Newsletter
- Green Building Advisor Newsletter
- The Green Belt Movement International: Updates
- ED+C e-news
- Sustainable Facility e-news
- Driving Growth: How Clean Cars and Climate Policy Can Create Jobs
- Responsible Travel Report: The Sustainable Tourism e-Newsletter
- The Electric Cars Driving the Future
- Cap-and-Trade, GHG reporting & the role of environmental professionals
- GBA e-letter
- Inhabitat: This Week in Green Design
Okay, that’s it for now. Have a great week!
P.S. If you’re looking for a way to repair the potholes in the roads in your neighbourhood, try this! Pothole Gardens: Check out this great design approach UK Highways Agency