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The Latest Corporate Social Responsibility News: Corporate Responsibility: a Movement?

Submitted by: CSRwire

Categories: Events, Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted: May 26, 2009 – 11:59 PM EST

 

By CSRwire Contributing Writer Bill Baue of Sea Change Media.

A book introduction typically serves as a brief weigh-station before proceeding to the main event. The introduction by Jem Bendell of Lifeworth to The Corporate Responsibility Movement is a main event itself. Dr. Bendell not only maps the peaks and fjords of the corporate social responsibility landscape, but also proposes a unifying, even ennobling purpose for CSR at this juncture when it could just as easily devolve into professionalization devoid of real purpose (save perpetuating CSR jobs.)

While the term “corporate” has become synonymous with unfettered greed, trampled human rights, and trashed ecosystems, Bendell traces its root meaning, “united in one body,” from the Latin corporatus. Framing corporate responsibility as more a “movement” than a discipline poses the possibility of unifying people behind the cause of transformation, where corporations hold themselves accountable to being responsible for their negative impacts -- and the potential for positive influence.

The introduction sets the stage for a historical survey of a half-decade of the corporate responsibility movement’s development, in the form of the annual CSR reviews for 2001 through 2005 from Lifeworth. Bendell founded this consultancy based on the belief that personal transformation and systems change are inextricably linked, and the Lifeworth annual CSR reviews consistently examine this intersection. The act of collecting the annual reviews synthesizes broader insights into CSR than reading them singly, just as the collective action of a movement toward corporate responsibility promises greater impact than isolated efforts.

Fast forward to the 2008 review, The Eastern Turn in Responsible Enterprise, issued this week that also sees the annual Triple Bottom Line Investing Conference – Asia convening in Yokohama, Japan. The corporate irresponsibility fueling the meltdown of Western economies accentuated the relative virtues of the East, as Asian investors provided much of the liquidity to keep the global economy treading water. Combine this with shifting demographics where the majority of the world’s population inhabits the Eastern hemisphere, and it becomes clear that the future faces Eastward.

“Our main conclusion is that diverse Asian approaches to responsible enterprise will increasingly affect business practices around the globe,” says Bendell about the review. “We argue that not only can this development be welcomed, but it is essential to achieve a fair and sustainable world, and now is an important moment for people interested in business-society relations to engage in elaborating greater understanding about Asian approaches to responsible enterprise and finance.”

Like a movie junkie leaving the theater with the taste of the sequel already on her lips, this annual review feeds our hunger for a collection of reviews covering the past (and future) few years. If Bendell values symmetry, we’ll have to wait two years for the next five-year cycle to end and the next collections of reviews to appear. We can spend that time building the corporate responsibility movement so that the next iteration focuses less on the corporations’ destructiveness and more on their regenerative potential.

Disclosure: Jem Bendell serves on the Sea Change Advisory Board. Bill Baue's commentary is but one integral part of our Weekly News Alert service. If you are interesting in subscribing to this service please click here. CSRwire can now be found on Linkedin, Facebook, and now Twitter. About CSRwire's Weekly News Alert CSRwire's free weekly News Alert is a summary of the latest and most important CSR news from the week, put into context with local and global news. The Alert highlights noteworthy initiatives and informs the CSR and Social Responsible Investing communities including professionals, analysts, academics activists, and consumers. About CSRwire.com CSRwire is the leading source of corporate social responsibility and sustainability news, reports and information. CSRwire members are companies and NGOs, agencies and organizations interested in communicating their corporate citizenship, sustainability, and socially responsible initiatives to a global audience through CSRwire's syndication network and weekly News Alerts. CSRwire content covers issues of Diversity, Philanthropy, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Environment, Human Rights, Workplace Issues, Business Ethics, Community Development and Corporate Governance.

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