Archive for the ‘corporate citizenship’ category

Shades of green

22 June 2010

Environmental sustainability.

It’s a term that seems to be bandied around a lot lately.

Many companies have it stated as one of their “core values” – but do they really mean it?

Businessman holding crystal globe

It’s easy to display the words on your website, print them on a pretty brochure, and even rattle them off during an induction.

But it’s a whole different kettle of fish to integrate their meaning and intent into your strategic plan.

In other words, to walk the talk.

Academic insight

In the second part of my 2-part interview with Dr David Bubna-Litic, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, I posed the following questions.

Again I have recorded his answers for you to review:

PlayDoes the L&D department have an obligation to facilitate the learning of the corporation’s values among its employees?

PlaySo if an insurance company defines environmental sustainability as a core value, should its L&D department organise workshops on green issues?

PlayHow about controversial issues such as climate change and nuclear energy – should the company adopt one political agenda over another?

If you have trouble playing the files, right-click each link and “Save Target As…”.

My take

It’s clear to me that a company that claims a corporate value such as environmental sustainability has an ethical obligation to translate it into action. Values are more than words; they represent behaviour.

Green piggy bankThe irony of pretenders like Enron is that, if the corporation is true to its values, it can reap significant financial rewards.

For example, a manufacturing company that reduces its electricity consumption will no doubt enjoy a corresponding cost saving; a finance company that offers socially responsible investments may attract a new demographic of customer; a multinational that installs a web conferencing system instead of criss-crossing the globe by airliner will no longer need to fund relentless air fares, hotel bills and meal allowances.

The role of the L&D Department

It is also clear to me that the L&D Department has a professional obligation to facilitate the learning of the corporation’s values among its employees.

Since those values provide the context for how the company operates in the marketplace, any ignorance of them is – at best – unprofessional, but probably more accurately, incompetent.

The thin green line

In dealing with politically contentious issues such as climate change, the organisation must be wary of straying into partisanship.

No matter how much we wish it wasn’t so, some of our colleagues just don’t agree with our point of view. So if the corporation were to adopt one political agenda over another, I for one would consider it ethically unacceptable.

I suggest that instead of taking sides, the company errs on the side of caution. For example, it doesn’t need to say things like:

Acme Corporation knows that climate change is real.

That is almost intentionally divisive.

Chess pieces opposing each other

Instead, why not go for:

Acme Corporation is committed to an environmentally sustainable future. While we are unsure as to whether human activity contributes to climate change, we are taking the precaution of reducing our carbon emissions and expanding our portfolio in the renewable energy sector.

That is much more inclusive!

Chess pieces mingling

As the elephant in the room will tell you, there’s no point in disengaging some of your employees.

That would be to the detriment of everyone.

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Noise pollution

18 December 2009

COP15 was a fiasco.

At the eleventh hour, the world’s governments cobbled together a half‑baked “accord”, after 2 weeks of posturing, grandstanding and generally faffing about.

Why bother? At the next summit, they’ll realise they’ve got no hope of meeting the target, however vague, so they’ll try to weasel out of the agreement just like they weaseled out of Kyoto.

The fact is: Governments can’t govern very well. All they really can do is tax. And do we want a bunch of taxmen managing our environment?

No – I see real environmental management in the hands of corporations and individuals.

Business man holding the EarthCorporate citizenship

These days, every company has an environmental policy.

However, it’s just a collection of words.

To be a good corporate citizen, the firm must use that policy to inform action.

And that’s typically where the wheels fall off.

Education is the key

The foundation of corporate citizenship is education. If the L&D team (and others) aren’t active in this space, then there’s a disconnect between what the company allegedly stands for and what it manifestly stands for.

I happen to believe that the company I work for is indeed a good corporate citizen.

For example, today we screened The Burning Season in-house, which we followed up with a talk by the protagonist, Dorjee Sun – CEO of Carbon Conservation.

The Burning Season Ryan Tracey with top bloke, Dorjee Sun.

Regardless of your political and philosophical views of climate change, I’m sure we all agree that the relentless destruction of Indonesia’s rainforest is an unmitigated disaster.

Achmadi the farmer

Given the socio-economic dimensions of the problem, the Indonesian government is simply incapable of governing it.

Action makes the difference

Now that my colleagues and I have watched the film, we’ve heard Dorjee talk and our awareness has been raised a few thousand notches, what can we actually do about it?

For a start, I suggest we ignore the Copenhagen Clowns.

As a financial services company, something we already do is offer Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) options to our customers. These options typically embargo investments in the likes of arms dealers and tobacco manufacturers; dare I suggest that palm oilers should also be on the blacklist?

It’s also important to keep in mind that a corporation is a collection of individuals. Not only could we select SRI options in our own investment plans, but we could make the personal decision to donate to a relevant charity. In this case we chose Borneo Orangutan Survival, and the corporation dollar-matched our individual contributions.

I’m sure there’s hundreds of other things we could do, both as corporations and as individuals. And yet more could be done in other industry sectors. All we need is some imagination.

The thin green line

In essence, corporate citizenship is a political concept. So we must be wary of straying into partisanship.

For example, I would be uncomfortable with screening Obama’s speeches as an L&D activity. (If you disagree, how would you feel if I screened Bush’s speeches instead?)

The Earth with a stethoscopeNone-the-less, corporate citizenship transcends partisanship. The world has plenty of massive problems that we all acknowledge, regardless of our political persuasions.

As L&D professionals in socially responsible corporations, we arguably have a duty to raise our colleagues’ awareness of the issues that matter, then translate that knowledge into something practical.

In doing so, we must avoid ATNA at all costs.

Otherwise it’s just noise pollution.