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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Strategic CSR - Adbusters

There is a conundrum at the heart of the sustainability project that I have not seen many people willingly address—our economic model based around consumption is what is leading to resource depletion; yet, if we reduced consumption significantly, our economies would be plunged into deep and prolonged recession:
“… because consumer spending accounts for [such a large component] of United States gross domestic product, an abrupt shift to nonconsumption would drive the already faltering economy to its knees.”
The article in the url below at least raises this conundrum in an in-depth profile of Kalle Lasn, the co-founder of Adbusters ( The organization ran a campaign ahead of Christmas with the tag line, “Buy Nothing Christmas, Rethink the Season.” The approach fits Adbusters’ revolutionary, anti-mainstream perspective that sees it taking on multinational companies with what is calls “subvertisements,” such as Absolute Vodka and Camel cigarettes, in the name of social progress. The Christmas campaign grew out of a similar campaign run to coincide with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that is traditionally the busiest shopping day in the U.S.:
“Buy Nothing Day is the older sibling of Buy Nothing Christmas — an effort to extend one day of abstention to the entire holiday season. … Adbusters is asking demonstrators to storm Times Square, ‘the iconic center of global capitalism’ — and march around with ‘#BuyNothingXmas’ signs through New Year’s Day.”
Why does The New York Times care what Mr. Lasn says?
“Well, last year, a campaign prompted by Mr. Lasn and his magazine improbably caught fire. It was Occupy Wall Street. Adbusters gave Occupy its name and opening date and designed the poster with Occupy’s defining image: an elegant ballerina perched atop Wall Street’s raging bull while gas-masked figures loomed in the background. The poster contained this text: ‘What Is Our One Demand? #OccupyWallStreet. Sept. 17th. Bring Tent.’ A digital version went viral.”
Lasn’s values and goals are hard to argue with:
“… his belief that core economic values must shift from profit-making and expansion of the gross domestic product toward improvement of human health and protection of the planet.”
The challenge is to know how to get there without also discarding the progress (economic and social) that has been made since the industrial revolution. For Lasn, that is a false choice:
“Accomplishing that requires overturning economic orthodoxy and capitalism as we know it, he says. ‘We have to do this,’ he says. ‘With climate change, and the exhaustion of the planet’s resources. I believe the alternative is apocalypse.’”
Take care
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The War Against Too Much of Everything
By Jeff Sommer
December 23, 2012
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final