The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Strategic CSR - Scale

Climate change is a serious challenge. As a result of the scale of the challenge, a large scale response is required. As the article in the url below makes clear, however, large-scale is not yet where we are at as a society:
“Like recycling, re-using carrier bags has become something of an iconic ‘sustainable behaviour.’ But whatever else its benefits may be, it is not, in itself, an especially good way of cutting carbon. Like all simple and painless behavioural changes, its value hangs on whether it acts as a catalyst for other, more impactful, activities or support for political changes.”
Unfortunately, the easier the action to perform (i.e., the less effort or sacrifice required), the lower its catalyst value:
“My colleagues at Cardiff University analysed the impact of the introduction of the carrier bag charge. Although their use reduced dramatically, rates of other low-carbon behaviours among the general public remained unaffected.”
Although changes like recycling or reducing plastic bag use make us feel like we are taking action, for the overall effect to be meaningful, the positive environmental consequences need to outweigh the negative. At present, we are far from achieving this. In effect, by convincing ourselves we are doing something, we are less willing to make the difficult decisions that would result in meaningful results. The author describes a conference he recently attended that had the goal of understanding exactly how big a task we face:
“Scientists and engineers described the unprecedented scale of energy system change necessary to decarbonise rapidly. Social scientists argued for a transformation in the way we view ourselves, our consumption, and our role in society. Economists demolished the idea that economic growth could be maintained forever in a fossil-fuel driven, finite world. Policy experts questioned whether our current carbon targets were fit for purpose. But across almost all of the papers presented at the conference, there was an inescapable consensus: a fundamentally different economic system is required, if we are serious about avoiding dangerous climate change, based on nurturing wellbeing rather than stoking corporate profit.”
Of course, the key question is whether “we are serious about avoiding dangerous climate change.” The answer is not encouraging because it depends on stakeholders demanding change and then being willing to enforce that change:
“Clearly, economic systems do not overhaul themselves – and in a democracy, majority support is a prerequisite for any significant societal shift. Politicians do not take risks if they don't think the electorate will support them. And civil society cannot function without a diverse supporter-base.”
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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‘Every little helps’ is a dangerous mantra for climate change
By Adam Corner
December 13, 2013
The Guardian