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

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at david.chandler@ucdenver.edu


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Strategic CSR - Environmental art

There is a new documentary about the British environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy, whose art is both beautiful and powerful. The trailer for the movie ('Leaning into the Wind') is fascinating and demonstrates Andy's ability to manipulate and comment on nature simultaneously:
 
 
As the artist says, "you can walk on the path or you can walk through the hedge – two different ways of looking at the world." There is more footage on the movie's website:
 
 
This documentary is a follow-up to an earlier documentary about Andy's work, 'Rivers and Tides,' by the same director:
 
 
Seeing this art reminded me of one of the earliest Newsletters I sent out, back in 2010 (Strategic CSR – Graffiti), which looked at what the artist, Paul Curtis, describes as "reverse graffiti":
 
"Using stencils, water, and scrubbing brushes, British 'reverse graffiti' artist Paul Curtis comments on runaway consumerism—and shows us how dirty we really are. … He strips away years of accumulated soot, dust, dirt, and atmospheric detritus to make pieces like these, which were part of a celebration of street art."
 
The ephemeral, yet extremely intricate nature of this work is astonishing. I am not sure I would have the patience, but the overall effect is an extremely powerful commentary on how we affect the natural environment simply by existing.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Strategic CSR - Value

The article in the url below demonstrates how the concept of value is widely misunderstood – even among those, such as business journalists, who should know better. The author, adopting the stereotypical stance of a Wall Street Journal journalist, equates the creation of value with the largest dollar amount. That is, he suggests that for an investor in a socially responsible investment (SRI) fund to accept a lower return is for that investor to receive less value:
 
"Wall Street considers it a truism that money sloshes around the globe seeking the highest return. But there are countless investors, believe it or not, who are willing to accept lower returns. P.T. Barnum supposedly said there's a sucker born every minute. Many of them go into so-called socially responsible investing. … the basic idea is to throw money away. In reality there is no trade-off of Vice vs. Nice. There are only returns."
 
Putting aside the contentious issue of whether SRI funds are able to match the performance of the market, let's assume SRI funds perform at a lower rate – say 1, or 2, or even 3% below the market as a whole. This doesn't mean that the investor is receiving less value. If the value I get from knowing my funds are supporting companies/issues in which I believe (and, to some extent, build my identity around), then that could easily compensate for any lower financial return, and will probably exceed it. Instead, this journalists resorts to the well-trodden, knee-jerk ground of Milton Friedman's quotes about CSR (which, in my opinion, are also misunderstood – see Chapter 5, pp. 90-92 + Strategic CSR – Bill Gates) to undercut his own argument:
 
"Profits are the best measure of a business's value to consumers—and to society. No one holds a gun to the customer's head. If the buyer weren't glad to pay the free-market price, he would make the product or perform the service himself. Yet this idea is questioned all the time."
 
I agree that "profits are the best measure of a business's value to consumers—and to society," but that is exactly why SRI funds exist. If an SRI fund is profitable then, by definition, it is creating value for the investors who select it over other, more conventional investment options. To see what this means at the societal level (i.e., the population of all firms), it is instructive to look at the makeup of those companies that are considered 'successful.' The fact that many of them are global brands that persuade consumers to pay a significant premium for the 'lifestyles' that accompany their products disproves the author's point about SRI funds. In other words, he cannot say SRI funds are a waste of money because they deliver returns that are below those of other competing investment options, yet also say that a consumer is demonstrating Nike's 'value' by paying a significant price premium for those parts of sneakers (e.g., design, logo) that do not serve a functional purpose. In both cases, consumers are receiving something other than functional value in exchange for the 'price' they are willing to pay. Why is there even a market for $150 sneakers if it is not to provide some value to those who are willing to pay that much? If this argument applies to Nike, then, by definition, it applies to SRI funds. The Wall Street Journal cannot have it both ways.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
Stocks Weren't Made for Social Climbing
By Andy Kessler
January 22, 2018
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final
A15
 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Strategic CSR - 2017

The article in the url below makes the case that, rather than despair at the daily circus ongoing in Washington D.C., it is important to remember how much good is happening in the world. Here are some uplifting quotes that suggest the arc of humanity's progress is strong enough to survive the many short-term shocks currently being thrown at it. In fact, the author is encouraged to claim that, contrary to today's headlines:
 
"… 2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity. A smaller share of the world's people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell."
 
What does this mean on a more granular level?
 
"Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000, according to calculations by Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water."
 
And, to put our progress in perspective:
 
"As recently as the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 15 percent are illiterate, and fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty. In another 15 years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will be mostly gone. After thousands of generations, they are pretty much disappearing on our watch. Just since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, diarrhea treatment, breast-feeding promotion and other simple steps."
 
Now, I would say (although the author does not argue this), that for-profit firms are the biggest reason for this progress. In other words, the net-effect of democratic, free-market capitalism is undoubtedly positive. As I always ask my students, 'Does anyone want to go back to 19th century dentistry?' Of course, the wrinkle in that argument is climate change – if we have no planet (or, more accurately, cannot survive on the planet we have), then it doesn't matter how good your teeth look! Nevertheless, I think it is essential for the CSR community to remember that the progress we have made so far suggests that, while for-profit firms are the cause of climate change, they are also the key to any solution. We just need to find a way to incentivize them to contribute to a more sustainable economic system. I guess that is where we all come in.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Why 2017 Was the Best Year in History
By Nicholas Kristof
January 7, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
SR9
 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Strategic CSR - Recycling

The article in the url below gives an indication of how much the world relies on China to recycle its waste; it also therefore demonstrates the dramatic effects on the global recycling industry of the ban on waste imports to China that went into effect on January 1:
 
"China's ban covers imports of 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the low-grade polyethylene terephthalate used in plastic bottles, as part of a broad cleanup effort and a campaign against 'yang laji,' or 'foreign garbage.' It also sets new limits on the levels of impurities in other recyclables."
 
The immediate effect, essentially, has been to backup all the recycling sites in the developed world that are rapidly accumulating large amounts of plastic (and other recyclables) that they do not know what do to with, simply because they cannot find anyone else to take the vast amounts China had previously been willing to import:
 
"China had been processing at least half of the world's exports of waste paper, metals and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016, according to recent industry data. … Every year, Britain sends China enough recyclables to fill up 10,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to Greenpeace U.K. The United States exports more than 13.2 million tons of scrap paper and 1.42 million tons of scrap plastics annually to China, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has reported. That is the sixth-largest American export to China."
 
In response to the lack of an easy solution, the West is beginning to take more seriously the need to reduce plastic consumption:
 
"Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, pledged on Thursday to eliminate avoidable wastes within 25 years. In a prepared speech, she urged supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles where all the food is loose. The European Union, for its part, plans to propose a tax on plastic bags and packaging, citing the China ban and the health of the oceans among other reasons."
 
In the short-term, however, the only solution is a little more basic (and distinctly unsustainable):
 
"Those measures might help ease the situation some day, but for now Britain is faced with growing piles of recyclables and no place to put them. Experts say the immediate response to the crisis may well be to turn to incineration or landfills."
 
For example:
 
"In Halifax, Nova Scotia, which sent 80 percent of its recycling to China, … Stockpiles of those plastics have so exceeded the city's storage capacity that Halifax had to get special permission to bury about 300 metric tons of the material in a landfill."
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
Wondering Where to Put All the Rubbish China Now Rejects
By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura
January 12, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
A8
 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Strategic CSR - Faith

 
 
Welcome back to the Strategic CSR Newsletter!
The first newsletter of the Spring semester is below.
As always, your comments and ideas are welcome.
 
 
The article in the url below (published on Christmas Day), in broad terms, discusses the role of religious faith vs. scientific proof. In the process, the author (a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center) describes his own religious journey, but makes a number of points that are of value to believers and non-believers alike. First, he distinguishes the roles in our lives played by faith and reason, arguing that faith is essential because it relies on aspects of life that are beyond easy empirical demonstration, such as trust:
 
"Perhaps the key to understanding why faith is prized within the Christian tradition is that it involves trust that would not be needed if the existence of God were subject to a mathematical proof. … Every meaningful relationship — parent-child, spouse to spouse, friend to friend — involves some degree of trust. It is better and more vivifying to be the object of someone's trust rather than the last person standing after a series of logical deductions."
 
Although faith and reason are independent, they are also related – in other words, to accept faith is not to reject doubt:
 
"For many of us, shadows of doubt coexist with faith. To emphasize faith … is precisely to take doubt seriously, but also to understand the doubter more completely — not just as a reasoning mind but as a full person, possessed of a divine spark that lets us see, now and then, right through the walls we have built between faith and reason."
 
On a more practical level, the author makes the important point that to be a non-believer is just as much an article of faith as it is to believe:
 
"If it seems like that's asking too much — if you think leaps of faith are for children rather than adults — consider this: Materialists, rationalists and atheists ultimately place their trust in certain propositions that require faith. To say that truth is only intelligible through reason is itself a statement of faith. Denying the existence of God is as much a leap of faith as asserting it. As the pastor Tim Keller told me, 'Most of the things we most deeply believe in — for example, human rights and human equality — are not empirically provable.'"
 
Most important to the CSR debate, however, he highlights the complementary role that faith and reason play in making sense of life. Faith is important because it speaks to meaning and purpose in ways that reason cannot:
 
"Our most important forms of knowledge rarely come from logic or proof. … Faith can allow us to understand things in a different way than reason does. … [Reason] can analyze things like quantum physics and modern cosmology. But what faith can do is to put our lives in an unfolding narrative in ways reason cannot. It gives us a role in a gripping drama, … a drama that includes sin and betrayal, redemption and grace; and ultimately it gives purpose to our lives despite the brokenness and pain we experience."
 
Wishing everyone a happy and productive 2018!
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
How Can I Possibly Believe That Faith Is Better Than Doubt?
By Peter Wehner
December 25, 2017
The New York Times