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