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Posts on Jan 1970

Why Corporate Social Responsibility is not enough


‘The purpose of business is business’’

Milton Friedman (1962)

In the last 20 years income inequality has risen with household wealth of the top 10 per cent of society now more than 100 times the wealth of the poorest 10 per cent;  The major institutions, such as central government and banks have been found wanting; trust is at an all time low and financial institutions are seen as a key part of the collapse. The big government institutions of the post war era seem unable to work; the NHS, Social Services and Benefits seem are political hot potatoes.  There is a growing need for change in the world.

The neat divisions of public, private and third sector are falling away. Charities are filling the gap left by failing public services.  The demographics of society are shifting as the ageing population become simultaneously more dependant and more socially active; with the availability of time, ability and a pension.  Young people, saddled with student debt and no hope of home ownership remain living with their parents, insecure and frustrated, with diminished job prospects.

Social media hold individuals and governments to account; this rise of the ‘connected society’ drives the need for better conversation rather than state control.  In this era of fiscal austerity, the moral volume is turned up.

To date some organisations have responded through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, each with a laudable purpose and demonstrating how organisations can improve their world.  In the new world order this is no longer enough.  Organisations are being challenged to rethink their essential purpose.  The narrowness of self interest and share holder value replaced with a wider social activism and moral purpose.

Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer relevant and instead is replaced with a new understanding of the world that drives the moral and social purpose of an organisation.  No longer is it enough to focus on our customers; it is about recognising the wider number of lives that we touch.

From customers to the lives we touch; from transactions to relationships;  from shareholder value to societal value; from short term profit to sustainable profit; from high street presence to community asset; from wealth creation to creation of the common wealth.

How will institutions redefine their role in rebuilding community, stimulating social activism and engagement for the next 100 years.

‘The purpose of business is to create shared value’

Michael Porter 2011

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My Generation!

The sad fact is that in the UK and the developed world, we are slowly depopulating ourselves.  Birth rates are falling whilst longevity increases; in 2006 there were more 55-64 year olds than 16-24 year olds for the first time.  Whilst the ‘grey pound’ is a great opportunity for some businesses and the increasing need for related services this is an opportunity that is well catalogued.  At the same time the emerging next generation of future business joiners are proving to be very different to previous generations.

The Baby Boomers are the post war era generation, born between 1946 and 1964; whilst Generation X’ers were borne between 1965 and 1980.  The latest generation, ‘Generation Y’, are just coming into the working population and born between 1985 and 1995.

Each generation has different aspirations and ruling ideologies.  For the early Baby Boomers, growing in the optimism of the post war era and the sense of making the world a better place they continue to strive and believe that duty and patience pay off; often driven by an ethic that can best be summed up as ‘work hard and you will do better than your parents’.  For the late Baby Boomers they grew up in a world that saw its heroes crumble, be it Nixon or Kennedy; empires retracted and the cold war bred suspicion and a need for freedom; Woodstock and Flower Power were the anthem of the generation.

The Generation X’ers added disrespect for authority to the need for freedom and disregarded the need to accumulate wealth and position.  A generation that had been told that they could have it all now actually decided to take it!

It is perhaps too early to tell what Generation Y will bring to work; early indications suggest independence, social conscience, confidence and technological savvy.  They have new heroes that are more likely to be sporting than musical; they have embraced the democratic principles of the internet and are driven by brand and not loyalty; the free availability of credit means that they want it now and can have it too!

We face a world in which the Baby Boomers control the institution; Generation X are the managers and Generation Y are the consumers and new joiners.

Effective organisations need to look inside themselves to tap the rich source of ideas and energy.  To think about how they are defending themselves against another generation and to nurture and develop new talent.

The questions to ponder are:

  • How am I defending my generation?
  • How are we appealing to a new generation of employees?
  • How do we recruit and train them?
  • Once we have them, how do we manage and keep them?

Finally, try this, judge a generation by its heroes:

Churchill, Kennedy, Thatcher, Bob Dylan or Ellen Macarthur?

Who are your heroes?

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