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Should corporate social responsibility be mandated?

December 21, 2007

Everywhere you turn, there’s another story about a food, population or an energy crisis and then there’s the environmental overlay.

Sorry to sound like a real downer in this time of festive goodness and copious consumption, but don’t we need a reality check and shouldn’t corporate social responsibility be legally mandated?

Does everyone believe the markets can solve the problems alone?

I was driven to this chain of thought by Steve Hardy’s excellent review of Thomas Hardy Dixon’s The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization.

Hardy-Dixon’s book explores the complex changes that are happing to populations, food and the environment and gives a pretty damming report.

“We can’t possibly flourish in a future filled with sharp nonlinearities and threshold effects – and, somewhat paradoxically, we can’t hope to preserve at least some of what we hold dear – unless we’re comfortable with change, surprise, and the essential transience of things, and unless we’re open to radically new ways of thinking about our world and about the way we should lead our lives. We need to exercise our imaginations so that we can challenge the unchallengeable and conceive the inconceivable. Hunkering down, denying what’s happening around us, and refusing to countenance anything more than incremental adjustments to our course are just about the worst things we can do.”

2007– has seen the environment emerge as a significant issue, almost to the point of fatigue.
2008– will see new broader dimensions of responsibility added to the agenda that go beyond the environment.

Clealry incumbent corporations will be playing an important role and new ones will emerge to exploit new opportunities, but judging from the recent Bali agreement, some governments are now going to be pushing and chasing them all the way.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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