How the crisis changed giving
“How do we create a way of living together on the planet that actually has a future, because the one we have right now doesn’t really have much of a future? How do we create a truly regenerative economy that, like other living systems, creates further conditions for life?”
If questions are more important than answers, then those that Peter Senge asks are the questions for our time. The top scientist and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management recently authored the best selling Necessary Revolution, a book that looks at the woes facing us and what must be done to create a more sustainable world.
This new management thinking is a remarkable departure from Nobel economist Milton Friedman who in his famed article The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits stated that all business needed to do was to avoid corruption and to make a profit.
It is this “money before all else” mantra that has inspired a century of greed in modern capitalism which hopefully will now expire with the current recession. What is certain is that the world will not tolerate another century (or less) of the kind of greed that has brought wide-scale poverty, environmental degradation and a consumption-based world.
The talk is no longer how to give, but how to change. In the face of this, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer an off-shoot of a brand, but it must become the brand defining a new conscious capitalism that will rebuild the world rather than destroying it.
For the most part CSR has been the means of easing corporate guilt while greed, consumption and reckless business has continued unabated. That in itself has been part of the problem. It is not that business must do good; rather that business should be good: to contribute, uplift and develop the environments and communities it operates in as part of its daily operations. The change in focus here is a shift in CSR from being an adjunct to being the brand lens through which business is built.
This thinking is eloquently expressed by Tex Gunning, former president of Unilever Bestfoods Asia, who when asked whether big business could change the world, said: “I don’t want to live a life creating an illusion of meaningfulness while deep in my heart I know that every five seconds there is a child dying. None of us can pretend anymore. We cannot.”