There’s no silver bullet in CSR
For those of us searching for ways of making business more responsible, it is all too easy to call for simple solutions. Unfortunately recent scandals have torpedoed many of the broad brush solutions held up as panaceas:
- The German approach to business: VW;
- Family owned business: VW;
- Worker representation and strong unions: VW;
- Co-operatives: The Co-operative Bank/Paul Flowers;
- Nationalised industry: the NHS and Jimmy Saville’s abuse of kids therein;
- A higher calling: child abuse in the Catholic Church.
That’s not to say that any of the above things are wrong or are not better than unfettered capitalism, just that they are in themselves no guarantee that unethical behaviour (or turning a blind eye to such behaviour) won’t happen.
People are people. We take shortcuts and we chance our arm – some more than others, but we all do it. We are tribal, so we tend to defend our own – sometimes defending the indefensible. Simply changing business models or management structures won’t weed out millennia of human evolution.
Culture is key – people need to stand up for what is right, whether the CEO or the software programmer who is asked whether they can they code a cheat into an emissions control system. Those who transgress need to be held accountable, those who blow the whistle on transgressions need to be cherished not shunned.
Nobody ever said it was going to be easy – and the examples above show us that it’s more difficult than many of us thought. Me included.