Most often, corporate action around sustainability issues is looked at as if the organisation is a single discrete entity, making decisions by itself. While this is convenient for discerning general patterns and for traditional management theory, itʼs not the way it appears to me in my day-to-day work with change agents. For example, Tom Lyon and John Maxwell talk about the usefulness or otherwise of companies including environmental activities under their CSR umbrella. Their post, understandably given their interest in the level of overall society rather than the micro of what happens inside organisations, concentrates on whether voluntary activity by companies might work against a potentially more effective approach of government regulation. That's an interesting debate and one which I've seen first hand when I was the expert rapporteur for the European Commission's Round Table on CSR.
But I'm interested in the lived experience of individual actors.
So, what if we look at this from the point of the view of the individual change agent?
If I'm in a company, and I'd like to get it to begin shifting towards sustainability, then I'll look around to see where the opportunities might be.
If there's already an active CSR programme of some kind, then I might see this as a useful initiative to piggyback on or link in with. Perhaps I can build in operational environmental improvements to a CSR programme which currently is little more than philanthropy. Or perhaps the CSR team would appreciate support in making their community activities more related to organisational strategy.
Getting involved in existing activities gives me the legitimacy to be part of the conversation about how they can be made more strategic, more mainstream and more ambitious.
Being part of the conversation is critical if we're to add tinder to the sparks of positive intent which will be present where people are doing CSR.