Corporate Responsibility Is Not Enough. We Need Corporate Activism Too.

David Shankbone/CC BY 2.0

I've argued before that shopping and voting are not the same thing and green lifestyle choices will never save us. We need collective action and systemic change for challenges—from climate change to social exclusion—which at their heart are systemic problems.

Corporate Responsibility Means Passing the Buck
Yet the environmental movement continues to focus on individual action as a metric for success, and corporate fat cats love them for it. Not only does it create a situation where businesses can pass off responsibility for the impacts of their products to the consumer—but it also sets up a world where company executives can tout energy savings or their new organic products as a sign of their sustainability efforts, all the while funding climate denial or fighting labeling of GMO foods.

Until corporations move beyond internal sustainability measures and actually start talking about and advocating for fundamental, systemic changes, it is impossible to talk about a model of sustainable corporate culture.

What You Stand For Is As Important As What You Do
Fortunately, there are signs that such change can happen. Some senior corporate leaders have begun questioning the validity of capitalism as we know it. Major players in food, energy and finance have started to look at not just greening their own operations, but generating industry-wide changes. And industry leaders have even called BS on populist politicians touting anti-regulation vitriol.

Make no mistake, such a shift is far from inevitable and very far from easy. CEOs and academics alike agree that the short-term profit motive is a major impediment to true sustainability. But at least those conversations have started to be had. Maybe business can truly become a force for good after all.

Tags: Activism | Corporate Responsibility | Economics