Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


50 lessons on corporate responsibility and sustainability

October 2009

Doughty Centre/50 Lessons.

This set of short films offers the opinions and experiences of academics, business executives and practitioners on various aspects of CSR.

Luminaries such as Sir David Bell, chairman of the Financial Times, and Neville Isdell, chief executive of Coca-Cola, recount anecdotes about CSR-related events that have occurred during their careers. But this is not so much 50 lessons as 50 interviews, and the films exemplify rather than instruct.

What’s more, many of the ‘lessons’ consist of recounted personal experiences with a wider relevance that is unclear to say the least – and are often more philosophical speculation than practical teaching.

Arguments on ‘personal and moral integrity’, ‘the moral imperatives in a business situation’, and ‘having the courage to speak up’, despite their biographical aspects, however, are made in largely abstract terms. Some of the films are conglomerations of empty business jargon and the bare assertion of vague ‘values’.

However, because of the calibre of the people in front of the camera, some of the films are genuinely inspiring – such as the moving section featuring Ray Anderson, founder of Interface. While not a statistical breakdown of the impact of sustainability on the bottom line, Anderson’s words are as profound as they are memorable: ‘I’d like to know the business case for poisoning air, water and land; for disrupting pollination and photosynthesis. What is the business case for destroying the basic infrastructure that underguards civilisation itself?’ he says.    

Ben Hickman

Ben Hickman | Global | CSR

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