Waste Not, Want Not?

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About 353,000 babies are born every single day in the world. About 146,000 people die each day globally. So in round numbers, the world population is growing by about 200,000 people every day or a million every 5 days. Given that the Planet’s natural resources are limited, common sense dictates that waste should be avoided and all resources should be used judiciously. Is this happening and are the developed and educated countries leading by example? In the world of business and commerce, is corporate social respon-sibility effectively addressing the issues of dwind-ling resources and a burgeoning humanity?

Capitalism regards corporate social responsibility as a business practice, or even as a concept, illogical. Milton Friedman as long ago as 1970 spoke for all capitalists in the world when he stated, quite unequivocally that “few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible.”

The iconic capitalist society, the U.S. of A, believes in a waste economy. The more you waste, the more you will produce. Growth is a function of waste. Everything in America is over-sized. Steaks, cars, buildings, people. The U.S. ranks as the 9th most obese nation on the third rock from the Sun. But keep in mind that the first 7 on the list are all sparsely populated Pacific island-states and 8th is Kuwait. It is also the Planet’s greatest user of natural resources and the greatest polluter. Al Gore, the born-again environmentalist, headed the U.S. delegation to the First Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, at the end of which U.S. did not sign the Earth Declaration that the other over 170 participating countries of the world did.

But this is not about the U.S. That was just random rambling to make a point. While capitalism apparently thrives on waste, corporate social responsibility in terms of the pursuit of the triple bottom-line, urges you to optimize, reduce, reuse, recycle and in general, avoid waste to ensure sustainability of the only known planet in an endless universe to have life as we know it.

Wasting can also mean over-extending oneself. In the case of the biggest economy in the world, over-extension meant system crash and 750 billion dollars were needed for a bail-out, which is still in progress. Praetor does not speculate on conspiracy theories that today bombard us from multiple channels of information. Otherwise here you would next be reading about the conspiracy theory that holds that the U.S. economic-financial crisis was self-engineered. For whatever reasons. But no, we are not going into that.

What is to be debated is whether the ‘waste not, want not’ tagline adds value or not to the CSR Product, as it slowly but surely progresses to becoming a major Brand. ISO 26000 is under preparation and will be an International Standard provi-ding guidelines for social responsibility (SR). The guidance standard will be published in 2010 and will be voluntary to use. It will not include requirements and will thus not be a certification standard.

Good packaging is a pre-requisite for a product to become a brand. GRI is of course already there. Has been there for some time. So Brand CSR will emerge with some solid credentials. But ingredients alone do not make you a major brand. The well-informed, analytical, well-educated and even cynical customer today, demands the Brand to demonstrate clear benefits. CSR too must fulfill this requirement.

Perhaps even more important than this, given the rate at which human beings are multiplying as stated at the start future CSR must address all humanity and not just the direct stakeholders. For the simple reason that unless big business takes the world along, its market will become smaller and smaller as the rich-poor gap becomes wider and wider.

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