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Is CSR consistent with sustainability?

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A Reflection!

“The essential characteristic of social responsibility is the willingness of an organization to incorporate social and environmental considerations in its decision making and be accountable for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment”

This is the start of one of the early paragraphs in the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility.


Let’s establish a scientific fact; we cannot have infinite growth in a finite environment!
This of course means that there is one earth and one atmosphere that we are all to share.

Today whenever you open a newspaper or look at a news program you see people talking about growth or austerity, often at the high end of their voices. It sometimes seem as you can only have either of these two and you have to choose “side”!

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

Prof. Al Bartlett

Prof. Al Bartlett

To be serious about sustainability we need to understand “Finite” and the correlation between that and our current strive for infinite growth. Nobody explains it better than professor Al Bartlett. Push any of the links below to know what it’s all about!

When I think about sustainability, one of my first thoughts often is “balance” –  that the word sustainable somehow means “something that can go on forever” – I don’t know if this is right or if I sometimes have “bad luck” when thinking?

The word sustainability is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up). Dictionaries provide more than ten meanings for sustain, the main ones being to “maintain”, “support”, or “endure”. (Wikipedia)

Let’s assume that my “unlucky thought” is kind of “rightish” and that everybody arguing about growth or austerity comes from organization’s or companies in our current society, often with business principles based on economic theories dating back many decades.

Is there a risk that we, by “incorporating social and environmental considerations” into current setups still will continue to argue about growth or austerity only in a little bit more civilized fashion?

Is there a risk that existing “deep rooted” economic models “proven in battle” only add on a “varnish” of social responsibility but in fact doesn’t change at all?

I suppose time will tell – wish that we had an abundance of time though….


Don’t get me wrong on this one, I like “civilized” and I like a good discussion, but I am also a strong believer in scientifically derived facts – with a finite environment, we need to find a way to survive on this planet without breaking the boundaries, without infinite growth, without compromising the chances for future generations to live on this earth, AND IT IS URGENT!

I think we need to make words like “Maintain” a little more “sexy”, and maybe also we in “the rich part of society” should take a peek at the word “downscale” since we, in total, are already running our consumption at about 1,5 times what our planet can cope with – and in the “rich part” far above that level!

These are serious times, and we need serious action to deal with them – not just a bit of “varnish”!

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