A personal note from Lavinia Weissman:
AboutWorkecology is a place for me to record reflections on the extensive research I performed and organized to inspire a culture of change for CSR and Sustainable Management Education.
1. professional development and education;
2. occupation and personal health
3. compensation that rewards people for working wisely to live well to resource their health, learning and personal life cycle needs.
This blog post is WorkEcology.com's first reflective annotation that will be integrated into a new updated curriculum for leaders and their communities to "up the ante for CSR and Sustainability" in how they work and live. Our first curriculum, The Foundations of Portfolio Work - Core Group Theory and Related Practices, will continue to be available @ WorkEcology.com, until our new portal and blog activity emerges from our current stage of learning.
I have formed an initial advisory group to learn with me with the hope to build this activity to be community and member responsive. I have been retained by our first leadership beta client and after a years worth of research, writing and work made it to board and chairperson review by two professional associations to build a system of learning that can shape this curriculum to be relevant to the practice of personal health and health care through the adoption of social media, web based learning tools and the design and structuring of learning communities drawn from our future members.
Please join in the discussion here if what we share with you inspires your thinking. Share your thoughts with our readership that has doubled in size over the past 3 months to more than 10 readers per day.
Today's post begins now.
Nancy is a communication specialist with a background in clean energy and climate change recently joined the team at Seventh Generation along with Jeffrey Hollender's co-author,m Bill Breen. People with Nancy and Bill's background in my opinion are a welcome resource in CSR and have lots of value to contribute to CSR education by joining a company that values CSR. Nancy Baron like most knowledge workers today has an eclectic portfolio of background that includes being a communication specialist in clean energy & climate change while running her own bed and breakfast in Vermont. Bill Breen, a former Fast Company Editor was named Editorial Director for Seventh Generation January 2008.
Within an hour of receipt of this book, I was reading this book from the point of view of learning and inquiry. When I completed my first read through, I was clear this book should be position as a quality primer for CSR and Sustainable Management Leadership Education.
The Responsibility Revolution should be given to anyone being mentored in a CSR leadership program with authored by Chris Laszlo. Chris is Founder and CEO of Sustainable Value Partners and Sustainable Business Faculty to Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management. All these men have been dedicating time and resource to creating a new format for education in CSR and Sustainability.
All these authors through their direct work and writing have taken the "greenwash out of CSR and provided a concrete view;"--Hollender as a CEO, Breen as a Inspiring Protagonist and Laszlo as a Strategist, Economist and Global Thought Leader.
The stories and case studies contained within these books put an end to the myth and fallacy that CSR is only a marketing or public relations venue. Both these books push leaders to think otherwise and actually learn what the impact is when CSR is put into practice by integrating CSR values and principles into strategy and action plans.
I chose to annotate both books in the same annotation by evaluating my experience of reading them, the value of the learning they provide and the hidden assets within each book that can help me define the next generation of opportunity, where so many are asking the question, "What will it take to build CSR practices into a more widespread adoption?"
The authors of both books, make it clear that CSR is not simply a responsibility of economic decision makers, who answer to investors; CSR works best when organizations are led to inspire their entire workforce, supply chain and all other stakeholders to learn and translate CSR into practice. The case studies demonstrate that CSR can led into an high performance outcome.
Questions and Dialogue to Reflect On
While I thought about what I wanted to leave the readers of this annotation with through what I wrote, I read a book review by Madeline Ravich
@ Justmeans.com titled, "Can Seventh Generation's CSR lessons influence the mainstream?" While the review was excellent food for thought, the word, "mainstream" captured my attention. In my opinion there is no such thing as a mainstream anymore; there is such diversity in the market that CSR adoption has to factor significant cultural spans in practice and every company or organization that adopts this thought leadership into practice needs to find a beginning from which to begin and find a method of monitoring that works to guide a group of people learning into a sustainable future.
The Higher Purpose Company. With numerous of her peers and colleagues, including Elaine and myself, Christina is currently examining the question, "Are corporate social responsibility rankings irresponsible?" Elaine
is Founder and Co-Leader a consulting firm, Beyond Business, Ltd. specialising in CSR strategy, processes and social accounting, reporting and assurance. Elaine is a contributor to Corporate Register, a hub that tracks CSR Reporting across 6238 companies and is adding great value and experience to this conversation.
Breen and Hollender provide some input at Huffington Post this past weekend on the Six Obstacles to CSR. This post outlines crucial areas to watch and addresses a larger complaint I hear re: CSR, which is CSR is too broad and hard to address in a focused way. Build on the quality work that Cohen and Arena provide, any company can organize a monitoring scheme that focused on a good beginning and then work with me to set up a company wide education program using inquiry and social media, so no one in a network can opt out and say, I am confused, I don't understand CSR.
Getting to the Heart of a CSR that Matters
Breen, Hollender and Laszlo have all worked to inspire a level of innovation and practice in the initial cycle of establishing the thought leadership of Sustainable Value and CSR into practice as leaders who shareholders, economic decision makers and early stage investors are willing to go to the bank for to invest in what is perceived risky business initiatives.
These authors provide a depth of imagination that is not common practice within a majority of companies today. From a perspective of the Fortune 2000 or the more entrepreneurial view of social venture, these books capture the valuable story of what was learned in the first phase of early adoption and how a culture of change inspired the results.
Part of the culture of change reflected in both books is the impact of a woman's perspective. Both these leaders value that point of view by describing scenarios that are the "dream" of many women; many women who have left working in the Fortune 2000 and started their own companies or found a social venture culture in which they can express themselves more authentically.
Laszlo starts this way in Chapter 1; He introduces his readers to Deena Marsteng, Age 32, General Manager for a global company that manufactures light weight plastics and she is responsible for factories in 3 continents. reates a method of drawing her "no-nonsense team and colleagues into a cycle of education and building of new strategy to move from a rank of 23 on a CSR monitoring list out of 25 companies.
This first chapter draws the reader into an experience of what it takes to have a group of people who work together find the imagination and participate in learning events of impact. Laszlo introduces his reader to the idea that CSR is not a practice of "business as usual;" his positioning of this fictitious scenario inspires any traditionally trained MBA or Fortune 2000 business leader to realize the investment and work it takes to go CSR.
Within this scenario, Chris authored a character competent to lead a large organization of people into a system of relevant learning that impacted performance metrics important to that company and while increasing their environmental impact.
Hollender and Breen on the other hand describe a real-life scenario at Seventh Generation inspired by the performance of Susan Johnson, former director of western sales and now Director of Education with a plan to succeed as Seventh Generations Chief Knowledge Officer. Susan who came to Seventh Generation from Tom's of Maine with an excellent track record for managing accounts in 5,000 stores and coops West of the Mississippi.
Susan had a proven success as a coach to wholesale brokers of product and began her career with Seventh Generation showing she could lead an entire retail chain, e.g. Whole Foods, into a path of learning that increased sales for both Seventh Generation and Whole Foods. From my perspective, Susan cultivated through relationship and talent a method of education that resulted in sales, which is in my experience the way women "make sense" of their talent in the company they keep to create a high performance impact.
In the companies where I have worked as a consultant and within my own performance as an internal organization leader, I know that most companies or organizations are so focused on a sales outcome. Often because of this silo based focus of a sales force, leaders miss out on the hidden gold behind that outcome by allocating resources to organize consumer, sales channel that defines company brand and products role in a CSR strategy.
When you can assess and monitor a sales activity built on credible and ethical education, it translates into adoption of the best practices of all the companies segments of operation and final delivery through a channel to a customer. All the case studies portrayed in these books describe an ethic and provide an educational experience of what it takes to scale CSR initiative.
CSR and Sustainability as a Practice
CSR and Sustainability is not a simple practice because it can only succeed in cultures of organizations that recognize that learning is a constant, there is a technical and scientific expertise that can be an seen by some as an "acquired taste." The level of detail and attention required can only come alive in a environment of leadership that is willing to create in action a "viral consciousness," that creates a triple bottom line. In fact, Hollender, et al at one point hired a consultant, Carol Sanford, to facilitate the building of that consciousness.
Every conversation you have must count and inspire values and productivity. As these authors from different perspectives share that leading a CSR company for sustainable value is something that integrates in your life with a very up close and personal personal examination of how you relate to people and lead change. You have to be prepared for failure, being public with your mistakes and learning from market driven to define and take advantage of the opportunity.
Laszlo, Hollender and Breen have created a library and case study format for a broad selection of companies and industries, e.g. WalMart, LaFarge, Dupont, Nike and Medtronics; and companies more boutique in style by nature of market and company founders,e.g. Nature Works, Timberland, Patagonia, Organic Valley, Esty.com. While Laszlo's social network is primarily comprised of Board of Directors and Chairman of the Fortune 2000 who seek to make a social and environmental impact, Hollender and Breen circulate in a network of companies that created the Business for Social Responsibility Revolution, who retain Peter Senge in their advice network and formed the Social Venture Network and a new non profit activity called B-Labs.
The level of transparency is enormous. When a company announces itself to the public that they practice CSR, that means that company, leader or workforce are in for some very tough lessons regarding leadership, authenticity and response to a larger social network most CSR Venture enthusiasts learn on their feet. These leaders learn to live with a constant flow of feedback - good and bad and recognize if they are doing their job they cannot hide.Authenticity is the Key
The people who question you, teach you and challenge you come from a horizontal world and map of connection that is not in any shape or form a hierarchy. It is a spider's web. This brings me to an admission of my own short comings, an apology and description of my own lessons learned.
Over the past few months, I have been working hard to develop a voice for my writing that is more authentic and driven from my value for education that reflects my mission and impacts people and assures that I do not shut down the energy I was unable to use as a woman over the past decade in industry and health care.
I had short conversations with Jeffrey Hollender and Chris Laszlo directly about my own experience as a woman that was about the obstacles I encountered packaging my message for people who did not understand CSR or Sustainability and its relevance to health. In taking this time to grapple, I discovered that too often my authentic voice and perspective were shut down in places where most women no longer want to work. I wanted to find a way to show up to work in these instances and not back off from what I had to offer and find the clients that want to take CSR and Sustainability out of the leadership room and translate it into practice with a wider reach.
The change in my own voice at the present time has required some focus in a new stage of learning, self-reflection and courage to face my own capacity as a professional and personal experience that affirmed that a growing impact of environment and health is possibly becoming one of the most costly issues to the workforce and people around the world and the may be the greatest enforcer of leaving people stuck in poverty. While Jeffrey and Chris conduct their lives with a different voice and professional focus than mine, I know Jeffrey and Chris have learned with a similar depth of reflection and discipline drawing the shared learning of their networks of practice.
Jeffrey's learning cycle as CEO of Seventh Genertion was shared with colleagues through networks that include the Social Venture Network, Society for Organizational Learning and the American Sustainable Business Council. Like many of our shared generation, Jeffrey has come up through the ranks learning on a very steep fire walk. His commitment to creating a culture of consciousness is exceptional and in fact, he built it into the learning conversation as away to ignite others to perform out of the traditional view of managers by hiring Carol Sanford and working with the B-Lab.
Chris Laszlo was mentored from his youth in a cultural communities of Club of Budapest and Club of Rome to seek the expert education that included learning the disciplines and practices of traditional business, gaining an sharp coherent capacity to exercise systems thinking in large scale organization practice and to define the ecology that surrounds the operation of a global company, which operates as its own private economy cross geographical boundaries.
These are two very different experiences which legitimized their work, which can serve as examples to other leaders and people selecting a leader's path. The key to each path is the authenticity each man integrates into his practice and willingness to learn by acting and empowering others to act. CSR and Sustainable Management is a leader's game for which there is no "how to manual."
To some people who watch Laszlo and Hollender in their travels, these men travel in elite circles of very different cultures and methods of learning. Chris was born within educational circles of culture, prestige and thought leadership that birthed the Age of Heretics. Jeffrey's focus and determination brought him into a culture of consciousness that is exceptional. I think the description of "elite" perpetuates a myth of the risk and heretical quality that surrounds CSR, which from my practical view and understanding of innovation, leaders need to stop perpetuating. It has added to the reputation that CSR is a cult or a passing craze.
When someone asks for my experience and what qualifies me to coach leaders and create outreach through education and media to workforce groups of scale, I often describe myself as a person was mentored in a culture by education, life experience and talent that gave me an opportunity to perform with a strong value for cooperation and respect for diversity of expertise and cultural heritage. Key to how I think is the reality of learning to integrate technology and service practices into a thought leadership that is focused on doing no harm that causes damage to people's health and the environment in which they live.
The leaders within our parent's generation that introduced the authors and myself to a value for sustainability wrote the prequel for business for social responsibility that Jeffrey and Chris have professionalized this value because we engaged in dialogue that understood our work had to insure the future for children not yet born. The value for "Seven Generations."
So while I find myself engaging a practice from a different perspective and experience from the men I respect currently and who mentored me in the past, I wish to thank all of them for what I have learned in the dialogue I share with them. They also have shown me respect for my personal need to express myself differently, in particular as a woman.
Once upon a time, I found myself empowered to believe that women can lead and be successful in the man's world. That is not what any women I believe should look to do now. I believe we need to express ourselves and work for the discovery of our own success that is natural to us and take the lead in this second generation of CSR and Sustainable Management to do what we do really well, empower the masses of young people who are described as Generation X, Y and Millennials, into a format of learning that values cooperation by learning individual mastery and discipline of a practice they can share and teach others.
So in reflecting on these most valuable primers about CSR and Sustainable Management, I would suggest this lesson is something people can personalize for themselves by learning from
Bill Breen, Jeffrey Hollender and Chris Laszlo and taking their thinking to heart by intelligently learning with others. Make these principles your own and translate them in ways that are authentic for you. Jeffrey thank you for opening this gate for me to this personal lesson and Chris for letting me learn along your side while I also learned through experiences both professional and personal.
For a taste of what I am talking about you can read Chapter 1 of Sustainable Value and an excerpt from The Responsibility Revolution @ Strategy + Business.com.