On Corporate Social Responsibility

As a social worker who started an outdoor adventure company, I never thought much about business things including the importance of acting responsibly. I just wanted to run, ride a bike and wear jeans to work. In fact, to this day, I must make myself consider the business side of things.

I now know that acting responsibly matters a great deal. Given that governments and large corporations often yield power irresponsibly and only in pursuit of profits, the idea of doing good as a business maybe matters most of all. Surprisingly, individuals and small groups of people, including small companies, may yield the most influence.

Collectively we are called many things nowadays – consumers, voters, conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, urban, rural. Rarely are we called citizens. And yet citizenship lies at the heart of this idea of responsibility. And in the United States, corporations are considered citizens. We should live up to that title.

What does it mean for an individual or a group to be a good citizen? It’s taken a long time to generate some ideas.

—Being a good citizen is a pain in the ass. You have to ask the right questions.
—Lots of bad things happen in the world simply because people don’t know better. And we all don’t know things.
—You must learn how to know better. Educate, learn, make connections. This is the job of education. The longer your education serves you, the better.
—Once you know better, you are responsible for acting on what you know. Doing a bad thing because you don’t know is 1 thing. Doing a bad thing or not doing a good thing once you know is worse. This is the “education responsibility”.
—Others are watching. Don’t underestimate the influence of good citizens, individually and collectively, doing the right thing once they know the right thing to do.

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