Coro’s Blog: On Purpose

CSR – A Plug and Play Platform for Planet Earth

Published on April 20, 2012

usbI like plug and play. You plug in a new device or program to your computer and it just works – no set up, no reconfiguration. I like that the term has joined the popular marketing and business lexicon – “the new guy at work is so plug and play”, meaning a new employee doesn’t need any training. And in Silicon Valley there’s the Plug and Play Tech Centre, a “start-up accelerator” for fledgling companies.

I think CSR has become a similar kind of plug and play platform. Over the last few years I have seen it evolve into a start-up accelerator for social or environmental priorities.

Here’s how I came to this realization.

Recently I presented to a Vancouver group on how to use CSR as a platform to advance women’s equality. The group, Women Transforming Cities (WTC) believes that if women and girls become more involved in municipal decisions, policies, urban plans and budget processes, cities will become more equitable, inclusive and democratic for all residents.

Back in 2009, I gave a similar talk for International Women’s Day about the role CSR could play to advance women’s equality and other social priorities. Only now there is a set of guidelines from the UN Global Compact, “The Women’s Empowerment Principles” (WEP). These signatory principles for business offer guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The Principles reinforce the responsibility of corporations for equal treatment. And they emphasize the business case for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Nearly 400 CEOs worldwide have endorsed these principles including MEC from Canada – the only Canadian signatory to date.

What strikes me about the WEP and the WTC efforts is how far CSR has evolved. It really has become an accelerator for social or environmental priorities such as equality, inclusion, poverty, climate, waste, and toxins. They can be “plugged” into a CSR circuit board and used to “play” or influence whole sectors to improve overall social and environmental impacts.

Over the past two decades, civil society and leading companies have helped create room in the marketplace for voluntary corporate efforts that support positive social and environmental outcomes. At the moment, these efforts are not powerful enough to create the essential sustainability tipping point. However now we have a “plug and play” template that enables civil society, progressive governments and leading corporations to grow their efforts exponentially and ultimately foster planetary well-being.

Let me know if you’re interested in talking more on this topic. I’m happy to share my social change framework with you.

Subscribe to Coro’s Newsletter

A few times a year, Strandberg Consulting sends out a newsletter to keep Coro’s network up-to-date on her latest projects, publications and tools. You may subscribe to the newsletter here or visit the archives.

Join the sustainability conversation. Coro is active on Twitter and LinkedIn.