Does jargon numb us against reality in sustainable and responsible business?

An email at the weekend from someone who inspired me to work in this odd area of responsible business made me think.

Why, he asked, are we using such vapid and meaningless terms to describe what matters to us?

Why do we talk about ‘natural capital’ when we perhaps might also, alongside, use terms like ‘wildlife’, or ‘plants and animals’, or ‘the planet’?

Have we used terms like ‘stakeholders’ to accidentally suck the meaning from the more emotive ‘people?’ (I may be as guilty of that as anyone)

What does that mean for actually making things change? Quite a lot possibly.

Does ‘natural capital’ really inspire anyone as a term? Does ‘capacity building’ turn CEO heads?

Yes yes, I realise that as the field evolves, technical and terms are needed to describe what we mean succintly and to encapsulate complexity.

‘Natural capital’ is one of these. I get that.

Capacity building is really important to put into action, I realise.

But my friend who wrote to me has a point.

If we suck all the meaning out of what we fight to achieve with technocratic or worse psuedo-management terms, it does become much easier to justify under-performing against our only real metric.

That’s being able to look at what we do, and say we make a positive difference.

At the end, that’s all that matters.

An excellent further rant on all this by Brendan May can be found here