After 1000 blog posts on corporate responsibility what have I learned?

This is the 1001th published post on this blog on sustainable/ethical business.

Counting guest posters, about 950 of them are mine.

What have I learned since the first post in October 2006?

Given the milestone, I thought I should try and write something slightly less trite than usual. At that, I may have failed, but here it is anyhow, the 1001st blog post. Cue the trumpets…

(If you look at the first post, you can see the blog was supposed to be a collaborative effort amongst writers around the world for Ethical Corporation. These days it’s mostly just me, and a bit of Ethical Corp’s indefatigable China editor, Paul French. I wonder if the failure of its joint approach says anything about the challenges of multi-stakeholder work. Maybe. Maybe not)

Anyhow, here’s my quick-fire random thoughts, in the usual feverish fashion, about some of what I’ve tried to learn:

  1. That communication is everything, but is so under-valued.
  2. That if anything you say, write or infer can be misunderstood, it often will be.
  3. That I should never assume anything.
  4. That all you learn, as you learn, is how little you know, and can ever know. That spurs me on, oddly.
  5. That speaking and writing in simple, plain English is incredibly important and often feels increasingly rare.
  6. That good copy reads like you’d speak it, if only one was that articulate. 
  7. That you have to check data/sources, just as you’d get three cost quotes. Stories are often just that.
  8. That whilst first impressions count, they can easily be wrong.
  9. That CEOs are not scary people: Just smart charmers or technocrats often with a vision that lifts them above others, or a track record of caution.
  10. That everything in this field is more complicated than you think.
  11. That reading ethics philosophy doesn’t help understand what to do with the dilemmas that CSR throws up as much as you’d think.
  12. That I don’t enjoy managing people. Trying to enthuse them yes, but micro-management, no.
  13. That the only thing that is sometimes consistent is a lack of consistency.
  14. That Joesph Heller really did understand all the contradictions thrown up by capitalism and democracy when he wrote the world’s greatest novel, Catch-22. 
  15.  That being an eco/socio pessimist just makes you sad. If you can’t be optimistic, you can at least be positive about solutions and our eventual ability to learn and adapt as a race.
  16. That culture counts, more than anything, yet we hugely under-rate it.
  17. That yes, we do live in a volatile world, but we should have some perspective: Recall the events of WWII or even the 1970’s.  
  18. That technology spreads faster than we can ever predict. Not that it will ‘save’ us, but it will help more than we currently give it credit for.
  19. That we’ve only just started innovating on sustainability & business. So much more is to come.
  20. That we may well be able to change consumer behaviour for the better once we actually put some serious resources behind it rather than messing around with label ideas and get stuck into incentives and story-telling.

 I think I’ll stop there. 20 is a long list, even for me.


  1. First of all, congratulations on 1000 posts!

    I like your conclusions a lot, maybe because I agree with just about all of them.

    No. 5 ("That Speaking and writing in simple, plain English is incredible important and often feels increasingly rare) is so true and a constant frustration to me.

    No. 20 (activating consumers) I'm not so sure about.

    No. 15 is important. Things could change but history tells us that we humans have the ability to learn and adapt and that quite often the darkest time is just before the dawn.

    Onward and upward!

  2. Great post, and congratulations on 1000!

    I agree with almost all of what you say.

    No. 5 (speak plain English) is so true and so sad.

    No. 20 (activating consumers) I'm not so sure about

    No. 15 (not falling prey to pessimism) is so important. History does teach us that we humans can learn and adapt. Life is better than ever today for more people on earth. And the darkest time is often before the dawn.

    Onward and upward!

  3. Thank you Toby – #14 and #15 especially resonate with me.

  4. I think No. 20 could well be the most important.

    As we know markets are based on demand and supply. Many consumers are concerned about environmental factors and ethical factors in the production of products – I think 79% said so in the UK in a September 2009 survey.

    If consumers are better informed about firms practices then there would be real power in them changing their spending habits and this would have to impact what firms were doing.

    Food for thought. Good post though.


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