At various events over the years I have always been surprised at the intensity of debate, if allowed, around which terminology should be used in the field of ethical business.
At one debate we hosted in 2010 I had to cut the debate short several times so we could move on and talk about things which are actually important.
Let’s end the debate here. (As if!)
We all know responsible or ethical business when we see it, more or less, unless we are a right wing or left wing extremist.
Sustainability is a paradigm. Ethics and principles help us navigate the choices to get there.
Responsibility helps us understand how to be accountable, and where.
But companies don’t care about this terminology debate, mostly encouraged by consultants desperate for an extra pseudo-intellectual edge in their battles against each other for slices of corporate budget.
Companies, at least smart ones, will just pick the terminology that suits them.
And that might change over time.
That’s a good thing too. In an ever-evolving field, who wants to be tied to one term?
Consider this: Timberland’s new head ethics honcho calls himself VP of CSR.
Meanwhile Nestle has invested lots into ‘shared value’, and Wal-Mart has switched in its reporting from ‘global sustainability’ to ‘global responsibility’ in 2011. Nike, meanwhile, prefers ‘sustainable innovation’.
What we call it matters not one whit. How we get it done is the key.
Perhaps the consultants need to spend less time on re-badging common sense as their own idea (TM), and more on challenging clients (c) and helping them deliver.