What are the stages of responsible sustainability consciousness?
It was another routine working day when I received an email from the Asian Institute of Management to participate in their 14th Annual Asian Forum on CSR in Bangkok on the 8th and 9th of September 2015.
The topic of this international conference was “Unleashing Social Entrepreneurship – New Partnerships for a Better World”. This topic is particularly relevant to today’s world, as civil society is facing the heat of change, while on the other side the corporate world is also in need of transformation in their thought processes as well as in their working approach for the larger interest of the society.
Social Innovation and intrapreneurship
In my talk, I wanted to share my innermost thoughts and grassroots experience which I learnt during my own two-decade transition from hardcore IT professional to CSR consultant/professional.
Working in social space gave me enough experience to think beyond traditional functioning, by closely observing strategic CSR programmes, exploring agendas behind sustainable development projects and microscopically investigating probable reasons for the success and failures of the projects.
“Consciousness” is a very new entrant to my presentation vocabulary. But this time I had felt a strong urge to include this in my talk, not because this it is new and trendy, but because I feel this is the main cause of behind our success and failure for in all such humanitarian endeavours.
Looking at the progress made in the last two years following the New Company Act 2013, which caused CSR spending to become a legal obligation in India, no major or tangible change is immediately visible.
Maybe it is too early judge and come to a final conclusion. But my own observation here is that there is major divide between legal CSR and conscious CSR and that’s having a phenomenal impact – beginning from conceptualising right up to implementing strategic CSR frameworks for a better world.
I began my presentation at the 14th Annual Asian Forum on CSR by quoting Tibetan spiritual Guru, His-Highness the Dalai Lama: “The planet does no need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind”.
The way forward
As we know, successful corporations have directly and indirectly contributed to most of the 21st century’s ecological and social problems. In the age of globalisation, sustainable strategies give corporations the choice to get ahead of curve, defining and redefining new rules and being rewarded by stakeholders for behaving responsibly. Multinational corporations hold the future of our planet in their hands.
Today we need more responsible business establishments with a clear understanding of our planet and its most pressing problems. We need socially responsible entrepreneurs who can act as change makers by seizing opportunities that others miss and who work to improve the system – inventing new working approaches and creating sustainable solutions to transform society for a better future.
We are entering an era of new hopes as well as new fears. Both demand strategic but well-grounded action.
Scientists who study the effects of climate change say that we have only some 10 or 20 years before we trigger irreversible tipping points. Parts of the world are losing access to food and water, and are experiencing other severe resource, environment, health and pollution problems. All these issues need the urgent attention of our policy makers. Each individual problem needs the collective efforts and actions of our respective leaders in government, the corporate world, academia and spiritual institutions.
Our younger generation needs a safer planet and that is only possible with a sustainable and responsible approach from us. We are entering an era of new hopes as well as new fears. Both demand strategic but well-grounded action. These actions may come initially from deep concern, fear or even a sense of panic, but to be sustainable over time, our actions must ultimately be connected to our positive aspirations.
Perhaps to make our choice to ensure that people, communities and all of nature can flourish indefinitely; we must change our attitude and beliefs and show our genuine concern for future generations.
As influential US philosopher William James said, we as human beings “by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives”.
With various initiatives and interventions by change makers, chief sustainability officers, NGOs and social entrepreneurs at the local, regional and global level of the business world, there is finally evidence of a change in thought process for the good.
Now all over the world, boards of directors are starting to take sustainability and strategic CSR issues into account as never before. The question now is not “why” but “how”.
The need to create sustainable revolutions through business organisations is one of the most urgent and important missions of our time and must be met with passion, energy and determination.
Consciousness in CSR
There may be different types of CSR categories – from internal and external CSR to obligatory and conscious CSR, but I strongly feel that until our thoughts are matched to a clear purpose there can be no major accomplishments.
The spiritual awakening (consciousness) of our business leaders is also important for peaceful existence, ethical business and inclusive growth of all human beings.
Need for awakening
My observation is that you can have a legal framework ready for CSR but we need a conscious framework to determine good CSR and bad CSR and for that it is essentially important to have awakened business leaders in board rooms to take and judge correct decisions for the larger interests of human beings, society and for our mother earth.
In the Hindu philosophy we call it “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” which means the whole world is “ONE FAMILY” under “ONE GOD” and, in order for the world to progress in the right direction; spirituality is instrumental in awakening the human consciousness based upon universal human values.
We cannot change the world by disregarding the religion we follow, the region we live in or the position we hold. There is a need to have a clear cut direction guided by our conscious. Below are the stages (from conscious to unconscious) of achieving goodness:
Unconscious Incompetence, to
Conscious Incompetence, to
Conscious Competence, to
If a human being is a political leader, or business head, CSR champion or anything else, we all have to follow one thing and that is making the right decisions for human beings – not through any legal obligations but through our conscience.
We have a large number of corporate leaders in India who are doing great business alongside sustainable CSR. This goes beyond legal obligations for CSR and is able to bring tangible results through a holistic approach.
If the top management of any corporation does not follow their own conscience in designing and implementing strategic CSR, it will be cosmetic CSR without any soul and without any tangible outcomes.
I concluded my talk at the Annual Asian Forum by sharing a quote from Mahatma Gandhi where he also mentioned and linked the economic with ethics and cited the seven danger of human virtue:
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscious
Knowledge without character
Business without ethics
Science without humanity
Religion without sacrifice
Politics without principles
About the Author: Anil Jaggi is chief executive officer of Green Earth Alliance, a social enterprise endeavour that, under the banner of Indian NGO SFID, is involved in promoting, supporting, incubating and mentoring social business models at the micro and macro level. He is also a senior consultant with the IFAD-supported project IFAD-ILSP. After starting his career in the IT industry, he moved into the ICT4D (information and communication technology for development) sector focusing on developing a digitally empowered and knowledge based society.
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