Amnesty says…

A really powerful moment for me today - at a wonderful CSR conference, courtesy of my friends at CSR datanetworks A re...

September 25, 2003

A really powerful moment for me today – at a wonderful CSR conference, courtesy of my friends at CSR datanetworks

A representative of Amnesty International (and remember this is, justly the world’s most respected brand) says, ‘underlying business models prevent any reliable delivery of human rights’. .

He continues: “The UK’s Co-operative Bank is the only business I see in the world acting on its deep humanitarian responsibilities.”

The argument is simple.

1. Bad stuff is happening.

There is ample evidence of many major corporates using legal mechanisms by which they can avoid shouldering the shareholder risk of their conscious human rights abuses.

2. It is systemically inevitable.

For as long as managers act as mere agents of shareholder value, there will be no incentive to change, and hence, no action. Why would they pass the risk of their poor behaviour back to those shareholders if they could avoid it?

He’s actually right, isn’t he? Certainly from a Western perspective.

However, I will not let that pessimism lie. In a spirit of ‘Yes and’…I offer some fractured rays of early-morning hope:

Can we imagine why any business would deliberately pass that risk back to shareholders? Well yes. What if…we did not separate people’s lives as shareholders from their basic humanity. What if shareholders realised that they are customers of these coprorations, and employees, and suppliers and stepped up to their own responsibilities as human beings…

What if we stopped shelving our personal reponsibilities and embraced our deep-seated mutualism.

I offer the following rays of hope:

1. ‘New mutualist’ value-sharing models are emerging which will undermine the narrow pretence of shareholder value-creation as an excuse for human value-destruction.

2. Strong human leadership will always overcome structural pragmatism

3. Even for tedious, linear, bi-lateral, transaction-obsessed businesses, any efforts to build confluence of stakeholder interest by discovering common values and created shared value, will yield inevitable humanitarian results.

If it were not so…

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