Your CSR Program is a Sham and a Joke

This is actually a true statement according to me.

This is something that I have always known in the back of my mind, but have never really moved it to the front burner to look at the “whys” before. Then Joan Eisenstodt had to send a little tweet that got me thinking about CSR:

Aren’t labor practices part of #CSR considerations? and read comments & links. #mpi #pcma #pcma11 #assnchat

She has been following this up with many more like it lately and it has been burning a whole in the back of my brain until I finally thought “That’s enough, I can’t take it anymore”…..and I sat down to write this post about me, you, your company and your CSR program.

This has taken me down a yellow brick road all the way to see the wizard where I promptly had to push him off his stool and sit down because my head was pounding….and the wizard is a fraud anyway.

Not sure what CSR is? It stands for Corporate social responsibility and it is something that most companies lie about…..they lie through their teeth while smiling and telling you how much good they are doing in the world. They are better employers, better in their communities and better for the world… yeah, right.

The problem bleeds into the meetings and events side of companies all the time, yet we rarely give it a mention..because we do not want to know the truth, we want to think that we are doing so, so much to make the world a better place that it actually hurts to know that we are not.

Why are most (and I say most) CSR programs full of bullshit? Good question.. the answer is that they are only good on paper and only great on the surface. Once you peel back the layers, they are full of half truths, lying liars and outright frauds.

Let’s look at the Wikipedia definition of CSR:

Corporate social responsibility (“CSR” for short, and also called corporate conscience, citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business[1]) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere. Furthermore, CSR-focused businesses would proactively promote the public interest by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminating practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. CSR is the deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and the honouring of a triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.

OK! Sounds freaking peachy to me. We will have a program where we will honor the spirit of what this says. We will do our best to be better stewards, better people and better companies and then we will break every rule and tell the world how fucking great we are.

Think about this, it makes no difference if you have the best CSR policy in the world but continue to fly your attendees on RyanAir (Global Warming deniers), Have Ben Roethlisberger as a spokesman or perhaps speaker (violence against women), host meetings or events in countries that beat and imprison their populace (Egypt, Iran, Russia, Etc), plan meetings for most energy companies (a whole host of issues) and so on and so on.

Want to know how CSR can be a sham? If you work for any company that supplies anything, anywhere to Chick-Fil-A, your CSR program is an outright fraud because you are helping to supply a fervently anti-gay organization therefore supporting its ability to make money and further discriminate against gay people. Take that large suppliers of Chik-Fil-A  (many who actually have a decent sounding CSR programs on paper, but like I said, out the window in reality).Wanna bet that these suppliers have presence at the Chick-Fil-A annual managers meeting? If they do then they probably thank all of the managers for their hard work….If they are there, then they would be thanking the very people that promote that anti-gay agenda.

The same would hold true for companies that supply American Electric Power Co, the 7th most polluting company in the world, if you help them plan meetings, if you help their A/V at a conference, if you supply their premiums and incentives, if you speak at their annual conference, if you fly their attendees, bus their attendees or have anything to do with them that helps further their agenda, then your CSR program is a load of crap because you are helping the 7th worst polluter in the world gain market share.

That being said, no one is going to turn down the amount of business that can be had by working with a major company, so perhaps it is time that we actually start saying what should be said… We will do our best, but it is as good as we can do because frankly, money talks.

Just stop over-blowing how bleeping great you are so that you look good to all of the people that actually care about this little planet and the things that live on it. How many people are dupped into supporting brand A because they are both supporters of item B but fail to realize the the same company they are supporting is actually supplying another company that works to undermine Item B. Ahhh, it hurts the brain.

I get it, the world is not a perfect place…. I am certainly not a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination and I can be faulted on a daily basis.

What I am saying is that perhaps we should all stop slapping each other on the back and giving each other kudos when it really is not deserved. CSR Programs are great and many companies deserve many of the accolades that they receive but lets not forget that we are not all that and a bag of chips.


Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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