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The changes experienced in sustainability over the last ten years or so have been nothing but phenomenal. More and more companies have embraced the need to act more responsibly and manage their impacts. What started as ‘doing less harm’ has turned into bottom line benefits as companies have found new ways to match managing the triple bottom line with shaving costs off the business bottom line. But you don’t cut yourself into growth and growth is the bread and butter of companies. And it’s the holy grail of sustainability – growing the business top line. That’s why we need consumers to come and join the party – they already do, just look at TOMS, Patagonia, Method, Seventh Generation, Dove and many more. What is missing isn’t the consumer but a better grip on what makes them tick – a sustainable brand they can trust, buy and advocate. In my new book I cut through the myths and noise to create a sustainable brand model, a fusion of product and branding. It’s when these two dance that we create consumer breakthrough and the magic happens. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s simply create more sustainable brands – and this is the ‘how to’ guide that will help you get there.

Use the code Campher15 in the voucher section to get 15% discount!

Link to the book here – Creating a Sustainable Brand: A Guide to Growing the Sustainability Top Line

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The UK and Europe is so far ahead of the US when it comes to Corporate Responsibility. If I only had a penny for everyone who said this. I hear this almost every single day. And not just from those in England who have a slightly superior attitude when it comes to corporate responsibility. I hear it from people here in the US just as often, if not more. The truth is that we are comparing apples and oranges. Is cricket better than baseball? Only if you are from England. Although you wouldn’t know that from recent results. And you would only like cricket more if you enjoy sitting in the sun and rain for five days and still not get a result. But I digress. They are both ball sports but they are vastly different. They might even share a common history, but that is where it stops.

In the US they believe in Corporate Citizenship and in the UK they believe in Corporate Responsibility. More or less the same, but different just the same. Corporate Citizenship is about what you do in your community. How you interact and how you support them. Corporate Responsibility is about how you run your business – it’s about operations and how you work. The impact is important to both, but in Corporate Citizenship you look at your community and their needs first and the way you work in your community might have something to do with the way you operate, but does not have to. In Corporate Citizenship you focus on your role in society through your operations and the impact you have, and then you improve on these. Through these operational changes you will have a more positive impact on society. Both benefits society, but they have slightly different points of departure.

The reason why the community focus is so central in the US is because there is less of a safety net in the US than in most of Europe. People do not expect government to solve their problems or protect them from every single little thing in life. No, people do that themselves and they tend to look after themselves and after each other. They expect to solve issues themselves. Americans like the idea of less interference by government and more control by themselves in taking responsibility of their own lives. It might have something to do with the open spaces, but Americans do not like people telling them what to do. They want to be masters of their own destiny. Less government and more power to the people.

In the UK and much of Europe there are much more of a reliance on government to interfere in daily life. People expect government to take more control of their daily lives and maintain the rules of how society engage and organize themselves. The rules of engagement. And they want government to identify the common areas of good that will help improve society. Government will tell you what is bad and help you to become better. All that is left for companies to do is ensure they do their best through operations and compliance to government regulations.

That brings me to a second point of difference – regulations and compliance. Corporate behavior is managed through regulations and compliance in the UK and Europe. Everything you do is regulated and not left to the company to try and innovate on their side. Any leadership position you develop is very quickly turned into a government requirement. (Your window of opportunity to show true leadership will stay open for a very short period in this environment). It helps that there is a strong central government in Europe. It makes it easy to push through new regulations. And it is even easier in Europe where the European Commission is hardly held responsible by ‘the people’ and have an almost free ride in bringing in new regulations. No wonder that Europe brought out regulations to define what a banana is – up to the curve needed to be defined as a banana. And I am not joking…

And it is also easy to bring in new regulations in the UK. It is a small island with a central government that runs the rule over everyone. Yes, Scotland and Wales have some autonomy, but the UK is still pretty much ruled from London. It is easy to understand the drive towards more regulations with so much power in the hands of a central government. It is in the nature of government to try and rule their own way. And each new government want to leave behind some kind of legacy. And what is easier than to bring in new regulations that can be sold as ‘for the good of everyone’.

It is different in the US. States control their own destiny much more than any regional authority in the UK. The federal government do not have the power to control everything. Even taxes are different from state to state. And some states like Massachusetts might regulate more towards the protection of people than those in say Texas, but it is up to each state to decide what is most relevant for their state. Federal government can provide guidelines and try and push through federal laws, but this is generally fought tooth and nail by states. The art of the federal government is to try and keep a balance between inching forward on the regulatory front and encouraging states to take control at a local level. But change happens at state level and not federal level.

This approach allows for companies to take more risk in trying out new practices and to develop a leadership position. They know they can bring in these practices without the danger of it being regulated to death. Yes, it is a fine balance. They still have to tell the truth in advertising and not make claims that can’t be backed, but they can be more risky in taking chances. Over in the UK it is slightly different. The aim of regulations is not to bring best practice into law, but to rather identify the lowest common denominator that could be passed as acceptable behavior by companies. I know, both have a place – best practice and lowest common denominator. In the US they lean more towards the former and in the UK more to the latter. It fits their societal and political needs.

Of course the US does have one thing that ensures that the lowest common denominator is ‘self regulated’. The I-will-sue-you culture. You make one mistake and the consumer will take you to the cleaners. Yes, it is out of control, but it creates an incentive for business to not do something that can harm the public. There are enough lawyers here to ensure that you will get sued. Businesses in the UK can hide behind compliance of law and it is much more difficult to sue someone if they haven’t broken the law instead of suing because they didn’t look after the public interest.

And some of the regulations make the way companies act very different. For instance, both the UK and US have regulations regarding how foundations are run. And these are very, very different. US corporate foundations are not allowed to do any work that can directly benefit the company. This was put in place to ensure that companies do not see this as a way to hide money, and to ensure they spend their foundation money on what is good for society as a whole. Very different in the UK. Much more freedom to be strategic in the way they spend their foundation money. They can spend the money on helping suppliers of the company and still write it off under foundation rules. The unbelievable work the Shell Foundation (UK) has done in development in poorer countries would not be allowed under US rules.

The US also likes rock stars and celebrities more than anything else. Man, their news are pathetic over here – give me the BBC please. Every second story is about some celeb and their latest escapade. And that plays out in the way company CEO’s act as well. The CEO and Chairman tend to play a major role in the public view of the company. Bill Gates is Microsoft. Howard Schultz is Starbucks. Steve Jobs is Apple. And each one have to make their mark in this world. Not because they want to, but because people expect them to do their thing from the front – lead the way in how and what they give and the way they run their company. They are the people others look up to and aspire to become. These leaders drive change across all businesses and are needed in a less regulated business environment. They are by default the people who drive real change through their own commitment to making business and society better. Thank God for them.

Less so in the UK. Companies are seen as more important that the individual. A few has made it to the front – Richard Branson as one. But they stand out because they are so different from the rest. The focus tend to be on the company and not the individual who runs it. Yes, they play a role, but the company is seen as less dependent on the CEO and/or Chairman than in the US. Another reason why the UK loves splitting this role while the US wants the same person in charge. Two big egos would be difficult to control in the US.

One area where the US is way ahead of the UK is in communicating their corporate citizenship. They tend to focus on the communications part more while the UK tend to focus more on the operational changes. Maybe it is because the UK society is more reserved than the US, but it means that Ben and Jerry’s is more respected in the US than Unilever. But in the UK it is the other way around. Of course this can be exploited and can confuse the consumer. A classic example is the current discussions in Washington about ‘green’ advertising and marketing. But the best tend to rise to the top and consumers do know to take things with a pinch of salt.

In short, the US is different because it fits in with the way their society organizes itself compared to the UK. Both approaches have real value. Both approaches will improve the world little by little. Both approaches will have failures and successes. But the one is not better than the other. Just different. Dealing with their own little peculiarities in their society and political systems. Both work. And both fails. I don’t need to remind you of the current economic failure in the US thanks to a regulate-yourself culture. But the US is not in any way behind the UK when it comes to the role of business in society. No. They are just different. A US approach won’t last a second in the UK. And the UK approach won’t survive a second in the US. The real challenge for them both is to adapt when they are outside their own borders, culture and comfort zone. For example, neither will last long in China or South Africa if they just try to continue working the way they do in their country of origin. New rules and new ways of operating is needed. They have to bring the best of their world and merge it with the societal and political expectation in these new countries. And that won’t be better either. Just better for that specific country.

Bu the discipline of business in society benefits from this dynamics – bringing different approaches to the table. And it is when these merge and mingle that we move further ahead in this world of ours. Of course there is one approach that works no matter where you are. The South African approach. But I won’t be giving away our secrets just yet. No, I am way to responsible to do something like that.

charity

You want to hug a dolphin? Or maybe plant a tree? What about buying a goat for a village in Ethiopia? Or a desk and chair for a school in Banda Aceh? No. Mm-mm, difficult one. Wait, I have just the thing for you – how about supporting the Foundation for the protection of Swedish underwear models?

And you think I am joking about that last one. It might be tongue in cheek, but this cause has over 400,000 signed up members globally. Okay, it is a Facebook cause – but one of the most supported causes. They even managed to raise some money for their nonprofit – after specifically asking for NO money. Yes, this is a nonprofit and their aim is the “promotion of international understanding”. No, I really am NOT joking.

The point I am trying to make is that we now have a cause for every taste and need. And then some. Once you find your cause – which organization within this cause do you want to support? And so on, and so on. The list just gets longer and longer.

This shouldn’t be a problem. People can now match their passions with the right organization. And there are enough charities out there to still have a slight different individual flavor that makes you so much more different from the plebs who support Oxfam (joking people…). Oh no, you support Project Africa – because it is so much more than a goal, it is a mission. A cause that goes with your evening dress and another that goes well as a car refresher hanging from the rear-view mirror.

And it makes life so much easier if you run a company. All you have to do is pick your cause and adopt the charity or nonprofit that is still available. You feel strongly about education for kids? Make your pick – we still have EduKiddiCare and KEDUCare available. (Man, how many times can someone focus on education before we run out of charities or ideas?)

But the growth in charities and causes can have a bad impact as well – apart from the bad jokes (sorry). Firstly, it waters down the important stuff and diverts attention. Instead of tackling the real big issues facing the world – Climate Change, Abuse, Poverty & Hunger, War, Disasters and Health (the Big 5 plus Climate Change) – we tackle every issue that comes to mind. Can we really justify saving the dolphin, battling bottled water, fighting immigration, protesting GM crops and anti/pro-abortion marches (the Little 5) while people are dying of hunger, disease, abuse, disasters or war? Of course all these other issues are important, but more important than people dying right now in this world we all share? I don’t know – your call.

Even more important than the long list of options and diverting attention – the diversion of funds. Two dynamics stand out. Firstly, aid only increases marginally each year – and even then it goes to certain causes that are important, but not really charity for the needy. For instance, where do you think 80% of US federal ‘aid’ go? A handful of countries that are not really on the most needy list – Israel, Pakistan and Egypt. And oh, it includes military aid… And it gets worse because the money is now spread across and even wider range of causes and organizations. Each year another nonprofits comes along that wants a piece of the pie – and reduces the share of the next one.

But the single biggest problem I have with the proliferation of charities? They divert money away from Africa and other places of need. Instead of the funding going directly to the charity in the country suffering, it goes via other charities and donor bodies first. And everyone takes their cut. The money for empowering women farmers in Zambia doesn’t go to Women for Change. Oh, they might get a small amount. But the money first goes to DFID or USAID or GTZ – or whatever government agency. And then it goes to Oxfam GB or US or Germany. And then it goes to Oxfam Southern Africa. And then it goes to Oxfam Zambia. And the leftovers go to Women for Change.

Businesses always try and streamline their value chain. We should do the same with funding. No more than 2 steps before it gets to the actual people that need it and should benefit from it. Cut out the middlemen. Hey, they make money for campaiging in any case by collecting from door to door and in the streets. It doesn’t mean the end of Oxfam or Care or Save The Children and mates. Just the beginning of the nonprofits who can really bring immediate change to the people who need it most. It will force every charity to focus on achieving real change and doing the bit they are best at. And more of the program money will go to the charities who are closest to the real issues on the ground – they are part of the people who suffer in their community. We just need to streamline the charity supply chain a bit.

Of course there is another reason for my little rant. Is it about caring about something or doing something? The caring bit is about you. But the doing bit is about those who need the help. It’s a slight but important difference. You can pick a charity or a cause the way you pick a dress or shoes – something to fit in with your needs and different tastes. But please don’t forget that this isn’t about you. It’s about those who really need you to be part of them and part of the solution. I worry that the causes are so diverse that we start forgetting who and what this is all about. It’s not a clothing outfit to fit with your personality. It’s about people. And what they need.

Mm-mm, maybe I just found the cause that fits my charity. The AA BARF charity needs your support. Really… The Angry African Beer And Rugby Fund never really got the funding or supporters it deserved in any case. And the money will go directly to the cause it supports. I promise…

Hey, I have a job as well! Imagine that. Someone actually pays me to have an opinion. Anyway… Thought I should give you a peek at the type of stuff I write for work. This will go on our work blog in the next few days. It’s been edited. You’ll see that! A bit different from my usual style and topic. But it gives you an insight into some of my other work-related thoughts.

Build it (green) and they will buy?

Everything seems to be turning green. And there is nothing wrong with that – companies creating new, innovative products and services that are good for them and good for the environment. But consumers haven’t completely bought into this yet. A number of green products aren’t flying off the shelves the way companies anticipated. Why is it that the green revolution has taken companies by storm, but not consumers? With the environment at the forefront of consumer concerns, it makes one wonder, why consumers aren’t dropping the bad stuff and buying the good stuff. We build it, but they just won’t come.

Why?

Some products are a big hit with consumers – the Prius and CFL light bulbs are taking off in a big way. So why aren’t they buying green shoes, food, computers, etc.?

There are many reasons why people buy certain products and not others – price, functionality, “coolness,” brand loyalty, etc. One often overlooked factor is: how do the environmental aspects of the product help the consumer?

Let’s first look at why the Prius and the CFL light bulb are so popular. They allow consumers to feel better about themselves when they use these products. A person starts their Prius and immediately feels “greener” than their neighbor with the gas-guzzling SUV. They feel better and more environmentally responsible with every mile they drive. It is the action of driving that makes them “green.” The same goes for a CLF light bulb. They feel better about themselves each and every time they turn on the lights. The simple action of switching on the light enables them to feel like an environmental “activist” – that they are making a difference.

You said you wanted a green car...

You said you wanted a green car...

The environmental benefit doesn’t come from the company making the Prius or the CFL light bulb. The “goodness” comes from the consumer using the product instead of an alternative product. A Prius isn’t a car – it is an environmental tool for the consumer. The CFL light bulb doesn’t just provide light – it provides the consumer with an opportunity to make a difference through the simple action of flipping the switch.

The success of these “green” products lies in enabling the consumer to take action. The act of making a difference through using these products makes them successful. So many green failures can be traced back to lacking this fundamental element – allowing consumers to feel “green” each time they use a product. When all the “goodness” is in the making of the product and not in the using of the product, no other action is expected from the consumer. The only action the consumer needs to take is buying the product. But the act of buying is not perceived as an act of environmental activism. This doesn’t allow the consumer to feel that they are taking environmental action.

Buying a green product, that’s green qualities are all in the production phase, leaves the consumer with a very basic question: what about me?

You want to sell a green product? Then let your consumer be part of the “greenness.” Give them something that they can do apart from just buying the product. Give them a way to take action. Let it be easy – like starting a Prius or flipping a light switch. Give consumers simple actions that make them feel like they are making a difference each and every time they use your product. Let them be part of the change.

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More green stuff from me:

Can I interest you in a green Blow Up Doll?

Okay, so I don’t really want you to buy a blowup doll. Not even a green one. But it seems as if we think consumers will buy anything green – or rather that a green product will have an edge over competing not-so-green products. Consumers might be more interested in the environmental factors of a…

How friendly is eco-friendly?

Every single day we are bombarded by someone telling us to be more eco-friendly in our lives – and the choices we make. But can we really be eco-friendly? …

What’s the emissions of your local warlord’s car – and do you care?

Man, these umlungu’s over here really like their big cars. Okay, not all of them. And I have more of a problem with those who don’t drive big cars than those who do. They are all up in arms about the impact on global climate and the emissions by these big trucks – bakkies back…

It’s not always greener on the other side

Everything is green nowadays. It’s the talk of the town. Newspapers are full of the latest green apocalypse heading our way. Bloggers blog green left, right and center – with fonts and pictures to match. Activist are up in arms about green washing and washing our greens. Governments want to govern what green means. The…

We eat meat – get used to it

Being green or protecting wildlife means almost nothing outside US and Europe. There are bigger issues facing people in places like Burundi, Guyana, Yemen and North Korea. They continue to struggle to survive each day. The cheapest bidder always wins when you live off less than $1 a day. And you don’t know if there…

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These are the good old days. The good old days the way our parents remembered the days of old. The good things in life. Children playing in the streets and the fruits growing in abundance. Of days working in the fields with the sun shining on your back. The days of rockets to the moon. When families ate together and lived together. The days of peace, love and happiness. Those were the good old days.

But for my children today and tomorrow are the good old days. These are the days they will remember. The days when they were young and free. The days when they were happy and not a problem in the world. These are their good old days.

The days when they come home to another great supper made lovingly by their mum. The days when they come home and can play with their toys and tell their story on the Internet. These days when they celebrate their birthdays with the toys they hoped and prayed to get and they got. These days when they can fall asleep in their warm cosy beds and dream dreams of another beautiful tomorrow. These are their good old days.

These days when so many children do not have a home. Or warm bed and meal. These days when the toys they have are the lives they live. These days when they pray for another tomorrow. These days when they go to sleep and cry themselves asleep. The cries of fear and hunger. These are their bad old days.

These are the days when I can have my flu injection and hope it works. These are the days when my family can have their vitamin pills in the morning and know they are strong enough to play another day. These are the days where I can drive down the road and by some more at the pharmacy. These are the days when medicine is for me to have and for me to enjoy another day. These are their good old days.

These are the days when people die from Aids, TB and malaria. These are the days when you can get a Coke to reach far off places, but not the family down the road on the wrong side of the tracks. These are the days when we have medicine to solve so many diseases, but people die in the continent next to us from little things like diarrhea. These are their bad olf days.

These are the days I can love my wife. And respect her for who she is. Strong and a woman. These are the days when my daughters can be proud to be girls. These are the days when I can hear them laugh and giggle as they play. These are the days I can see the love in their eyes and the future in my heart. These are their good old days.

These are the days when a woman or child gets raped every 17 second in the country of my birth. These are the days when our mothers and sisters work the streets. These are the days when the love of our lives walk around with hurt on their bodies and hurt in their eyes. These are the days when woman and girls are hurt. In pictures and in health. These are their bad old days.

These are the days when my children are healthy and play outside. These are the days when they are strong and eat their food. These are the days when we keep them warm and their bodies and healthy. These are the days when they laugh so much and have the fever we can handle. These are the days when they are children with bodies strong. Strong enough to be the kids they should be. These are their good old days.

These are the days when every 3 second another child dies. These are the days when kids die from little things like a cold or the cold. These are the days when the milk dries up and another child cries. These are the days when so little food is good to eat and the water brings more disease. These are the days when children die. These are their bad old days.

These are the days when we have two kids. These are the days when my wife was strong and the doctor even stronger. These are the days when the hospital helps and the beds are good. These are the days when I smile and saw her bravery, knowing she will be fine. These are their good old days.

These are the days when mothers die. When mothers die from anything at birth. These are the days when the doctor is far or not to be seen. These are the days when the water is bad and the mothers suffer. These are the days when the water is gone and the milk followed. These are the days when the mothers suffer and die. These are their bad old days.

These are the days when my oldest girl is the brainbox at school. These are the days when she makes me proud and brings home straight A’s. These are the days when her sister learns to read and write and is having fun. These are the foundation for their days to come. These are their good old days.

These are the days when the children work the fields for the chocolate we eat. These are the days when the children walk the streets because the school is gone or never came. These are the days when the children work the machine for the shirt on my back. These are the days when a child works the job of a man. These are the days when a child is no child anymore. These are their bad old days.

These are the days when we play in the snow and sled and ski. These are the days when we wait for spring and the flowers it bring. These are the days we can go pick some apples and tap the maple. These are the days when we smile at the sun and catch the snowflake. These are the days of fun outside and mother nature oblige. These are their good old days.

These are the days when the rain has stopped and the crops don’t grow. These are the days when the polar bear starts to drown – the bergs starts melting. These are the days of tornado’s and floods. These are the days when the sun don’t smile but just starts to burn. These are the days when the heat it gives is to much to take. These are not the days of old.

These are the days when we play in packs. These are the days when we gather in groups and join hands in fun. These are the days when we help each other. Friends and foe. These are the days we stand together and face the world. These are the good old days.

These are the days we fight and look for wars. These are the days we break the bonds that makes us human. These are the days when we live in packs instead of communities. These are the days we take to anger and strike before we hug. These are the bad old days.

Yes, these are the days we make. We can decide what we want from this world. The good old days, or the days of yesterday? We have a choice. We decide what days these will be. No one but us. I made my choice. I know what I want to answer when my kids look at me and ask, “dad, what did you do in the good old days?”

Note: For those who didn’t pick it up – this piece is based on the UN Millennium Development Goals.

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Corporate Social Responsibility is about what business can do – not about what business must do. It is about opportunities and business benefits – not about obligations or new rules. And the sooner companies develop integrated approaches to identify and react to opportunities the better. And the quicker they put business returns and stakeholders, and specifically the consumer, at the forefront of CSR the better for both them and the CSR business model.

Tangible business benefits are ultimately realized through operational efficiencies (CSR strategy) and effective communications (CSR communications), through PR, advertising, brand, online and other ways to bring the benefits to the consumer and other stakeholders. What is needed is an integrated CSR strategy and communications approach, that is aligned with brand identity and positioning, to effectively engage target stakeholders, especially consumers, and build brand trust, loyalty and affiliation. By working across a company’s different functional areas, understanding and working within the commercial realities of a company, and making stakeholders key, CSR can strengthen and improve the businesses of companies.

CSR strategy development, which is informed by business objectives, market realities and stakeholder input, provides company direction for risk minimization, operational improvements and future growth. This strategy should be informed by and aligned with brand identity and positioning that helps position the company to stand as a responsible and leading corporate citizen – thereby building brand trust, loyalty and affiliation.

CSR communication strategies positively engage stakeholders, specifically consumers, and create on-going dialogue and interaction with the company. This engagement is in turn used to continuously inform strategy, refine brand identity and positioning, and propel continuous improvements creating a cycle of CSR leadership and business benefits.

This integrated approach provides companies with tangible benefits targeted at their own and their stakeholders’ commercial, social and environmental needs as well as the methodology to continuously improve their business, ensure CSR leadership and business benefits, and strengthen brand trust and value – now and in the future.

So, what’s my beef with PR? They play a central role in all this, right? Yes they do. A key role. But my problem is that almost all of them see this as vanilla PR. Yes, they’ll talk about how important it is and say all the right things – remember, they are in PR. But then they will focus on all the philanthropy work of the company – not the operational impacts. They’ll write CSR reports full of beautifully crafted stories of how the company has helped some poor family in Ethiopia, and hardly ever talk about what is material to the company. They’ll pitch the good stuff to the media, but not engage with stakeholders on the bad stuff. They’ll devise participatory employee volunteering schemes, but not talk about the lack of union representatives of the 5% of the workforce that got cut in the last round of ‘streamlining’. And they won’t mention that some workers in the supply chain might be just as bad off as that family in Ethiopia. They’ll talk and talk about the good stuff, because they don’t actually know how the company operates. It doesn’t help that they always talk to corporate communications/public affairs or corporate affairs (take your pick) and hardly ever to product development, HR, manufacturing, logistics, supply chain management or H&S.

One of the experiences that I despised the most while at the International Business Leaders Forum was the PR agencies constantly running to us to help them in their communications of their clients CSR practices. And this ‘advice’ can range from helping them write a CSR report to just telling them what CSR actually means, or just ‘engaging’ stakeholders. But when it came to the client or public, they acted as if they knew everything. Man, they can tell you in so many ways how they can bring the CSR of your company to life – whether you actually have CSR practices or not is irrelevant.

The problem is that PR agencies are geared towards communications. Yes, it might be aligned with the brand or corporate values if you are lucky, but PR agencies know zilch of operations. They will spin you stories on how important operations are, but they know very little of the actual dynamics of business outside communications. PR agencies are good at the communications bit, and consultants are good at the operational bits. But they talk different languages and have very different views on what brings value to the company. PR agencies see the value of CSR as how they can ‘PR’ it. Talk about it, blow it up bigger than what it is and pull off a few gimmicks. But CSR will remain outside of the company and remain without value if you have a PR approach to it. Yes, PR agencies all of a sudden have CSR departments and talk the talk. But have a close look at the people they employ at the CSR unit – PR or political campaigning backgrounds. Not those who have an understanding of operational improvements or even global developmental backgrounds. CSR will remain meaningless if we allow it be driven by PR. It must be driven by both communications and operations. And we need people to understand both. If not, well then we will continue to not bring business benefits AND development gains.

Just look at what consumers believe – they believe everything is spin. And they are not far off when it comes to the role of PR in all of this. And the examples like Wal-Mart and their online strategy is not good stakeholder engagement. But it happens when you drive your CSR through PR communications. PR has a role to play, but they need to get their house in order before they kill off CSR completely.

But don’t worry. PR is not the only guilty one from an agency side. Those consultants. They know nothing of communications. Or actual business benefits. They’ll do your CO2 emissions whether you make cars or plant trees. And design new eco-friendly offices whether you are a financial institution or farmer. No, they’ll sell you anything as long as it can relate to something in your operations. Don’t get me started on them…

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Children sweating in the fields on the farms in the Ivory Coast or in the factories in Bangladesh. Children are working up a sweat – whether it is cocoa or soccer balls. Now it is in the cotton fields in Uzbekistan. Yes, we found another place where these pesky little people work when they shouldn’t be working so hard – or not work at all. I mean really, kids should be going to school and playing in the parks. Right? Maybe not as clear-cut as that. What’s wrong with a bit of child labor?

What’s wrong with kids working. Hey, my kid better clean her room before the all new tough dad comes a knocking (hear the laughter in the background – we had kids so I can have mates of my mental age to play with). But seriously, kids should do some work. It keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. The streets ain’t what they used to be. Just look at the yobs out in the streets in the UK. Oh, our bleeding bloody hearts. These poor little kids, poor little Peter, have nothing to do but sit around and drink and smoke. And we should support them a bit more if they get into some mischief (like stealing from and/or mugging people). Just today the UK moaned and bitched about disciplining the kids that are in detention centres. Oh shame, those poor little kids. All they did was rob, mug and assault people. What is a stab-wound between friends?

And then we look back and talk about the good old days. Remember the good old days? What did you do in the good old days as a kid? Backchat your folks? You get a piece of that leather on your backside for that. We didn’t have time to rob or assault people – we had to earn our meager little money (if any) the hard way. In the fields and in the roads and in the house.

For those privileged enough to have grown up in nice neighbourhoods. Remember what the kids had to do? They had to deliver newspapers. Come rain or susnshine – ride that bike and deliver them newspapers. Mr Wilson didn’t care if precious little Tommy was going to rain wet or not. He wanted his newspapers and Tommy took the responsibility of delivering them. Now? It’s a guy in his 30’s driving his car and flinging the newspapers out his window. Yes – that’s what happens in my street. Why? Because Tommy’s mom is a bit scared he might get a cold and he is still sleeping you know. He was up till late last night playing World of Warcraft. Tiring, I know. Maybe I am completely wrong and that 30-year old guy actually started delivering the newspaper about 20 years ago and just refuses to give it up. He’s got a nice little racket going there.

And for those who grew up on the farms? You think Chuck had the luxury of lying in a bit before school? And get his breakfast in bed over weekends – at about 10 in the morning at the earliest? Don’t think so. You want some cereal this morning Chuck? Good – go cut some corn and milk the cows first. Cornflakes and milk don’t grow in containers you know. Get up at 4:30 and do your work before getting ready for school – and cycle to school. No soccer moms back then. You want to play soccer? Then run to school to warm up. I’ll show you what to do with that ball. Those Bangladesh kids worked hard to make those soccer balls you know.

But for the majority of kids there were no good old days. You see many of them did grow up on the farm. But it wasn’t their farm. They were just the workers on the farm. Little Sipho also got up early in the morning with young Willem (South African names). They were good friends back then. They milked the cows together and had their morning chat about what mischief they were going to get into later that day. When Willem gets back from school. Sipho didn’t go to school. Didn’t make sense. His folks earned next to nothing on the farm and to make ends meet Sipho had to work. And even if the farmer treated his workers like his children – these children didn’t go to school. No. They had to work. What else were they going to do?

And the other kids in the township? Some of them went to school. Where they were taught in a foreign language by a teacher with little or no qualifications. But it was better than nothing. Because those with nothing ended up working. But not in the “nice” places like the factory or the farms. No. They ended up working on the rubbish dump. Joseph is picking through the rubbish that the “rich” threw away. Collecting the empty bottles and paper to sell to the recyclers. And picking the copper out of wires to melt and sell. And sometimes you find a few nice toys or clothes or sport equipment that you can wash off and clean up nicely. And then sell it at the market on Saturday. Some “easy” cash those toys and clothes.

And what about Kwame? Kwame would think Joseph has it easy. But he doesn’t know about Joseph. Because Kwame doesn’t know much outside his world – his world where he travels between the mine and the hostel. Hostage of the mines. The chemical mines. Those chemicals we need for our medicine. But it’s medicine little Kwame won’t get. He’ll die to young and the medicine is to deal with obesity and hair-loss – things he will never suffer from. No. Those would be the least of his worries. And then there is Abhra doing the stitching of those soccer balls. But stitching the soccer balls is better than the alternative – selling your body for a little bit of food and money.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Those in the cocoa fields are lucky. More than 80% of them are actually members of the family who owns the farm. Like Willem. They work on the farms because it is their farm. School would be great. But it doesn’t put food on the table today. And learn about what? Maths and science and geography? All you need to know is the maths of running a (small) profit on the farm to feed everyone – know how much it costs you to grow your crops and how much you get when you sell you crops. And the science you need is knowing how to grow your crops and use the right fertiliser to make sure they grow well. And the geography of how you use the lay of the land – and plan for good weather and bad weather. They don’t teach those maths and science and geography in the school. No. That’s what you get from working on the farm and listening to the old and wise men who have been doing it since – since their father told them. This is the schooling you need because this farm will be your farm one day. And you have no time to waste on theories when the reality of climate change is coming your way.

We need more child labour in this world. More children knowing how the crops grow. Because they need to feed us tomorrow. They are our future. If they don’t grow it no one will. And we need more child labour to keep those yobs off the streets. Give them something meaningful to do. Something that will keep them busy. Work is a natural restraint – we won’t need those detention centres then.

But of course it isn’t that easy. No. We know the world isn’t black and white. Because what do we do with Joseph? What do we do with Kwame and Abhra? That is where we fail. Those kids on the rubbish dumps and the mines and the prostitutes. They are still there. Picking through what we threw away. Digging for those ingredients we need to make us feel better. Stitching the soccer balls little Tommy needs. And for those pictures we find on the internet – sorry, I can’t even go there. That’s just too hard. This is too hard.

I have kids. I don’t mind them working. In fact, they should be working. But there is a line. A line that crosses all cultures. A line no culture has the right to cross. But we needed to give people choices. We need a little less of Kwame and Peter – a little bit less working on the rubbish dump and living on the streets and a little less of being a rubbish yob in the streets. Let the children work. But remember who they are. They are children. They are our children. I have two daughters. And this is too hard. I need some hot cocoa now.

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