The language of of sustainability

The concept of sustainability is universal and at the same time have a unique national twist which gives it meaning beyond the words themselves.

Language Translation Meaning
Afrikaans volhoubaarheid
Albanian qëndrueshmëria
Arabian الاستدامة
Armenian Կայունություն
Azerbaijani Davamlılıq
Basque iraunkortasuna
Belarusian Устойлівасць
Bengali সাস্টেনিবিলিটি
Bosnian Održivost
Bulgarian устойчивост
Catalan sostenibilitat
Cebuano tayuyon
Chinese (simplified) 可持续发展
Chinese (traditional) 可持續發展
Croatian Održivost
Czech udržitelnost ability to continue with something infinitly
Danish bæredygtighed
Dutch duurzaamheid durability
English Sustainability
Esperanto daŭripovo
Estonian Jätkusuutlikkus
Filipino pagpapanatili
Finnish kestävä kehitys
French développement durable
Galician sostibilidade
Georgian მდგრადობა
German Nachhaltigkeit
Greek Αειφορία
Gujarati સસ્ટેઇનેબિલીટી
Haitian Creole dirab
Hausa dawamamme
Hebrew אחריות סביבתית
Hindi स्थिरता
Hmong
Hungarian Fenntarthatóság
Icelandic sjálfbærni
Igbo nkwado
Indonesian Keberlanjutan
Irish Inbhuanaitheacht
Italian Sostenibilità
Japanese 持続可能性 likelihood of continuation
Javanese sokongan
Kannada ಸಂರಕ್ಷಣೆ
Khmer និរន្តរភាព
Korean 지속 가능성
Lao ຄວາມຍືນນານ
Latin Duis
Latvian ilgtspējība
Lithuanian tvarumas
Macedonian одржливост
Malay kelestarian
Maltese sostenibbiltà
Maori whakapūmautanga
Marathi टिकाव
Mongolian Тогтвортой байдал
Nepali स्थायित्व
Norwegian bærekraft
Persian توسعه پایدار
Polish Zrównoważony rozwój
Portuguese Sustentabilidade
Punjabi ਖਨਰੰਤਰਤਾ
Romanian durabilitatea
Russian устойчивость
Serbian Одрживост
Slovak udržateľnosť
Slovenian Trajnostni razvoj
Somali Sii jiritaanimadu
Spanish sustentabilidad
Swahali endelevu
Swedish Hållbarhet
Tamil சஸ்டெயினபிலிட்டி
Telegu జీవనాధారము
Thai การพัฒนาอย่างยั่งยืน
Turkish Sürdürülebilirlik
Ukranian стійкість
Urdu اترجیوتا
Vietnamese phát triển bền vững
Welsh Cynaliadwyedd
Yiddish סוסטאַינאַביליטי
Yoruba
Zulu ekuqhubekeni

Be glad that you are stupid

Are you stupid? In order to know what you do not know you need to be smart enough to understand that you do not know it all and that being stupid in the ways of the World really makes you smart. So here is to all the stupid smart people of the World

CSR is about focusing on the little things

It seems odd that when corporations show their commitment to society through CSR they get the most out of doing something about the little things. Companies that are successful looks at what they do well and tries to figures out how this impact communities that they are active in, in ways they could not imagine if they did not have the tools provided though CSR.

When reviewing the many definitions of CSR that is out there it gives little or no clue how actually to conduct social responsibility. It would seem that if one just followed conventional wisdom it would be hard if not impossible to satisfy even the simplest requirements given by all these different classifications.

“The Social Responsibility refers to the obligations of businessmen to pursue those policies, to make those decisions, or to follow those lines of action which are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of our society.” Bowen, 1953 in Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, which commonly regarded as the first milestone in modern CSR research and practice.

Another more modern definition have been issued by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) through their guidance on social responsibility “Responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour that contributes to sustainable development, including health and the welfare of society; takes into account the expectations of stakeholders; is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour; and is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships.”

Both of these very fine definitions give little or no clue to what companies should actually do to both successful in terms of profit, development and continued competitive advantage, and at the same time being in tune with societies moral compass.

But some companies have actually done quite well trying to combine their CSR with their core business. Just to give a few examples.

Danish Novo Nordisk has committed themselves to the task of “Changing diabetes” and have successfully introduced new products like Victoza inline with their core mission statement

The Swedish fashion company, H&M have under the statement “Conscious” has with worked to create sustainable fashion through a comprehensive CSR system that reduce risks in their supply chain.

Vivendi, the French telecom company, have initiated a program that promotes the safe use of the Internet to youth.

All of these initiatives are small when it comes to the efforts that the company needs to put into them because it is embedded in the “what we do” part of their business, but even so that have a huge impact on their outreach to the communities they are active in.

So even though it would seem that these successful companies are focusing on the “little things” they do represent a significant societal impact exactly for that reason.

A glimmer of hope for the “little-man” and you

I always enjoy stories about the ”little-man” against the system and with this story from china where a guy and his family refused to leave his home hit the mainstream news I was instantly captured.

Even though the ”little-man” usually looses in the end these is something about these stories that make them more than just news. They capture our imagination about our own struggles in life and make us think bout how we would react. And even though we would properly give in, just like the “little-man” does in the end, it would give us the idea that for once we fought the systems and for a small glimmer in time we had the feeling that we were winning.

It is something to remember when the system is trying to keep you down.

Before (believing that winning is possible)

TOPSHOTS

After

654380-china-freeway-house

Democratic deficit and the uneaven playing field

This is the next chapter in my series on Social Risk, enjoy.

What do “doing business” and the degree of democracy have to do with each other?

Well for one there is no doubt that companies that operate in environments where there is none or very few institutions in place to ensure a stable business environment often find themselves in situations where ethic and morality is strained. Just take a look at Shell in Nigeria (Oil drilling), H&M in Bangladesh (Clothing factory) or Maersk in China (Container factory) and one will know what it means to operate in such an environment.

To some degree the democratic deficit is self-imposed or reproduced through the understanding that we are “all on the same boat together”. Businesses blame the business environment, Governments blame international society, NGOs blame international business and the population blame politicians. So what we need is stable democracies that are characterized by good governance e.g. institutional structures in which the individual´s rights and freedoms are respected are a prerequisite for sustainable development. This means improvements in two areas:

  • That Rule of Law is upheld, ensuring a level playing field.
  • Democratic structures in place that ensures that can ensure that power is distributed and not centralized to a few individuals.
  • Cooperation should be undertaken with NGOs and civil society forces that work to achieve openings for democracy. In other cases, such as where civil society is small or non-existing, the focus should be on communicating an awareness of democracy, human rights, gender equality and market economy

In Sub-Saharan Africa, a region where economics determines politics of the day and where a culture of democracy has been absent and if present is under the will of a few elites. Even the smallest democratic opportunities are economically conditioned especially during elections because of poverty, corruption, illiteracy, unemployment and not least a playing field which has been all but level.

As we have celebrated the Arab spring there is no evidence that these old structures are so easily dismantled. We hoped for free-elections and a greater degree of transparency would be present, but it has done little in terms of growing a culture of democratic thinking in the region. For example, the political move by Mohammed Morsi to centralize power around the president in Egypt or the lack of security and move towards radical Islamism in Tunisia. The lesson is that democracy is fragile and needs to be supported by strong institutions that can balance the pursuit for power by individuals with the principles of democracy.  

The Social Democratic concept of democracy views political institutions as a means to offset the natural power of concentrated wealth that accrues in capitalist economies. However, during the economic crisis it has become apparent that individual states can’t handle the burden that they have been put under alone and have to seek assistance from others. In Africa for example there is no strong institution that can rescue countries in need so there are basically left to their own devisees, while we in the western world can draw on intergovernmental institutions like the EBC or others. In essence this means that the developing world is left with institutions like the IMF, EU, EBRD and the World Bank that impose strict guidelines for economic behavior and limits the ability for democratic processes. This again leads to a greater gap between the ones that have and the ones that don’t both on a region by region level but also between individual states creating tensions and eventually conflict.

For companies a democratic deficit means an uncertain future business environment. It means increased risk of catastrophic collapse and it means that what you might think is yours today might not be so tomorrow because there is no state to guarantee tour basic rights.

Links

http://www.economist.com/node/21555927

http://www.africanexecutive.com/modules/magazine/articles.php?article=5441

http://www.princeton.edu/~amoravcs/library/framework.pdf