CSR has failed


The soon to be published book by Wayne Visser, The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business, argues that CSR, as a business, governance and ethics system, has failed. This assumes that success or failure is measured in terms of the net impact (positive or negative) of business on society and the environment. 


The reason CSR 1.0 has failed is not through lack of good intent, nor even through lack of effort. The old CSR has failed because our global economic system is based on a fundamentally flawed design. For all the miraculous energy unleashed by Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ of the free market, our modern capitalist system is faulty at its very core. 
Simply put, it is conceived as an abstract system without limits. 


What is now needed is a new form of CSR - which the book dubs CSR 2.0. 
This combines five elements:
1) Creativity - Directing business creativity to solving the world's social and environmental problems
2) Scalability - A 'shining pilot project' is pointless if it can't be scaled for mass use
3) Responsiveness - greater transparency, through reporting mechanisms and through sharing intellectual resources (eg/technology patents)
4) Glocality - Understanding local contexts and applying local solutions without forsaking global principles
5) Circularity - Closed loop production - such as factories that produce drinking water as waste or materials that can feed into industry as high quality raw materials for new products


The end result is a new meaning for CSR - Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility. 


When all is said and done, CSR 2.0 comes down to one thing: clarification and reorientation of the purpose of business. It is a complete misnomer to believe that the purpose of business is to be profitable, or to serve shareholders. These are simply means to an end. Ultimately, the purpose of business is to serve society, through the provision of safe, high quality products and services that enhance our well being, without eroding our ecological and community life-support systems.


CSR is dead! Long live CSR!

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