CSR – where ‘C’ is for cynical

You would think that in the era of the internet, social networking and online reviews of just about everything, companies would be a little more serious about their corporate image. At best they just “don’t get it” at worst they are cynical entities happy to patronise
their customers, hoping that they will not be seen for what they are.

All companies should take their corporate social responsibility (CSR) seriously. Your business model should be socially responsible and environmentally sustainable – this is, ultimately, the definition of CSR. As green issues have come to the forefront, environmental aspects of CSR have been grabbed at enthusiastically. Whilst this enthusiasm for environmental causes is welcome, the continuing cynicism with which green CSR is applied brings the whole matter into disrepute. I will illustrate the
problem with two short case studies; the first is London Underground (LU), and the second direct mail service providers.

LU has taken to switching off a number of escalators during off-peak times where the numbers of passengers using them is low. Taken at face value, this is a sound economic and environmental measure. A better measure perhaps would be to ensure that all new escalators installed on LU had the continental system where they automatically shut-off
after a period of disuse and switch on again when a customer treads on the sensor plate at the bottom of the escalator but that is not really the point I am trying to make. Whilst LU brags about the environmental drive behind the measure, it seems to miss the glaring irony that will strike passengers as they ascend to ground level – banks of LED monitors replacing the old cardboard advertisements that grace the walls alongside the escalators. I struggle to find an economic advantage in the use of LED monitors as advertising boards but accept that there might be. What hits home hardest about this is the environmental impact – LED monitors are not “green”, they are power hungry boxes of hazardous environmental waste – and LU is installing hundreds (if not thousands) of these things just to show a few uninspired advertisements to passers-by.

Whereas the behaviour of LU is a fairly parochial matter, the second case study will be nationally recognised – direct mail. There are many direct mail service providers helping many companies to promote their wares and drive-up sales. This is good and I have no problem with the concept of direct mail. What concerns me, again, is the lack of a sensible
approach to the environmental impact of service providers’ activity. De-duplicating
mailing lists should not be that difficult in the age of the computer but few direct mail service providers seem to bother. The cost to their customers in unnecessary printing, packaging and postage is ignored to boost their own profit margins. But small businesses beware your direct mail service provider may be costing you more than you think, through even sloppier practices. My case in point – receiving three copies of the same catalogue addressed to somebody who has never lived at my address. The unnecessary catalogues were printed, packaged, posted and now recycled all at a cost to both the small business owner and to the environment. I cannot be the only person on the direct mail service providers’ lists who apparently has three unknown individuals living with them and all with the same name – so just what is the scale of the impact on the environment of this sloppy practice?

CSR needs to be taken seriously and we need to be proactive in challenging those organisations who through either ignorance or cynicism flaunt CSR and environmentalism to the detriment of us all.


About mikewpaice

Freelance writer and researcher.
This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s