Blog Podcasts The Dialogue Magazine About Us

Sign up for Worthwhile's free weekly e-zine.

Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, April 21, 2004 5:44 PM
Anita Sharpe on Making a Difference

It's probably fair to say that when it comes to social responsibility, there is no such thing as a perfect company.

One company may do right by trees, but treat its workers like dirt. Other firms provide plenty of passion and great pay for employees, but that's about as giving as they get. And you may recall that Enron once ranked high with socially responsible investment funds.

We talk about this a lot at Worthwhile. In fact, before we decided to create the magazine, we knew we were venturing into imperfect territory, that virtually any company we feature is bound to have legions of critics. This is only going to get murkier as more companies realize they have to clean up their acts or lose a lot of goodwill, not to mention customers. (See David Batstone's piece below about the Gap.)

If a company does the right thing, but its motives are less than pure, is it still the right thing? What about a once-tainted company that is taking steps in the right direction -- can it ever escape its sordid past? If business is indeed the best hope for social change, how do we identify the good guys?


Paul Collins - 12/7/2004 5:24:07 PM
Great mag, great article. It wets my appetite for more. What are the tangible ingredients that make good companies good? Or even Great? Is it the empowerment of people? Working in teams? Better communication? I'd be interested in the traits of a good company if you've unearthed any.
Rick Gove - 4/27/2004 1:25:18 PM
I know when we discuss social responsibility, we usually look at a company's effect on the world around it, but for some odd reason I almost always want to know what it's like to work there.
I guess it's OK to do good (and well) and be stuffy, self-righteous and controlling, but my favorite companies make a point to have fun. Long lunches, unanticipated time off and just plain silliness make Jack and Jane not-so-dull and productive employees. And they, as well as the company's products/actions, have an effect on the world around them.
I propose that turning fun and/or funny employees loose on the world is supremely socially responsible. I say let's examine companies for a funny bone. No funny bone, no 'good company' award. Is that humerus?
Curt Rosengren - 4/26/2004 3:38:17 PM
Anita, what about a regular feature in Worthwhile where you evaluate companies on their social achievement? You could start shining the spotlight on 'what's important,' but do it realistically (i.e., no company's a saint - here's where they shine, here's where they fall down).

As you know, I think part of what Worthwhile is about is a paradigm shift to a new way of thinking. That might be a good tool to focus attention on both that new way of thinking and what that means in the real world.
anita - 4/26/2004 2:08:41 PM
All great points. At the risk of taking a page from kindergarten graduation -- where every kid gets an award for something -- part of me thinks that there will be a number of categories for social achievement for companies, but few companies that merit 'overall excellence.'
Curt Rosengren - 4/25/2004 1:51:56 PM
My brain keeps coming back to this post. I think it's probably one of the most important questions on the table - and one of the hardest to get a handle on. If we say it's important to us to create, develop, and support 'good companies,' we have to know what we mean. And I really don't think we do.

It's obviously far too complex to simply say, 'Good company / Bad company.' As you point out, Anita, there are many ways for a company's goodness (or badness) to manifest.

Maybe the first thing that needs to be done is to start identifying the main areas to evaluate companies. Then each of these could be scored.

I'd love to see what people think those areas would be. Some ideas:

- Environmental impact
- Environmental investment

Employee treatment
- Employee workplace experience
- Benefits, etc.

- Community investment (funding, sponsorship, etc.)

Economic impact
- Job creation
- Where the money goes
- Other?

- Does the company have a 'culture of social responsibility?'

Obviously that's far from a comprehensive list. Just something to prime the pump. Anyone else?


Enter this
code below:
 What is this?
Home   |   Blog   |   Blog Archive   |   Podcasts   |   The Dialogue   |   Subscribe   |   Advertise   |   Customer Service
About Us   |   Contact Us   |   Resources / Promotions   |   FAQ
Copyright © 2006 dash30, Inc. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy. 71