OPINION – CSR creating our happiness: Pleasure, Purpose and Pride
Imagine CSR as your corporate conscience – that little voice that looks over your shoulder – reminding you of your evolving role in society and on the planet. We wrote about the different faces of CSR in these pages last year: philanthropy, crisis support; insurance against loss of license; and how institutional structures can be created and leaders cultivated for compliance. These are part of a global shift to position CSR as a set of values to guide business ethics and operations.
Macau Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility in Greater China (MICSRGC)
Measures of the success of sovereign states, political announcements and corporate results referring to GDP, economic growth, stock movements and quarterly results consistently assert that financial success – that thing that often hinders ethical operations – is an end goal. Achieving high levels of these is not our goal as statesmen over time have argued: David Cameron – “It is time that we admit that there is more to life than there is. ‘money’ as the UK established a well-being monitoring program; Angela Merkel – “We look at the stock index or currencies on the news every morning and talk a lot about growth… but often times we don’t prioritize what is really most important to people”; Joseph Stiglitz – “GDP in the United States has grown every year except 2009, but most Americans are worse off than they were a third of a century ago”; and well-worn quote from Robert F. Kennedy – “Gross National Product … does not measure our mind or courage, wisdom or learning, compassion or dedication to our country, it measures everything in short, except that that makes life worth it.
Once basic needs are met and a nation grows, it is time to recognize that well-being lies beyond monetary wealth; but crunching those numbers and constantly adding them is a hard addiction to break. Economic results are only one means of achieving well-being, but there are limits beyond which the benefits of growth are replaced by pathologies: accumulation of elites and inequalities; widespread consumerism and resource depletion; an obesity epidemic and nutritional deserts; an easy life and the highest rates of chronic and cardiovascular disease ever.
The literature on happiness says that well-being comes from a combination of a sense of pleasure, purpose and pride. These three human responses can each be guided by a shift in focus from wealth to well-being. Indeed, as Thomas Jefferson (1811) noted, “the happiness and prosperity of our citizens … is the sole legitimate object of government.” We could very well extend that to businesses.
The fun (or joy) comes from connection, which Cathay recognizes in her recent promotions – “our ongoing mission has been to connect you with new people, places and experiences.” The pleasure is found in the interconnection with natural ecologies (other life) and between them. Along with a brutal awakening of the shortcomings and weaknesses of the institutional system, our grief over the loss of connection with our loved ones during the Covid crisis has robbed us of many of our joys. To a less visceral extent, the climate crisis has also begun to change worldviews of humanity’s interdependence with each other and with the planet. There is a growing search for meaning through connection, to ourselves, to our community, and to healthy ecologies. These visions of the world bring hope and give us the means to assume our legitimate role as nurturers.
For a long time we were separated and extractors of capital. We haven’t invested in the systems and ecologies that maintain meaning and integrity for us. We can look at the journey of farmers who have moved from the model of chemical inputs and extraction methods of industrial agriculture to the regeneration and recarbonization of soils, who are learning to use natural systems in agricultural management and guardianship of land. They find agriculture flourishing and joyful. The farmer suicide epidemic has been shown to subside once farmers reclaim their land and begin to see the rewards that come from working with nature rather than fighting life to the land. interior. Likewise, companies can learn to reconcile with their communities.
Goal, the second response to happiness, can be derived from living out your values by doing something meaningful; do what’s worth it.
Companies have a purpose and were historically allowed to have a charter for a specific purpose. Once this narrowly defined objective was no longer achieved, the charter could be repealed. No longer defined by objective, companies can now mainly thank profitability for their longevity.
The evolution of the conversation around CSR underlines that the goal of a company must be broader than simple profitability. Likewise, the dialogue around the triple end result of profit, people and the planet has reframed the concept of sustainability: from the longevity of the business to ensuring that communities, the environment and natural resources are supported and supported by the organization’s operations so that they can thrive, not just survive for extractive purposes. In this way, companies find their own goal in solving the problems of the well-being of people and the planet.
Usually, CSR mandates are seen as nudges or even coercive methods to draw companies’ attention to how the wider community benefits from their operations. For follower companies, they create an ambitious ceiling for doing good, and for others, they allow a nominal floor for doing bad.
For CSR leaders, it’s not about giving more money, it’s about a change in mindset. It is the manifestation of a corporate conscience; integration of good citizenship into the company’s DNA. It’s about businesses being part of the ecology of the community and the land we live on, not parting with it, and certainly not extracting from it. Recently a professor in Macau, Carlos Noronha was quoted in the media: “It is difficult to grasp the spirit and the essence of CSR in terms of percentage [of revenue as taxation]… ”.
CSR is not an element of quantity but a philosophy and a morality, one which finds a purpose in, and does not take away from, a community’s own ability to find pleasure, and to achieve a purpose and a sense of pride in their accomplishments.