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Corporate Social Responsibility

Because their primaryframe of reference is the linear take-make-waste economic model, traditionalmanagement-training programmes promote a mechanistic approach that viewsorganisations as collections of separate parts that can each be managedindependently. Thus, the design and purchasing departments operate more or lessindependently from the manufacturing, waste management and other divisions.Similarly, the environmental health and safety department handles regulatorycompliance, employee health and worker safety issues. In many organisations,sustainability is even handled by a separate unit. The assignment ofenvironmental, labour and human health responsibilities to separate units mayprovide some control over single-source easy- to-identify problems. The strictpartitioning of responsibilities, however, makes it difficult to identify thecause and effect of systemic problems. This is because no single unit can seehow the entire system functions and because those who know the organisation'soperations best – its employees and stakeholders – are not meaningfully engagedin finding system-wide solutions.

Many organisationsfall into this trap, creating functional stovepipes between departments andisolate environmental management in the EH&S department. Furthermore,issues are often handled with little involvement from other departments andfunctions. Opportunities are also lost when organisations fail to engage withexternal stakeholders, isolating themselves from local community groups,suppliers or distributors in discussions about its environmental practices.

Some organisations,however, understand the value of key stakeholders’ engagement and work withthese groups to ensure they influence organisational decisions and workingpractices. Decisions must be integrated across an organisation if the companyis to become more sustainable. To achieve this, the environment has to become a'screen' through which all employees view their daily decisions and actions,not a separate programme. A team composed of people from every organisationalunit and function should be involved in the development and implementation ofthe company's sustainability action plan. Success cannot not be achieved if anorganisation isolates itself from external stakeholders. Buyers, environmentalnon-profit groups and other groups should, therefore, also be involved.Achieving sustainability is a company-wide and value chain-wide task.

Most governments arehighly fragmented into functional stovepipes and segregate environmental andsocial welfare issues in separate departments rather than making themeveryone's responsibilities. Specialised government environmental agenciesregulate the environmental effects of other government departments. Forexample, US EPA regulates army depots and sewage-treatment facilities. Thesesame agencies oversee environmental issues within the private sector and localcommunities, which generally have assigned these issues to their ownspecialised departments. Thus, siloed government agencies interact primarily withthe siloed units of business and other government agencies. This segregationanaesthetises society to the environmental and related socioeconomic impacts itgenerates.

Taken from a piece by Bob Doppelt in "Leading Change Toward Sustainability: A Change-Management Guide for Business, Government and Civil Society"

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