Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dial M for mission.

We often get asked about how we got into this strange academic world, why we do work in responsible business, and, well, isn't it about time we got ourselves a proper job? Sometimes our answers are glib but with a touch of truth about them ... we like getting up late, we can wear what we want, it's cool to be able to do pretty much exactly what you want, whenever you want. Yes, the freedoms are pretty great, we have to say (though not everyone thinks that our sartorial choices should be quite so free).

But truth be told we also have a bit of a mission ... not a big capital M Mission to change the world, to reveal the truth to the great unwashed, or to convert all those immoral business people into saintly Crane and Matten disciples. OK, so we do like to occasionally come over all guru-like, but usually we can;t keep a straight face long enough. Who would believe that we really have all the answers? We have trouble enough just getting the questions right. But perhaps we do have a smaller, more modest mission of a sort. One that's something like making a difference to how people think about responsible business, whether they are students, researchers, practitioners, or just the random people that bump into our blog through the magic of google. Being a university professor gives you lots of opportunity to do this, and it's probably this more than anything that get's us out of bed in the morning. Either that or the thought of breakfast. Or a girlfriend who really does have a proper job. It's certainly not the money.

Anyway, you're probably wondering, why are Crane and Matten getting all existential on us today? Why the sudden need to talk about the ... ahem .... "mission". Is it the end of year reckoning getting the better of them, the need to put things in place, start listing achievements, and work out where it all went right/wrong (delete as appropriate). Maybe. But it's also because we just seem to be getting asked a lot recently. So to put you in the mood too, check out Andy's recent interview by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). He talks about what got him started researching in this field, what students are looking for now, what the big trends are, and what gets him excited about his job (besides getting to wear the funny hat at graduation ceremonies, and the big end of year bonuses of course).

AASHE is an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future. Their mission "is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation." It sounds a bit more impressive than ours, so we were happy to chat with them about what we were up to in our research and teaching. We're not sure it's going to empower anyone, at least not without providing a whole lot of other tools and resources that organizations like AASHE typically try and deliver. But it might get them thinking. You can't ask for more than that.

Oh OK, you can. Just don't ask us for more than that. At least not before noon.

Photo by Martin Kingsley. Reproduced under Creative Commons license

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do we need a list of corporate responsibility lists?

As usual the fast approaching end of the year is bringing forward the typical slew of "best of" lists, though with a end-of-decade twist that is pushing the list-maniacs out there into overdrive. Of course there are the usual cultural lists - best album of the decade, best book of the year, best media moments, etc - but even in our own little world of corporate responsibility there has been a growing number of "best of" lists seeking to garner a little attention from the trend spotters out there.

For example, fresh in our inbox today was a notice about "the 100 ethics blogs every business student should read" put together by an outfit called It's an eclectic mix with a tendency towards the more scholarly corners of the blogosphere. Some that it lists, like the "brain ethics" blog, or "mindhacks" sound kind of intriguing, and will take the intrepid business ethics reader quite far away from their usual stamping grounds. They even give us a mention, which I guess is why they told us about the list.

Another list, which came out a little earlier in the year, but is still generating quite a bit of attention is Chris Jarvis's "51 Great Sites for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability". Chris is a fellow Torontonian who writes his own blog on corporate volunteering called Realizing Your Worth, and also published the top 51 (why 51 Chris?!) with the business magazine Fast Company. It's a great list of blogs, resource pages, and a top 10 'must-have sites on CSR' .

If you're looking for something a little more international (and who isn't?), networked blogs has a list of top blogs on just about everything - and their top 39 blogs in CSR (is there a theme here with random list lengths?) includes CSR blogs in Hungarian, Romanian, Spanish, German, Indonesian, Swedish, Italian, you name it.

Finally, a mention for our two fave CSR magazines, Ethical Corporation and Corporate Knights. Ethical Corporation typically produces a "top 10 ethical leaders of the year" list in its December issue, but by the looks of it, may not be doing so this time round - probably because they are starting an official program of CSR awards in 2010 . Last year, though, in their ethical leaders feature they started the bandwagon for inappropriate awards that the Nobel Prize people jumped on by crowning Barack Obama as the top dog among "individuals we believe have done most to further the cause of responsible business".

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Corporate Knights have become a listing powerhouse, providing well researched rankings of all things sustainable business related. Top 100 sustainable companies globally - they rank 'em. Top sustainable cities in Canada - that too. Top MBA programs dealing with responsible business - uh huh. In fact, they rank just about anything you might want ranked. And if they don't? Well, we're sure if it's a good idea, they'll give it a try.

We could go on with the list, but to be honest we don't quite have the stamina to do them all justice. We're not even sure we need a full blown list of lists. In fact, our list doesn't even meet the basic requirements for a good list at all - it isn't even numbered, for a start. So let's just say that we're glad the lists are out there ... but don't go expecting us to turn into fellow listers. Even if it is December.

Photo by anitacanita, reproduced under creative commons license.