Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Birthday Party Begins

Ten year olds are in a funny age. Not quite children anymore, they are not grown ups either. They have learned the basics, reading and writing and calculus - but there is still a lot ahead of them.

I like the metaphor for the UN Global Compact ten year anniversary Summit. In the opening ceremony it became quite clear that indeed much has been achieved. To talk about business responsiblities is now widely legitmate and the guest list shows, that many companies have grown with it. This is also visible in who - next to Ban-Ki Moon (UN Secretary General) - was invited to give the major talk in this afternoon's opening ceremony: Wang Zhongyu, President, China Enterprise Confederation - China of all countries. Its nice that ten year olds still don't care too much about what the world around them thinks. And in fact one has to give Chinese businesses in the UNGC a lot of credit, certainly for their commitment and also for successes.
CSR is a world full of ambiguities, but today China's and Chinese businesses' record on the achievement of the ten principles was not on the agenda. Fair enough, this can come at another time.
Equally ambiguous I felt about a 5mins videoclip which was shown in the opening ceremony. I forgot the details, but it was incredibly cheesy, happy-clappy and goosepimply-emotional. Showing this at, say, the Christian Womens Knitting Association of South Arkansas' annual charity dinner - fine. But in a room with over a 1000 people from business (300 of which CEOs or the like)? I don't know. But hey, where shall a ten year old have already got a sense of style?

By the way, who started that fashion of showing a video clip with people talking in the clip while they are sitting in the flesh on the podium? This happened twice today. Why not just talk to each other?
Which happened finally, when we were told by Lord Hastings, the master of ceremonies for the Summit, to say hello to the person right of us and the person left of us. I was so relieved we did not have to kiss them. My neighbor on the left was from Uruguay, btw. He contgratulated me on Germany's win today in the Soccer World Cup. So it was nice after all...
Ambiguity also came up with the terminology in the world of CSR. CSR for most people who spoke today is still seen largely as philantropy while 'Sustainability' - the title of the Summit - in their view looks more at making operations and core business processes socially responsible. It all goes to show that language and concepts are, at the end of the day, all ephemeral and relative. Like ten year olds and their slang today. Would I understand a text message from them? Probably not, but if it means something good, I don't care.

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