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Under The Wing

Getting past the name game!

by Jeff Rangel on ‎08-15-2014 04:15 PM (3,556 Views)


I received an email from a colleague recently reigniting the language debate - what's the 'latest label' used within the field...sustainability vs. corporate social responsibility?


That same evening I was reading the The Corporate Citizen published by Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. While reading some great articles on ‘Integrating Corporate Citizenship Across Departments’ and ‘Social Innovation’, I was making note of departments and titles. I found no fewer than 9 – from Corporate Citizenship, Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Social Responsibility to Global Inclusion & Philanthropy, Social Performance and Community Responsibility. Not at all scientific, but if the publication alone were a true sample size, Corporate Responsibility is the 'latest label'.


A word-cloud of terms from the website navigation of a sampling of Fortune 100 companies echoes the smaller sample from the Boston College magazine - Corporate Responsibility appears to be most common. 


At Brocade, our commitment to environmental, social and governance performance is a Corporate Responsibility (CR). In our view, the term best conveys our business approach to integrating the critical cross-functional work into a systems view. CR is the collective outcome of strategies that address (in no particular order) supplier diversity, community investment (volunteerism, employee giving and philanthropy), supplier responsibility practices, energy & water conservation/management, diversity, labor practices, health & safety, government affairs, communications, ethics, compliance & management systems, and more - throughout our business ecosystem. Moreover, it attempts to expand one's thinking beyond the potential silos that we believe Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may evoke.


Colleen Olphert, Membership Director at Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship takes a 'neutral' position when it comes to language – encouraging that companies 'use the terminology that best resonates with [their] business.'


It's said that doing the work is more important than being concerned about how one labels the work, or the title one holds. I agree. Call it what you will, just do it! That said, I find it interesting how companies refer to the work and present their strategies and outcomes (via websites, etc.); and believe that common language can be a benefit to the field. How do you define your ESG work? Where do you stand in the label debate?