When you misunderstand Corporate Social Responsibility

Pic: nwrc.sk.ca

Internal CSR, or being responsible to your own employees is equally important as being responsible externally and communicating it.
Depending on your business, that can mean anything from allowing them to have unions, have fair compensation and benefit systems, growth opportunity, security, but also quite often their own safety.

However, it’s just not good when you overdo it. I bumped into this example at sustainabilityforum.com and found it very disturbing.
I mean, keeping your employees safe is one thing, but having a policy not allowing them to help someone not to be beaten up brutally is something else…

Check it out below. Conclusion is after the video.

The Potential Brutality of CSR

Written By Chris Milton
Published On February 12, 2010

There’s a reason I’ve not put any picture with this post: because there’s a video at the bottom.

I think you should watch this video. It’s just over seven minutes long.

It’s of a news item from CNN in the USA last night.

It shows CCTV footage of a girl getting beaten up and having her head kicked in at a bus station in Seattle, Washington.

Then there’s the three (four? five??) security guards who watch this happen. Clearly within arm’s reach.

This is terrible, says the commentator. Surely as decent human beings, maybe even fathers, they should intervene and stop this brutality?

The attacker even returns for afters and is unhindered.

Why didn’t they intervene? Because there is a policy, apparently, that security guards do not intervene in violent confrontations. Difficult to swallow that one.

So on comes a guest, a Sergent from the local police force, who steps through this policy and explains why it’s there and that, once the fight had finished, over 60 officers attended the scene.

Then at the very end the presenter thanks the Sergent for his time and for explaining it to them.

So that’s OK then.

Now, why am I posting this on a CSR blog?

Simple. The reason these guys didn’t intervene is because they had a policy to follow. Tick boxes, insurance (no doubt) and all of that.

And this has subverted their normal human behaviour.

CSR and sustainability is all about reinventing business: it’s not a standard to acheive, it’s a model to follow on a path of continual improvement.

The tick-boxers and standard acheivers in the CSR world are little better than these security guards: watching disaster happen infront of them “satisfied” that they are following their professional protocols.

No one, not even a member of the public, intervenes. But it’s the security guards who are best placed to do so.

We all want to be on the side of the defenseless, the impoverished, the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. However, we — as people — have to act for that to happen, not just implement a policy and think that’s the best we can do.

Needless to say, those of a sensitive nature may prefer not to watch the video, and please be sensible with minors. The video can also be watched here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/02/11/seattle.beating/

Please watch it. Now.

Personally and as an HR professional, I blame this not only on the company policy, but also on the corporate culture that they obviously have. I mean, this culture has to be very passive-defensive and very strong to change (in my opinion) basic human behavior to react in such circumstances. Or all of these 3 guys are simply bad people…
I hope that the kid is fine…


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