John Bullock Lighting Design
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How Sustainability became Corporate Social Responsibility


A lot of very good work is being done in the name of Sustainability � even though most of those doing the work couldn�t give you a decent explanation of why that work is being done.

Yes � we all know that we have an energy crisis, but it�s actually two crises that are facing in opposite directions, but they don�t cancel each other out. Instead, we have a devil�s synergy. We�ve created a crisis of abundance and scarcity at the same time. We burn fossil fuels at such a rate that we�ve altered the planet�s weather patterns and crops are wasting in the fields (and, yes, it�s still raining!), while at the same time we are seeking out more reserves of the same stuff, despite the difficulty and cost of extraction. This is not a sustainable situation.

Our rate of consumption is creating a situation whereby one country buys the landscape of another country in order to enhance its mineral reserves (China has bought a mountain in Peru for its copper deposits). And at the same time as we�re stripping the land of its natural resources, we�re throwing away millions of tons of �old� stuff. This is not a sustainable situation.

Charles Dickens gave us Wilkins Micawber and his �something will turn up.� And we have political, business leaders and scientists who still believe the same thing. We have more analytical tools than the human race has ever seen and a future that is a state of acute peril. But there are still people of great influence who prefer not to believe what�s happening in front of there eyes and say �something will turn up�; cars running on water; nuclear fusion, mining the moon, alien technology �. something will turn up and we will be FREE!

So we continue to take and waste, applauding our attempts to do the same old things �more efficiently� � rather than wondering that, perhaps, there are some things best left undone.

Which is where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) comes in. We�re locked into a weird mind-set whereby the future will be secured by some, as yet unknown, technological marvel (and it really would need to be a marvel). What we need is a different mind-set; one that sees a wider picture and takes in a far wider view of what�s happening.

CSR understands that sustainability is bigger than a low-energy widget; it�s a low-energy widget that is designed, made, distributed and re-claimed as par of a single process. CSR involves not only the economic bottom line, but requires similar emphases on the social and environmental drivers that make up the fabric of human interaction.

True sustainable action via CSR recognises goals and principles that involve:
positive action on human rights and labour practices
protection of the environment
accepting full responsibility for the development of goods
social drivers (such as anti-corruption and fair trade action)
community involvement and development
This issues are managed under a system of Corporate Governance, ensuring that sustainability begins in the boardroom and filters right through the organisation.

SUSTAINABILITY may be the end, but a programme of CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY is the means to achieve it.

RIBA CPD in 2015

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