Book Review – The Responsibility Revolution

I must admit I had a bit of a hard time finishing this book – was a bit imagegranola – but nevertheless – points out that in the long term – we do have to become good corporate citizens.

One thing that stuck in my mind is that any company that feeds consumptions or manufacturing is inherently polluting – so its only a question of how much.   Some nice vignettes about business stories, especially what they are doing at Linden Labs.   I actually quite liked what Linden has done.    Only thing is that lot of these business have not stood the test of time – so – in initial phases it all looks good – but interesting to see how the long term plays out.

 

 

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The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win by Bill Breen

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Last annotated on May 30, 2010

For example, Hollender is a deep believer in transparency, an idea that most businesses embrace in principle but find terrifying in practice—for good reason. A company that reveals its demerits as well as its merits opens itself up to a never-ending and invariably humbling journey of examining facts, listening to others’ views, reflecting, and learning. Those organizations that do it well build a culture that embraces high levels of self-criticism and a willingness to challenge management’s most cherished beliefs—including its privilege to make decisions behind closed doors. Such a culture inevitably extends to all members of the organization and beyond, including those who are neither employees nor experts in the business.Read more at location 151

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We went on to do many more things that broke with business convention. We criticized our own products. We gave stock to all our employees. We limited senior management’s salaries to no more than fourteen times the earnings of our most junior staffer. Dogs roamed through our Burlington, Vermont headquarters. One office was turned into a nap room. Instead of promoting our products, we endorsed Bill Clinton and Al Gore on the cover of our mail-order catalog.Read more at location 170

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This fundamental shift from the “for-profit” model to one that’s “for-purpose (and profits)” was heralded long ago by such seers as Peter Drucker, who opined that “every social and global issue is a business opportunity just waiting for the right kind of inventive entrepreneurship, the right kind of investment, the right kind of collective action.”6 The right moment for Drucker’s vision has been a long time coming, but it has most certainly arrived.Read more at location 298

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Although the notion that there’s good business in confronting society’s most vexing challenges was once dismissed by many as a misguided mantra, it has now entered the mainstream of business thinking.Read more at location 302

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“Do corporations exist solely to maximize their bottom lines?” the magazine asked, in a subhead to a March 2008 article. Its emphatic reply: “We don’t think so.”10Read more at location 315

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David Suzuki, who has perturbed many an industrialist with his observation that “the industrialized world has only 20 percent of Earth’s population but uses more than 80 percent of the resources and produces more than 80 percent of the toxic waste.”Read more at location 343

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founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin proclaimed that, “Talented people are attracted to Google because we empower them to change the world.”Read more at location 361

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He understands that customers reward companies that contribute to society.Read more at location 384

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Contract factories that invest in people and treat their workers well tend to improve efficiency (read: lower prices) and product quality, which grows their business—and helps to grow their customers’ business results.Read more at location 392

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Given that many executives now see corporate responsibility as a source of competitive advantage—or, at a minimum, as an inescapable priority—we should expect that a sizable number of companies have mastered it. Some have.Read more at location 450

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4. Bring consumers inside. Truly responsible companies aren’t monoliths. They know that “no one is as smart as everyone.” The more heads they get into the game, the better the chance that they’ll make a real difference in the market and in the world. IBM is filled with Mensa-level thinkers, but it doesn’t rely solely on them.Read more at location 569

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“What does the world need most that our business is uniquely able to provide?”Read more at location 587

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A company is far more likely to win extraordinary contributions from people when they feel they are working toward some goal of extraordinary consequence. Equally important, purpose-driven companies are magnets for partners—from suppliers to customers to the larger community—which heightens the organization’s capacity to seize onRead more at location 656

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“The beauty of being a co-op is we’ll never sell out,” says Siemon. “We don’t have this constant threat of exit strategies, mergers, or a change in ownership. All of that is a lot of noise to a business. We don’t have that noise. We’re a cooperative that’s driven by mission. We have permission to think long term.”Read more at location 790

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To make their pitch, they objectively mapped M&S’s performance against sixteen social and environmental challenges to the company’s food business—animal welfare, fair trade, pesticides, lead standards, packaging, and more. Just as important, they benchmarked the competition against those same issues. Then they put the question to the chief of the company’s food business: where do you want Marks & Spencer to win?Read more at location 958

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Spurred by the CEO’s warning that “complacency kills,” Marks & Spencer doubled down on its sustainability bets.Read more at location 997

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Challenge: Communicating the strategy. Solution: Keep it simple. Say what you mean and do what you say.Read more at location 1013

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Challenge: To get everyone on board and hold people accountable. Solution: Go public with your commitments.Read more at location 1032

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• Think competitively. The mission is not a feel-good strategy. It’s a battle plan. • Commit to an audacious goal—one that’s big enough to inspire people to do more. • Define targets, set deadlines. Progress will come only when people are clear about what comes next. • Billboard your values and your goals. The prospect of a very public hanging will spur urgency and action. • Conduct a series of continual companywide—and communitywide—conversations.Read more at location 1104

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Gary Hamel, the author and business strategist. In his book The Future of Management (written with this book’s coauthor, Bill Breen), Hamel argued that communities excel at “inspiring people to go above and beyond. When it comes to mobilizing human capability, communities outperform bureaucracies.”8 In a workplace that operates like a community, people are propelled by a cause that’s bigger than “to increase shareholder value.”Read more at location 1162

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Recognition is a fertilizer for ambition. When you are publicly acknowledged for going beyond the call of duty and you’re compensated with a bonus—the corporate equivalent of hazardous duty pay—it’s unlikely that you’ll shy away from the next big battle.Read more at location 1263

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Each quarter, every associate is given an equal share of a portion of Linden’s net profit—recently, about one thousand dollars per person. The money comes with one stipulation: you cannot keep it for yourself. You must click on the Rewarder and use it to redistribute your share to those whom you believe did the most to help the company over the past three months. You can send the total to one overachiever or divide it among several. It’s your call. The Rewarder’s two-year history shows that, by and large, it does a superior job of fairly recognizing performance. No doubt a few may abuse the system and patronize their friends. But most people tend to do the right thing, because the Rewarder empowers them to steer the company in the right direction. “If you want this company to succeed,” says Rosedale, “you’ll give the money away in a rational manner.” The Rewarder takes one of the more politically fraught calls that any company must make—deciding with whom to share the spoils of its success—and invites the entire community to decide. It defuses the problem by decentralizing it.Read more at location 1268

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Hierarchical Risk #2: The big dogs at the sharp end of the pyramid wield the annual performance review as a way to preserve their power advantage. Linden’s Remedy: Invite the community to review the big dogs.Read more at location 1283

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One example: each quarter, when he was the CEO, Rosedale would use SurveyMonkey.com to send out a quick questionnaire to everyone in the company. He posed three questions: 1. “Do you want to keep me or find a new CEO?” 2. “Over the last three months, did I get better at this job or worse?” 3. “Why?” The voting was completely anonymous, so people felt protected enough to deliver frank feedback, and Rosedale shared the results from those first two questions with Linden’s entire community. He kept the responses to that third question to himself; almost invariably, people’s comments were uncompromising and plenty powerful.Read more at location 1297

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Hierarchical Risk #3: Managers define and assign tasks, with little or no input from those who must do the work. Linden’s Remedy: Give people the freedom to design their own jobs.Read more at location 1321

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Linden was organized around one fundamental rule: “Tell everybody in an email every week what you are doing, then make some progress and tell everybody in an email how you did it.”17 That way, the pressure to perform comes not from bosses, but from peers—a far more powerful group of motivators.Read more at location 1331

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One: Transparency fuels accountability. Just as transparency forces companies to respond to their stakeholders, it prompts individual associates to answer to their peers. When Lindenites post their weekly objectives and their achievements, they’re visible to the entire organization. People know, with crystal clarity, who’s stumbling and who’s coming through. Linden strives for the same high degree of transparency that you’d find on a basketball court. Even as you’re racing down-court, you can see, out of the corner of your eye, how your teammates are doing. You know who’s open and who needs help. And everybody knows the score.Read more at location 1356

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Two: Purpose matters. When a company’s self-conception doesn’t extend much beyond its financial objectives, it more than likely won’t stretch people’s ambition and drive.Read more at location 1361

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There’s no denying that exposing secrets and revealing blemishes runs against the grain of conventional business wisdom. Transparency is scary; it’s not what most businesspeople are prepared for. Such practices might seem both radical and impractical, but they are rapidly moving into the mainstream.Read more at location 1594

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Common sense suggests, and data affirms, that the more consumers perceive a company as trustworthy, the more goods and services it will sell.Read more at location 1612

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“It is not OK to assign blame for environmental degradation elsewhere—the production, distribution, and use of Patagonia products is causing damage.”Read more at location 1711

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Face Facts: “Green” Companies PolluteRead more at location 1713

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If you are in the business of making things, as Chouinard once put it in an interview with TreeHugger, “no matter how clean and green [you] try to be, [you] are still a net polluter.”14 Don’t try to kid yourself into thinking that you aren’t.Read more at location 1723

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Any customer-service rep could knock back a softball question like “Why are you doing business in China?” But increasingly, Patagonia was whiffing on the fastballs: “What are you doing about your China-based manufacturers, who use electricity from coal-fired energy plants that spew tons of heat-trapping gases across Asia?” For that, Patagonia just didn’t have a good answer.Read more at location 1746

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miles traveled, waste produced, carbon dioxide emitted, and energy consumed.Read more at location 1770

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How can you build a transparency imperative into your organization when you’re not the CEO and not everyone dares to climb out of the foxhole and welcome outside critics when they start gunning?Read more at location 1868

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Seize the Crisis These words have been attributed to Stanford economist Paul Romer: “[A] crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”Read more at location 1880

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Now Timberland is quietly seeking to have a similar impact on the way companies make and sell their footwear. Timberland’s tool for change is the Green Index tag, about half the size of a baseball card, that’s displayed on many of its shoeboxes. The Green Index is a marvel of minimalism. Timberland streamlined its sprawling environmental audit to create a label that assesses, on a scale of 0 (best) to 10 (worst), each pair of shoes’ impact on climate change, as well as the resources and chemicals used to make them. The Green Index gives consumers a quick, accessible take on key elements of the product’s sustainability performance—the good and the bad.Read more at location 2000

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gas.” As the announcer put it, Chevy has gone from “gas friendly to gas free.”1 But the small print that flashed at the end of the ad captured the Volt’s true distinctiveness: “Not yet available for sale.” That’s right. General Motors was using real ads and spending real money to promote a nonexistent product. The car’s make-or-break battery technology had not been fully developed; back then, GM merely hoped to start mass production by late 2010. It would have been a boon for the environment—and for the U.S. auto industry—ifRead more at location 2030

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“Practically all consumers desire authenticity.”6Read more at location 2053

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“There’s no such thing as sustainable manufacturing,” says Patagonia’s chief of environmental initiatives, Rick Ridgeway. “It just doesn’t exist. The flip side of ‘no unnecessary harm’ is our recognition of the fact that many of our activities are harmful.”19Read more at location 2185

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“If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” TheRead more at location 2254

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An exhaustive study later showed that Nike’s own business practices, such as mandating tight product-delivery deadlines that drove up overtime, were helping to fuel violations of the very labor codes that Nike itself had established. Only then did Nike understand that it had to “manage corporate responsibility as a core part of the business.”Read more at location 2292

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“The great apes communicate almost exclusively for the purpose of getting others to do what they want,” writes Michael Tomasello, the institute’s codirector, in a New York Times Magazine essay describing the experiment. “Human infants, in addition, gesture and talk in order to share information with others—they want to be helpful.”11Read more at location 2498

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“No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.” The Internet, however, has revealed a very brightRead more at location 2693

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Absolutists like Robert Reich, a political commentator and professor at Berkeley who served as secretary of labor under Bill Clinton, argue that a corporation is a legal entity whose sole responsibility is to its officers, employees, and shareholders—but not to society.Read more at location 2875

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Corporations aren’t moral; they aren’t immoral. Nor are they conscious or conscientious.Read more at location 2879

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The term “corporate” emanates from the Latin corporatus or “made into a body,” and anyone who visits a business can’t help but see it for what it truly is: a voluntary “body” of individuals engaged in a common pursuit. If the corporation is to succeed—if it is to grow revenue and contribute positively to society—it must have a high degree of unified consciousness.Read more at location 2888

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Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society.6 The book underlines the notion that much of the way we move through life falls within deeply grooved patterns of habit. The way we start our workday, read the newspaper, conduct ourselves in a meeting, watch a sunset—most of what we do, we do as we’ve done before. The result is that more often than not, the possibility of achieving real change resides outside of our self-imposed mental models. Whether it’s designing a better product, spying a breakthrough business opportunity, becoming a better parent—those unrealized achievements are to be found in behavioral territory we rarely (if ever) visit.Read more at location 2904

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Amazon’s workplace culture, for example, is “obsessed with today’s customer”Read more at location 2959

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butRead more at location 2960

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Although the genetic code of a company’s culture is imprinted during its earliest days, its beliefs and values often recede into the background as people focus on the urgent task of growing the business. If the enterprise survives and prospers, there inevitably comes a time when significant success forces people to confront a conundrum: What’s our purpose? Where are we headed? What should our business accomplish over the next three, five, or even ten years?Read more at location 2970

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