Issue 019 / Bio-Leather, Recycling Habits & The Next Big Hot-Button CSR Issue

Reconsidered is a bi-weekly newsletter curating thought-provoking content on corporate social responsibility, sustainability and social impact. Click here to subscribe. 

This Week's Five Links

Special Investigation: The Paradise PapersThe Guardian
Corporate tax may just be the next hot-button CSR issue after last week’s leak of the so-called Paradise Papers — 13.4 million files that demonstrate the lengths companies and wealthy individuals go to evade taxes. This Guardian series highlights how Apple and Nike — two CSR darlings — secretly sheltered money in tax havens like the island of Jersey and Bermuda to avoid paying U.S. and Dutch corporate tax rates.

Study: CEOs Who Invest In Social Responsibility Initiatives Risk Their Jobs — NPR
Not the most inspiring headline — in fact, it’s pretty darn depressing. But then I listened to this recent NPR segment and realized that their definition of CSR is laughably outdated. It came as a relief — but also a reminder that there’s still a way to go before the mainstream business community sees the direct relationship between strategic social responsibility and the bottom line.

Leather Grown Using Biotechnology is About to Hit the CatwalkThe Economist
Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn-based biotechnology firm led by a DuPont alum, has genetically engineered a new material with all of the characteristics and qualities of natural leather. The leather industry has one of the dirtier supply chains in fashion, meaning that this innovation could have far-ranging social and environmental benefits.

150 Organizations Call for Ban on ‘Biodegradable’ Plastic Packaging — TriplePundit
For years, oxo-degradable plastic packaging has been marketed as a biodegradable, environmentally-preferable option to conventional plastic. However, studies now show that this form of packaging contributes to harmful micro-plastic pollution, spurring more than 150 organizations to call for its ban.

The Behavioral Economics of Recycling — Harvard Business Review
What makes someone recycle their waste, versus throw it in the rubbish bin? Behavioral economists from Boston University explore several biases that sway this decision: distortion bias, identity bias and moral licensing.

Apple claims to be the largest US corporate taxpayer, but by sheer size and scale it is also among America’s largest tax avoiders … [It] should not be shifting its profits overseas to avoid the payment of US tax, purposefully depriving the American people of revenue.
— U.S. Senator John McCain, quoted in "Apple Secretly Moved Parts of Empire to Jersey After Row Over Tax Affairs" (Guardian)

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Reconsidered on #ConsciousChatter

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the lovely Kestrel Jenkins about CSR communications, behavior change, the power of consumers and the "aha!" moments that led me to start Reconsidered.

🎧  You can listen to our conversation on Kestrel’s Conscious Chatter podcast.

Spotlight: Brand Purpose in Divided Times


"Us vs Them. Me vs You. Old vs Young. Rich vs Poor. We are feeling more divided than ever. Yet the path to brand relevance and resilience is recognizing what we have in common."

I couldn’t agree more. And I’m happy that BBMG and GlobeScan are building research to help brands do just that. Last month, the consultancies released a new report, “Brand Purpose in Divided Times,” intended to reconnect brands with the humans they are meant to be building for. 

To do this, they asked 16,000 people across 16 countries about their aspirations for their lives, families and communities. Their goal: to explore what the “good life” means in this day and age, and to extract insights that can help brands address challenges faced around the globe.

In the report, they surface four design principles that they feel are key:

  1. Start with Empathy. Don’t just study consumption habits; view consumers as the complex humans that they are.
  2. Define Your North Star. Find the intersection between why your company exists and what unmet human needs it can serve.
  3. Take a Stand. The chaotic social and political environment gives brands an opportunity to stand for what they believe in. Use it. 
  4. Start a Movement. Join forces with consumers, peers and unlikely allies to make a positive change that is bigger than any one actor can create on its own.

By embracing these principles, brands can move past traditional CSR, leveraging their strengths to address global challenges and designing with humanity at the center. It’s a powerful prospect, and one that I feel is more relevant now than ever.

Reconsidered is curated by Jessica Marati Radparvar. If you enjoyed reading it, please consider sharing it!