I was a little stunned when I read the Guardians most recent article on ‘Insetting’. This is apparently a new incredible approach to ethical business. But reading a little deeper, it does comes across as perhaps just another buzz word that PR managers can use to overcome their green washing accusations.
It is fantastic that some organisations have finally realised that offsetting is just another useless expense. I see carbon offsetting as purely a means for companies to hush the campaigners and to buy a licence to continue with ‘business as usual’. However, many have noticed that it doesn’t tackle the central issue but rather skirts around it. Offsetting has now just become something that companies would prefer not to have. So bring on the new! I almost expect it to be hoisted up in bright flashing lights ‘INSETTING’. So what is insetting? It is when a company invests in charitable work related to their own supply chain which will in turn improve business processes, reduce carbon and benefit stakeholders working within companies direct supply chain.
But hang on, if companies are conducting their CSR (corporate social responsibility) correctly then ‘insetting’ is precisely what they should be doing anyway? I can imagine Michael Porter and Mark Kramer pulling out their hair in utter disbelief that a new word has had to be created to allow companies to gather up some common sense. It is starting to look like those dusty CSR brochures were just cosmetic brush ups on the companies already thickly applied foundation and glowing green wash.
So what is CSR?
- a long term objective for sustained profit maximisation
- a promotional tool
- a source of opportunity, innovation and competitive advantage
- social betterment and the ability to react to social pressures
According to the World Bank CSR is ‘the commitment of business to contribute to sustainable economic development, working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large to improve quality of life, in ways that are both good for business and good for development’. In other words, it makes complete business sense in a world of increasingly informed and ethically aware consumers.
However, CSR does take time and energy to initiate and that’s why offsetting is so popular. All companies need to do is pay a chunk of money and your carbon production is reduced or has completely vanished like a magic trick. But am I the only one that is terrified that ‘insetting’ has been welcomed as a relatively new concept and as an amazing new approach to streamlining business using sustainable approaches? I am no expert in in this field but I am worried that companies have either completely misunderstood the true potential of CSR, ignored it or are simply using their CSR brochure to prop open the secret escape route to ‘business as usual’.