So, I was watching the television show COPS the other day….

For readers not from the U.S., COPS is on the opposite end of spectrum from, let’s say, Masterpiece Theater - it’s not the most educational bit of TV out there. But I digress…

There was an elderly woman in Miami who, driving her white Brougham Cadillac, hit a young woman who had stopped in the street to pick up a shoe she had dropped (you couldn’t dream up a better TV!). The elderly woman – probably in reaction to mowing down a fellow human being – fled the scene, leaving the young woman suffering from what EMTs described as “some major injuries…”

…When the cops traced the elderly woman to her home, they found the caddy, berthed, dented and streaked with blood. The cops found the elderly woman inside her home, and when they asked her why she had fled the scene, the woman said (quite indignantly) “because I didn’t know I had hit someone…she jumped out at me…..why hadn’t anyone tried to stop me? There were people there, they should have stopped me….”

Which brings me to my question: Why should companies take responsibility for the environment, labor issues, and generally being good, when so many of us Americans as individuals (including myself sometimes) don’t?

I was reading the Fleishman-Hillard blog recently. An earlier post talked about a survey they did on people’s attitudes towards CSR. One thing they discovered was that those highly concerned about the environment said they were twice as likely as others to say they would be extremely influenced to buy a “particular product or service knowing that the company they were buying from met some sort of global standard for social responsibility.” That’s good news, but what about those who aren’t “highly concerned?” Are there enough “highly concerned” people out there to make a difference? What about the rest of us who are “moderately,” or “faintly” or “I don’t give a darn” concerned?

I wonder sometimes if the public’s cry for corporate social responsibility is a kind of hypocrisy. Shouldn’t consumers hold themselves accountable for companies that provide them with low cost products at the cost of the environment, children, human health, etc? I’m sure some do, especially those who are “highly concerned.” But so should the rest of us unwashed masses! So I declare at this moment, that we need a GRI addressing ISR (Individual Social Responsibility)! And I think CEO David Novak would agree with me:

In this month’s issue of Fast Company magazine, Yum Brand’s Novak, talks about KFC’s (a Yum Brand brand) Famous Bowls*(TM), which actually looks like my mother’s cooking, but probably doesn’t taste as good. It is my mother’s cooking after all. I’ve got to giver her credit. All that aside, Novak makes a good point when the interviewer alludes to Novak’s participation in “the widening of America.”

Here’s the exchange:

FC: You’ve spent much of your career in the world of junk food. How do you reconcile running a fast-food company amid an obesity epidemic?

Novak:”Nobody is eating KFC every day. As much as we’d like that, it just doesn’t happen. The real issue is people are not taking enough personal responsibility for making sure that they balance their diet and exercise. I eat our products every day, and I work out every day.”

Here’s why we probably won’t go for a GRI for ISR: it’s hard to take responsibility for everything going on in one’s life. Isn’t it?

I read another blog recently wherein the writer talked about how challenging it was just to bring a personal CSR accountability to one’s decisions over only 24 hours.

Should I not watch COPS because it perpetuates the stereotype that only blacks commit crimes? Does my penchant for Judge Judy perpetuate something equally insidious?

Who wants to be judged in his or her personal life for every behavior he or she makes? Oh, and if you think you’d stand up to scrutiny, take this test sponsored by one of my favorite radio syndicates PRI. Ugh, my results show we’d need a universe of Earths to support my anti-enviro habits!

The fact is, it’s easier for me to point the finger than monitor my behavior. Heck, I’m doing it now, see how easy it is? But what I fail to remember when I’m doing that is there are three fingers pointing right back at me, as the saying goes. Should that let corporations off the hook? I don’t think so, but I do think that there’s room in my life to do less talking with that one finger and more listening to those three. Problem is, that hook sure is uncomfortable. Anyone want to let me off?

3 Responses to So, I was watching the television show COPS the other day….

  1. Igor says:

    John must be the one of those “I don’t give a darn” types.
    Great, insightfull article.
    It is sad but true that people do not want to take the responsibility for anything these days.

  2. perry gruber says:

    Thanks Igor for your comment. The post was about having fun about CSR with a little finger pointing (at myself mostly) thrown in for good measure. Of course, John is entitled to his opinion too. And to give him credit, I recognize my humor can be a bit…obscure…obtuse….and…opaque. :-)