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Information, news and commentary on corporate social responsibility, especially in the New York City area. Linked to website
Maintained by John Tepper Marlin, Principal, CSRNYC.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alice Tepper Marlin Announces Retirement as SAI's CEO at End of 2015

Alice (in light blue jacket) marching with CEP's Steve Moody 
and Nobel Laureate George Wald at the Washington peace 
march on January 20, 1973, the day of Richard Nixon's second
 inauguration. Photo by Leon S. Reed.
The President and CEO of Social Accountability International (SAI), Alice Tepper Marlin, today announced her planned retirement from the position of CEO of the organization she founded in 1997.

Her retirement as CEO will take effect at the end of 2015. The Board of Directors of SAI has expressed its appreciation for having a full year to select her successor.

Immediately after the announcement, emails and social media posts have arrived testifying to the power of her work with SAI and its predecessor organization, the Council on Economic Priorities, which she founded in 1969, 45 years ago.

In 1990 she won the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes described as the "Alternative Nobel Prize". She was also the first woman to be named to the Ashoka Global Academy.

We were married in 1971. I am posting below highlights from some of the public expressions of appreciation of her life's work.

Leon S. Reed

Leon S. Reed wrote Military Maneuvers (CEP, 1975), about the interchange between the Department of Defense and military contractors:
Alice, as your first full-time professional (if that's what I was) employee, I wanted to thank you for giving me a great start on my career as well as the skills and values I needed to carry that career on.Your legacy will include not just the great work you have done personally, but also the dozens, probably hundreds of young people you inspired.
Craig Murphy, Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College:
Alice, Wow. What an important transition. You and Eileen have done so much to advance the most important human values to the global level. It will be a very hard to fill those shoes. 
Ann Medlock, Founder of the Giraffe Heroes Project:
Memo to the Search Committee: Finding the right person to succeed someone who's given her entire adult life to changing things for the better--that's a tricky business. If you choose someone who is merely a competent and experienced executive, without the passion, devotion and determination of Alice Tepper Marlin, the life-force will go out of SAI. Thus speaks this octogenarian who's watched Alice work since the 1960s!
Sridhar Rajagopal, CSR Consultant in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Dear Alice, what a humongous contribution yours has been. Mind blowing passion and commitment to make a difference. Hats off to you. I am sure you will continue to add value to the society in a different role.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Myth of Regulation-Free Gun Ownership in Switzerland

Gun ownership by country. The USA has the highest rate, 90 guns
per 100 civilian residents. Next come Yemen (and Serbia). The
Swiss rate is half that of the U.S. - 45 guns per 100.
Switzerland is frequently advanced as an example of a country where virtually all males have a gun and ammunition at home, and violence is low.

The causality is implied that having guns keeps the peace. This is a theme that is repeated by the National Rifle Association.

So should the U.S. rate of 90 guns per 100 civilians, twice that of Switzerland, make Americans twice as safe?

When I was in France during the week of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June, I joined with many Europeans in visiting those who died during that week in 1944, including my Uncle Willem, seeking to liberate Europe from Nazi rule.

I spoke with several people who live in Switzerland or who are familiar with the laws. They made clear to me that Switzerland is an example of a country with a high degree of regulation of guns. It is no paradise for people who want to own guns.

Here's what I was told, supplemented by information from two websites:

  • YES, training guns are still left with the Swiss militia when they leave their mandatory national service, if they choose to keep them.
  • BUT the guns must be kept locked away at home. 
  • NO military ammunition may, since 2007, be taken home. Only in the case of an national emergency will gun-owners be issued with ammunition from the local armory.
  • ONLY Swiss males who have completed their basic training (Rekrutenschule), which they must take when they are 20, get to keep their weapon.
  • THEY MUST remain part of the reserve militia until age 30 (age 34 for officers).
  • ONLY ONE GUN is issued to them, a 5.56x45mm SIG SG 550 rifle for enlisted personnel and/or the 9mm SIG P220 semi-automatic pistol for officers and medical and postal workers.
  • RECRUITS LEARN how to use these guns with a magazine that can shoot off many rounds automatically. 
  • HOWEVER, when their military training is over, the magazine is disabled.
  • BEFORE 2007, 50 rounds of 5.56 mm bullets or 48 rounds of 9mm bullets were issued to each  ex-soldier.
  • THE AMMUNITION WAS SEALED, and it was inspected regularly to ensure no unauthorized use had occurred.
  • SINCE 2007, the Swiss Federal Council ended the distribution of ammunition to soldiers and all previously issued ammunition was recalled. Only about 2,000 soldiers located near sensitive places like airports keep military-issued ammunition at home.
  • YES, YOU CAN BUY A GUN in Switzerland.
  • BUT to buy a handgun or a hunting gun, you must first go to the police and apply for a permit. The usual purpose for the permit is for "sport". If you have a clean record you will get one and with it you can buy up to three guns at a gun shop.
  • IF YOU SELL your gun, buyers must sign a form which they give to the seller as proof of the sale, and they must keep a copy. This way the police can trace where a gun goes to and comes from.
  • NONE OF THE ABOVE gives any Swiss male the right to carry a gun in public. For that a permit is required, usually only granted in cases where there is a special issue relating to the person's security.

  • This does not sound like the "right to bear arms" scenario as advocated by National Rifle Association supporters in the United States. In 2010, the entire nation of Switzerland, which has the same population as the City of New York, counted only 40 homicides involving firearms, out of 53 cases of homicide.

    The homicide rate in Switzerland is in the range of 0.5-0.7 per per 100,000 population, one of the lowest in the world. It is one-seventh the rate in the United States.

    A report from the Citizen Crime Commission of New York shows that shooters, like the ones in Oregon and Aurora and Newtown, have been able to kill far more people than otherwise possible because they had access to magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

    In a review of mass shooters over the last 30 years, the Commission found that those who used large-capacity magazines killed or injured 2.6 victims for every one killed by a mass shooter without a large-capacity magazine.

    Now that the myth of Swiss gun accessibility is addressed, take a look at the gun death rates and gun-ownership rates among U.S. states, courtesy of Mother Jones magazine.

    You don't have to be a statistics professor to see the relationship.

    Saturday, October 11, 2014

    The Nobel Peace Prize - A Good Ashoka Pairing

    Kailash Satyarthi (L) and Malala Yousafzai, joint winners of
     the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
    The New Yorker, once again, has done an impressive job of keeping up with the news and helping to spin it intelligently. Amy Davidson, Executive Editor of the magazine, posted a nearly instant analysis.

    Shared Nobel Prize Sends Message

    She says that the sharing of the Nobel Peace Prize sends a powerful message to the world -  that the task of keeping children in school instead of at war or in factories is one that we must all share in.

    Malala Yousafzai (17) and Kailash Satyarthi (60) were awarded this year's Peace Prize jointly for
    their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.
    Malala (as she is known to the world) and Satyarthi are yin and yang:
    • Malala is female, Satyarthi is male, 
    • Malala began her work and earned her fame as a child, Satyarthi is near retirement age, 
    • Malala is Pakistani, Satyarthi is Indian. 
    But they share characteristics. Not only have they fought for the rights of children in the Indian subcontinent, but also
    • Both have been attacked, Malala having been shot in the head by the Taliban, and Satyarthi facing armed guards to release children being enslaved in factories.
    • Both have appealed to the Western nations and their consumers, Malala by addressing the United Nations and Satyarthi by working through Bachpan Bachao Andolan to set up schools where so far 80,000 children who have been rescued from factory enslavement can be installed. 
    Both Are Connected to the Ashoka Fellowship

    Both Malala and Satyarthi have been involved with the Ashoka Fellowships.

    Satyarthi was himself an Ashoka Fellow. He has tried to pique and guide the consciences of Western rug consumers to buy only rugs woven by factories that ensure they do not enslave children, creating the Rugmark label and then GoodWeave International, a consumer labeling system like Rainforest Alliance, or Green Seal or SA8000. Satyarthi is the second Ashoka Fellow to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The first was Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel for his work in 2006. He is a member of the Ashoka Global Academywhich selected Alice Tepper Marlin as its first woman member and second American member (after the founder, Bill Drayton). 

    Malala, before becoming a champion for equal education, studied at the school of Ashoka Fellow Mohammed Ali, where she and other girls in Pakistan received access to education against the odds. It was here that Malala cultivated her change making skills. (I have already posted recent bios about two other women associated with Ashoka - Morgan Dixon, an incoming Fellow, and Kila Englebrook, a manager of the Ashoka Support Network.)

    The Nobel Committee has picked two winners, and Ashoka helped pave their way!

    Thursday, September 18, 2014

    Ashoka Support Network - NYC - Kila Englebrook (Comment)

    Kila Englebrook, Ashoka Support Network
    Last night I was privileged to attend the first meeting of an experiment that started in New York City with a meeting of about 25 Ashoka "fellows" and kindred spirits. I got to meet  Kila Englebrook, who is one of the organizers of the experiment.

    Ashoka is looking forward to continue bringing together the same people with an event of some kind in NYC every month. Similar initiatives are under way in Miami and San Francisco.

    Ashoka, of course, was created by Bill Drayton more than 30 years ago to enable "social entrepreneurs", a term he coined. It has invested in an average of 100 of these entrepreneurs every year, giving them the name of "fellows".

    They work on projects like road safety in Venezuela, prison reform in Turkey, nutrition in Thailand, housing in Kenya, and gender equality in Egypt. Most of them are working in Asia or Latin America. Ashoka itself is located in the Washington, D.C. area.

    The organization spent more than $6 million in its latest year on stipends for fellows to work full-time on a new idea, in economic development, human rights, civic participation, health and education.

    Now it wants to bring together its thousands of alumni in certain target communities to make them available to incoming social-entrepreneurship sympathies and interests. It is also adding to the mix business leaders who have signed up with the new Ashoka Support Network.

    While Ashoka itself has been operating in 70 countries, the ASN program is so far in only 22 countries. The 350 business leaders who have signed up for ASN are mostly concentrated in Europe so far. Only 10 percent are in the United States. Kila wants to change that! She sees "huge potential" in this country.

    I was at the meeting because Alice Tepper Marlin is a Global Fellow at Ashoka - someone who has created a social enterprise that is replicable in other countries.

    Kila Englebrook sees a great opportunity for networking - providing a channel for the social aspirations of businesses that are interested in contributing to change in the world as part of running a successful business, and making accessible to social entrepreneurs the wisdom and skills of people who have been making and selling products.

    Kila herself earned a BA in African Studies from Boston University, and joined Ashoka in 2007.  Since 2009, she has been working on partnership and resource development, as well as operations, spending much of her time in Nashville, Tenn. before she started her current work on ASN.


    At the meeting yesterday, a few people wondered if there were some way to speed up the rate at which Ashoka was contributing to change, because of the great needs in the world for social entrepreneurs to get busy. Ashoka's $40 million budget was not viewed as being enough.

    The response from other participants was that change-making is risky and that Ashoka has survived and grown by being cautious, working toward change by evolution rather than revolution.

    This is a healthy debate and I think the experiment is proving its worth. Kila has a tiger by the tail.

    Friday, September 5, 2014

    Ten Tips for Asserting the Value of Your CSR Spending

    Budget Time Is Pruning Time.
    It's hard to pinpoint the return on investment of “social” spending. Yet CSR has become a proxy for social licence to operate and not allocating adequate resources in this area is seen as a risk.

    CSR managers often lack the tools, metrics and capacity to assess and describe their program’s performance. As a result, their positions and budgets are vulnerable.

    The following ten tips are abbreviated from the fine list in the Guardian this week by Paul Klein, president and founder of Totonto-headquartered Impakt, which helps corporations and civil-society organizations become social-purpose leaders:

    1. Assume CSR Acceptance. Start from the position that the person you report to accepts that CSR is necessary but is highly skeptical of its value relative to other parts of the business.

    2. Show How Part of CEO Plan. Demonstrate that your initiatives align with the priorities of the CEO. While the resources allocated to CSR are small, few aspects of business have the potential to get the attention and support of the company’s most senior leadership.

    3. Secure the Support of Finance. This is the toughest internal stakeholder group and the one whose opinion matters most at this time of year. (See #9.)

    4. Indicate the Value of Every Aspect.  Find metrics where your program is quantifiable (eg a successful cause marketing program).

    5. Find Out How Your Initiatives Are Working. How does CSR influence the stakeholder group that matters most to your company’s growth? For example, if you are a B2B company you should know whether or not your CSR initiatives are influencing the acquisition of new customers.

    6. Show How CSR Costs Are Being Leveraged. This could include providing data or statements from other managers that substantiate the value of CSR initiatives.

    7. Stay Away from Generic Metrics.  Executives want to know how value is being delivered specifically in your company.

    8. Get People Involved.  Create opportunities for executives to have direct experience with the stakeholders who benefit from CSR.

    9. Commit to Delivering More Value. Take a sharp pencil to corporate philanthropy, non-profit partners costs, time and money spent on CSR reports.

    10. Innovate. Take your program to the next level.


    I think the best example of all this is the workplace innovation of the Rapid Results 100-Day Program. I have written up how that has been working (very successfully) in Brazil. The last tip, taking the program to the next level, has an exact analog in the 100-Day Program.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    Transparency Matters

    I was just reminded of Shopping for a Better World by a post on the subject of transparency by a Dunstan Allison-Hope of BSR, a fan of the book.

    He noted how helpful the book was in making information available about companies and products that were hard to research, especially in the days before there was Grandma Google to consult with.

    One of the ways that the book helped extract information about corporate compliance or performance relative to certain criteria in the book was to give companies points for transparency.

    It worked. For some reporters the biggest sin became not providing information that was requested. Even if a company's record was bad, they often made the decision that it was better to get a good record for transparency than to stonewall.

    There was upside to that decision. After all, a bad record is usually an easy one to improve on.

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    CSRNYC Blog Just Passed 30,000 Page Views

    Thank you for reading.
    The CSRNYC blogpost was started in May 2006, with a break in 2009-2011.

    Since May 2006, I have added more than 90 posts on this site. The two most-viewed posts relate to the International Cocoa Verification Board.

    Ranked third is a post on Wal-Mart's first initiatives on the CSR front. Fourth-ranked is a comment on the LEED ratings.

    Fifth-ranked describes a meeting between the late Milton Friedman and my wife Alice Tepper Marlin.

    Your reading this blog is appreciated.

    Top Ten Posts Based on Page Views (Since 2007)

    Jan 18, 2009   1865

    Feb 14, 2008   658

    Jan 15, 2008, 3 comments   283