The following is part of a series by our friends at CSRHub (a 3p sponsor) - offering free sustainability and corporate social responsibility ratings on over 5,000 of the world’s largest publicly traded companies. 3p readers get 40% off CSRHub's professional subscriptions with promo code “TP40“.
This post originally appeared on the CSRHub blog.
By Carol Pierson Holding
Last month, Newt Gingrich-trained spokesman for anti-global warming forces, Mark Morano, announced “collapse of global warming science” on Fox TV. And he’s got legions reiterating his message. According to Morano, 7 of 8 lobbyists on global warming are now "anti-action" lobbyists.
With record low temperatures last winter, Morano might seem to have a point. Except that the unprecedented storms pushed global warming proponents away from the term “global warming” some time ago. That side now refers to the issue as “climate change.”
Morano’s sponsor is very good at using language to re-frame issues and reposition science. Its mission sounds righteous: “to promote free market solutions to environmental problems.”
Its tag line is masterful: mankind faces a threat "not from man-made global warming, but from man-made hysteria."
Morano’s sponsor’s name? Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.
On the other side of the free market climate change discussion you’ve got such names as “Sustainability,” “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),” and “Socially Responsible Investing (SRI).” So you can see why climate change forces might want to rethink their language.
And indeed, controversies rage over naming in every corner of the sustainability world:
Perhaps the most interesting effort to get the language right is currently being undertaken by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. The ISSP Sustainability Lexicon Project™ was prompted by recent articles in mainstream business publications like Forbes and the Financial Times, which questioned the language used by sustainability experts. Ira Feldman spearheaded the Lexicon Project to address the question members were asking: “How can the profession speak with one voice, when we are speaking in many tongues?” The Lexicon Project will meet at next week's ISSP conference in Portland to review the results of a member survey. Feldman is optimistic: “I think we will be able to move the needle . . . to better harmonize the sustainability dialogue among practitioners in varied disciplines.”
Getting the language right is so important that many of the ISSP's conference sessions address the topic. Filmmaker Randy Olson will give a keynote, urging attendees to focus less on the complex science behind sustainability and more on the stories that move and persuade. “It's time for the science community to realize they are getting out-communicated, and put more effort into understanding how today's communication environment works,” Olson says.
The conference agenda features “Stories from the Field” in every session. Even the data presenters are telling stories: Cynthia Figge of CSRHub, an online database that reports the CSR performance of 5,000 companies, will sit on the reporting and accountability panel, which she sees as an opportunity to tell “stories for the right-brained types, who look to numbers for the real story.”
If the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf is right and, “Language shapes the way we think and determines what we can think about,” then Feldman and the ISSP are definitely doing important work for the cause. I’ve been working in the field since 2001 and I still stumbled over how to refer to it. Is it a field? An industry? A practice? A religion? When will they tell us?
Carol Pierson Holding is a writer and an environmentalist; her articles on CSR can be found on her website.
CSRHub is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) ratings tool that allows managers, researchers, consultants, academics and activists to track the CSR and sustainability performance of major companies. We aggregate data from more than 100 sources to provide our users with a comprehensive source of CSR information on nearly 5,000 publicly traded companies in 65 countries. CSRHub is a B Corporation. Browse our ratings at www.csrhub.com.
CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on nearly 5,000 companies from 135 industries in 65 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.
CSRHub rates 12 indicators of employee, environment, community and governance performance and flags many special issues. We offer subscribers immediate access to millions of detailed data points from our 140-plus data sources. Our data comes from six socially responsible investing firms, well-known indexes, publications, “best of” or “worst of” lists, NGOs, crowd sources and government agencies. By aggregating and normalizing the information from these sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links each rating point back to its source.