Wednesday, 21 March 2012

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Sunday, 18 March 2012

CSR 2.0 as a New DNA for Business

Part 6 of 13 in Wayne Visser's Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.
By May 2008, it was clear to me that the evolutionary concept of Web 2.0 held many lessons for CSR, and I began to develop my thinking around CSR 2.0. It quickly became clear, however, that a metaphor can only take you so far. What was needed was a set of principles against which we could test CSR. These went through a few iterations, but I eventually settled on five, which form a kind of mnemonic for CSR 2.0: Creativity (C), Scalability (S), Responsiveness (R), Glocality (2) and Circularity (0). These principles, which will be explored in detail in the next blog posts, can be described briefly as follows:
Creativity  – The problem with the current obsession with CSR codes and standards (including the new ISO 26000 standard) is that it encourages a tick-box approach to CSR. But our social and environmental problems are complex and intractable. They need creative solutions, like Free-play’s wind-up technology or Vodafone’s M-Pesa money transfer scheme.
Scalability – The CSR literature is liberally sprinkled with charming case studies of truly responsible and sustainable projects. The problem is that so few of them ever go to scale. We need more examples like Wal-Mart ‘choice editing’ by converting to organic cotton, Tata creating the affordable eco-efficient Nano car or Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen microfinance model.
Responsiveness – More cross-sector partnerships and stakeholder-driven approaches are needed at every level, as well as more uncomfortable, transformative responsiveness, which questions whether particular industries, or the business model itself, are part of the solution or part of the problem. A good example of responsiveness is the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change.
Glocality – This means ‘think global, act local’. In a complex, interconnected, globalising world, companies (and their critics) will have to become far more sophisticated in combining international norms with local contexts, finding local solutions that are culturally appropriate, without forsaking universal principles. We are moving from an ‘either-or’ one-size-fits-all world to a ‘both-and’ strength-in-diversity world.
Circularity – Our global economic and commercial system is based on a fundamentally flawed design, which acts as if there are no limits on resource consumption or waste disposal. Instead, we need a cradle-to-cradle approach, closing the loop on production and designing products and processes to be inherently ‘good’, rather than ‘less bad’, as Shaw Carpets does.
I believe that CSR 2.0 – or Systemic CSR (I also sometimes call it Radical CSR or Holistic CSR, so use whichever you prefer) – represents a new model of CSR. In one sense, it is not so different from other models we have seen before. We can recognise echoes of Archie Carroll’s CSR Pyramid, Ed Freeman’s Stakeholder Theory, Donna Wood’s Corporate Social Performance, John Elkington’s Triple Bottom Line, Stuart Hart and C.K. Prahalad’s Bottom of the Pyramid, Michael Porter’s Strategic CSR and the ESG approach of Socially Responsible Investment, to mention but a few. But that is really the point – it integrates what we have learned to date. It presents a holistic model of CSR.
The essence of the CSR 2.0 DNA model are the four DNA Responsibility Bases, which are like the four  nitrogenous bases of biological DNA (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine), sometimes abbreviated to the four-letters GCTA (which was the inspiration for the 1997 science fiction film GATTACA). In the case of CSR 2.0, the DNA Responsibility Bases are Value creation, Good governance, Societal contribution and Environmental integrity, or VEGS if you like. Each DNA Base has a primary goal and each goal has key indicators.
Hence, if we look at Value Creation, it is clear we are talking about more than financial profitability. The goal is economic development, which means not only contributing to the enrichment of shareholders and executives, but improving the economic context in which a company operates, including investing in infrastructure, creating jobs, providing skills development and so on. There can be any number of KPIs, but I want to highlight two that I believe are essential: beneficial products and inclusive business. Does the company’s products and services really improve our quality of life, or do they cause harm or add to the low-quality junk of what Charles Handy calls the ‘chindogu society’. And how are the economic benefits shared? Does wealth trickle up or down; are employees, SMEs in the supply chain and poor communities genuinely empowered?
Good Governance is another area that is not new, but in my view has failed to be properly recognised or integrated in CSR circles. The goal of institutional effectiveness is as important as more lofty social and environmental ideals. After all, if the institution fails, or is not transparent and fair, this undermines everything else that CSR is trying to accomplish. Trends in reporting, but also other forms of transparency like social media and brand- or product-linked public databases of CSR performance, will be increasingly important indicators of success, alongside embedding ethical conduct in the culture of companies. Tools like Goodguide, KPMG’s Integrity Thermometer and Covalence’s EthicalQuote ranking will become more prevalent.
Societal Contribution is an area that CSR is traditionally more used to addressing, with its goal of stakeholder orientation. This gives philanthropy its rightful place in CSR – as one tile in a larger mosaic – while also providing a spotlight for the importance of fair labour practices. It is simply unacceptable that there are more people in slavery today than there were before it was officially abolished in the 1800s, just as regular exposures of high-brand companies for the use of child-labour are despicable. This area of stakeholder engagement, community participation and supply chain integrity remains one of the most vexing and critical elements of CSR.
Finally, Environmental Integrity sets the bar way higher than minimising damage and rather aims at maintaining and improving ecosystem sustainability. The KPIs give some sense of the ambition required here – 100% renewable energy and zero waste. We cannot continue the same practices that have, according to WWF’s Living Planet Index, caused us to lose a third of the biodiversity on the planet since they began monitoring 1970. Nor can we continue to gamble with prospect of dangerous – and perhaps catastrophic and irreversible – climate change.
In the rest of this blog series, I will explore what a different approach – CSR 2.0 – may look like.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Cracking the CSR Codes Puzzle

By Dr Wayne Visser

Part 5 of 13 in Wayne Visser's Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

Looking back, we can see that the 1990s were the decade of CSR codes – not only EMAS, ISO 14001 and SA 8000, but also the Forest Steward Council (FSC) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification Schemes, Green Globe Standard (tourism sector), Corruption Perceptions Index, Fairtrade Standard, Ethical Trading Initiative, Dow Jones Sustainability Index and OHSAS 18001 (health & safety), to mention just a few. But all that was just a warm up act when we look at the last 10 years, when we have seen codes proliferate in virtually every area of sustainability and responsibility and all major industry sectors. So much so that in the A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility, we included over 100 such codes, guidelines and standards – and that was just a selection of what it out there. To illustrate the point, here is a sample of what has been thrust onto corporate agendas since the year 2000:

The Carbon Disclosure Project; Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation; GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines; Kimberley Process (to stop trade in conflict diamonds); Mining and Minerals for Sustainable Development (MMSD) Project; UN Global Compact; UN Millennium Development Goals; Voluntary Principles on Human Rights; FTSE4Good Index; Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS; Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Business Principles for Countering Bribery; Publish What Pay Campaign; Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development; London Principles (finance sector); AA 1000 Assurance Standard; Equator Principles (finance sector); Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil; Global Corruption Barometer; UN Convention Against Corruption; UNEP Finance Initiative; UN Norms on Business and Human Rights; World Bank Extractive Industries Review; AA 1000 Standard for Stakeholder Engagement; EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; ISO 14064 Standard on Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Verification; Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change; Bribe Payers’ Index; UN Principles for Responsible Investment; ClimateWise Principles (insurance sector); UNEP Declaration on Climate Change; UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME); Bali, Poznan and Copenhagen Communiqués (climate change) ... and many, many more.

No wonder companies are suffering from code fatigue and audit exhaustion. It is the supreme paradox of the Age of Management – companies are pressured to standardise their efforts on sustainability and responsibility, while stakeholders and critics (myself included) remain unconvinced that this approach identifies or addresses the root causes of the problems we face. Many of the institutional failures over the past 20 years have, I would argue, been systemic failures of culture, rather than bureaucratic failures of management; they have more to do with a prevailing set of values than a particular set of procedures.

The latest in this code-mania is ISO 26000 on Social Responsibility. I have suggested before that ISO 26000 is like a teddy bear – something cute and fluffy, which may help companies sleep better at night, but nothing like the grizzly bear that we really need to shake business out of their CSR complacency. Of course, it is unfair of me to make so light of a five-year international process of negotiation involving over 90 countries, which managed to reach some measure of agreement on such tricky issues as human rights and fair operating practices. But I really do believe that, as a non-certifiable guidance standard that promotes a strategic approach to CSR (rather than a transformative CSR 2.0 agenda), ISO 26000 may prove to be more of a damp squib than a big bang.

Having said that, I must give ISO 26000 its due – as a foundation document that encapsulates the international consensus on social responsibility, it is to be applauded and recommended. Its greatest achievement – and what I expect may prove to be its most enduring legacy – is the way in which it broadens the scope of CSR, first beyond big corporates to any organisation, and second beyond an exclusive focus on philanthropic community development to incorporate six other core subjects, namely organisational governance, human rights, labour rights, the environment, fair operating practices and consumer issues.

Besides this, countries like Denmark are ignoring ISO’s strong declaration against ISO 26000 certification schemes and have begun developing their own certifiable national standard, DS 26000. I expect consultants will also increasingly offer ISO 26000 compliance auditing services, irrespective of whether these are sanctioned by ISO. The fact is that business, governments and civil society alike want standards on social responsibility with ‘teeth’. A decade of weak standards without sanction, like the UN Global Compact and AA 1000, as compared with tougher certification schemes like SA 8000 and the Forest Stewardship Council, have taught us where real value lies.

I believe that the codes-based approach, which I call Strategic CSR in an Age of Management, fails on three counts. First, the incremental approach of CSR, while replete with evidence of micro-scale, gradual improvements, has completely and utterly failed to make any impact on the massive sustainability crises that we face, many of which are getting worse at a pace that far outstrips any futile CSR-led attempts at amelioration.

Second, CSR is, at best, a peripheral function in most companies. There may be a CSR manager, a CSR department even, a CSR report and a public commitment to any number of CSR codes and standards. But these do little to change the underlying growth-and-consumption model that fuels environmental degradation and social disruption.

Third, the ‘inconvenient truth’ is that CSR sometimes pays, in specific circumstances, but more often, it is still uneconomic. Of course there are low-hanging fruit – like eco-efficiencies around waste and energy – but most of the hard-core CSR changes that are needed require strategic change and massive investment, which the markets don’t support.

So where does this leave us? I have argued so far that the Ages of Greed, Philanthropy, Marketing and Management have brought us to a point of crisis in CSR. Specifically, CSR is failing to turn around our most serious global problems – the very issues it purports to be concerned with – and may even be distracting us from the real issue, which is business’s role causal role in the social and environmental crises we face. In the rest of this blog series, I will explore what a different approach – CSR 2.0 – may look like.

About the author

Dr Wayne Visser is Founder and Director of the think-tank CSR International and consultancy Kaleidoscope Futures Ltd. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business (2011), The World Guide to CSR (2010) and The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility (2010). He is the author of over 180 publications (chapters, articles, etc.) and has delivered more than 170 professional speeches on in over 50 countries in the last 20 years. In addition, Wayne is Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, Visiting Professor of Sustainability at Magna Carta College, Oxford, and Adjunct Professor of CSR at Warwick Business School, UK.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Broken Promises: BP’s slide backwards into Promotional CSR

By Wayne Visser

Part 4 of 13 in Wayne Visser's Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

By 2000, John Browne, then-CEO of BP, felt the company had earned enough sustainability kudos to risk a major rebranding. The company reportedly spent $7 million in researching the new ‘Beyond Petroleum’ Helios brand and $25 million on a campaign to support the brand change. When Browne justified the exercise by saying ‘it’s all about increasing sales, increasing margins and reducing costs at the retail sites’, perhaps more people should have tempered their expectations. Certainly Greenpeace wasn’t duped, concluding at the time that ‘this is a triumph of style over substance. BP spent more on their logo this year than they did on renewable energy last year’.

Antonia Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil (2008), was similarly sceptical, claiming that at its peak, BP was spending 4% of its total capital and exploratory budget on renewable energy and that this has since declined, despite Browne’s announcement in 2005 of BP’s plans to double its investment in alternative and renewable energies ‘to create a new low-carbon power business with the growth potential to deliver revenues of around $6 billion a year within the next decade.’

Sceptics notwithstanding, Browne had earned his new title as the ‘Sun King’ and his reputation was not only being earned with green stripes. BP was also one of the first companies to declare their support for the Publish-What-You-Pay campaign.  But success or failure is all about timing. If Browne had been a politician and had retired in 2003 after two four-year terms of office, he may still have been covered in glory, with his Sun King crown firmly in place. After all, he had turned BP into an oil major – perhaps even a competitor for Exxon Mobil – by creating a lean, mean, green machine. Instead, he hung onto power long enough to face the consequences of his own legacy of cost-cutting and rhetoric. As a result, between 2004 and 2007, the proverbial chickens came home to roost. Browne was left tarred and feathered.

On 23 March 2005, when an explosion and fire at BP’s Texas City refinery killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others. An investigation into the accident by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ultimately found over 300 safety violations and fined BP $21 million – the largest fine in OSHA history at the time. In 2007, in a separate settlement related to the explosion, BP pleaded guilty to a violation of the federal Clean Air Act and agreed to pay a $50 million fine and to make safety upgrades to the plant. Two years later, in 2009, OSHA imposed an additional $87 million in fines, claiming that the company had not completed all the safety upgrades required under the agreement and alleging 439 new ‘wilful’ safety violations.

In March 2006, BP was found to be criminally liable for a corroded pipe on Alaska’s North Slope that leaked 200,000 gallons of oil. In August of the same year, another leak appeared and the entire Prudhoe Bay operation had to be shut down. During the investigation, a federal grand jury subpoenaed records from a Seattle engineering firm that had been hired by Alaska to evaluate BP's pipeline-maintenance record and uncovered a draft report that was highly critical of BP, but somehow turned into a final report that was largely complimentary. Member of Congress, Rep. Jay Inslee, concluded that BP had made a ‘wilful, conscious decision’ to ‘quash that information from the public’.

By the time of Browne’s undignified exit into the wings of BP history in 2007, he was widely criticised for the dual crimes of greenwashing and instilling a cost-cutting culture that was the root cause of BP’s spate of safety and environmental incidents. Even the new CEO, Tony Hayward, a year before taking over, admitted that BP had ‘a management style that has made a virtue of doing more for less.’

After taking over, Hayward quickly showed that he was not one for green rhetoric. Less than six months into the job, he announced BP’s plans to invest nearly £1.5bn ($2.3) to extract oil from the Canadian wilderness – the so-called Alberta tar sands – an action which earned it a Guardian newspaper headline as ‘the biggest environmental crime in history’. Greenpeace claims that it takes about 29kg of CO2 to produce a barrel of oil conventionally, but as much as 125kg for tar sands oil. It also believes the production threatens a vast forest wilderness, greater than the size of England and Wales, which forms part of one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks.

Two years later, Hayward’s apparent ‘back to the petroleum’ strategy gained momentum when BP announced that it had shut down its alternative energy headquarters in London, accepted the resignation of its clean energy boss and imposed cuts in the alternative energy budget - from $1.4bn (£850m) in 2008 to between $500m and $1bn in 2009. Bizarrely, Hayward used this occasion to stress that BP remained as committed as ever to exploring new energy sources. No wonder Grist journalist Joseph Romm responded with an incredulous rant: ‘Seriously, they gut the program and claim it is "reinforcement" of their commitment. Perhaps BP stands for "Beyond Prevarication" or "Beyond Pinocchio”.’

All of this history – the story of Browne, of Hayward and of BP – was like a dress rehearsal for the main event. I am referring of course to the catastrophic 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. That is covered in more detail in my book, The Age of Responsibility. For now, many questions remain unanswered: Will BP’s reputation recover? Will this prove to be the worst environmental disaster in history? Will we look back on the Macondo blowout as the inadvertent tipping point that ushers in a new low-carbon future? Students, professors and CSR wonks will study this case for years to come. But for the purposes of this blog, it is simply the latest drama in the BP saga – the story of a corporate leader in Strategic CSR, which managed to dethrone itself become a poster-company for Promotional CSR in an Age of Marketing.

About the author

Dr Wayne Visser is Founder and Director of the think-tank CSR International and consultancy Kaleidoscope Futures Ltd. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business (2011), The World Guide to CSR (2010) and The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility (2010). He is the author of over 180 publications (chapters, articles, etc.) and has delivered more than 170 professional speeches on in over 50 countries in the last 20 years. In addition, Wayne is Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, Visiting Professor of Sustainability at Magna Carta College, Oxford, and Adjunct Professor of CSR at Warwick Business School, UK.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Give a Man the Means to Fish: From Paternalistic Charity to Venture Philanthropy

By Dr Wayne Visser

Part 3 of 13 in Wayne Visser's Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

Give a man a fish and he will eat today. Teach a man to fish and he will eat tomorrow – or until his nets break. Invest in a man’s fishing business and he will feed himself and others for a long time to come. This is what it means to shift from paternalistic charity to venture philanthropy. It is an evolution that is important to root in a long and varied cultural tradition of philanthropy.

Confucius (551-479 BC) said: ‘When wealth is centralized, the people are dispersed. When wealth is distributed, the people are brought together.’ Hence, ‘a man of humanity is one who, in seeking to establish himself, finds a foothold for others and who, desiring attainment for himself, helps others to attain.’ When asked, ‘Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?’ he replied, ‘Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’.

This so-called Golden Rule, which we find in all the world’s major religions, has come to represent the very essence of charity. In fact, the word charity derives from Latin caritas, which meant preciousness, dearness, or high price. However, in Christian theology, caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agapē, meaning an unlimited loving-kindness to all others. Hence, in St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, we read, in the King James Version of the Bible, of ‘faith, hope and charity’. Of course, it is not only giving that is important, but also the nature of giving. There is a Jewish proverb that says: What you give for the cause of charity in health is gold; what you give in sickness is silver; what you give after death is lead. 

Islam also has a strong tradition of charity. Zakāt, or alms-giving for the purposes of alleviating poverty and helping those less fortunate, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The practice is generally in the form of an annual tithe or tax of 2.5% of an individual’s wealth, including money made through business, savings and income. The zakāt must also be above an agreed minimum (called nisab), which is said to be around $2,640 or the equivalent in any other currency. As important as the collection of zakāt in a community is its fair distribution among the needy. Another form of charitable action is sadaqah, which literally means ‘righteousness’ and refers to the voluntary giving of alms or charity. These ancient traditions are considered to be a personal responsibility for all Muslims, practiced out of love for humanity, to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality.

There are numerous other religious and cultural variations on the theme. Philanthropy in Latin America typically revolves around asistencialismo, which is charitable giving for poverty alleviation. Out of dedication to their religion, education and culture, Bulgarian communities raised donations to build churches, schools and cultural centres called chitalishta. In India, Gandhi’s trusteeship concept was adapted and applied to welfare acts. In Mexico, the Raramori, who still live in the mountains of the state of Chihuahua, use the expression korima, which means ‘to share’ resources in times of stress. In Southern Africa, ubuntu is the practice of humanism based on the collectivist notion that ‘I am a person through other people’.

So much for the roots and cultural traditions of philanthropy. Upon these foundations, the great philanthropists, ancient and modern, built their charities – from Rockefeller and Carnegie to Gates and Turner. The more interesting question, I think, is whether there is anything new and transformative about charitable giving?

One concept that has generated a lot of excitement is ‘venture philanthropy’. Seemingly, it has origins in another HBR article, ‘Virtuous Capital: What Foundations Can Learn from Venture Capitalists’, by Christine W. LettsWilliam Ryan and Allen Grossman in 1997. Their basic message was that corporate foundations can be more effective if they ‘develop hands-on partnering skills’, for which venture capital firms offer a helpful benchmark: ‘In addition to putting up capital, they closely monitor the companies in which they have invested, provide management support, and stay involved long enough to see the company become strong.’

Since then, the debate has raged about what venture philanthropy is and whether it is plausible, ethical and desirable. After all, if the venture capitalists are treating their donations as an investment with expectations of a financial return, then is it philanthropy, or just business? And is it feasible to expect charities like community development organisations to generate a financial return in the first place? And what about the distinction between venture philanthropy and social enterprise, or social business?

So what do we know? There are basically three models of venture philanthropy. The first is traditional foundations practicing high-engagement grantmaking. The second is organisations which are funded by individuals, but all engagement is done by professional staff. Examples cited include the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City and Tipping Point Community in the San Francisco Bay Area. The third is the partnership model, in which partner investors both donate the financial capital and engage with the grantees. An example is the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund in San Jose, California.

Without getting heavily into the venture philanthropy debate, I do believe that – as with strategic philanthropy – it is symptomatic of the shift in our approach to tackling society’s most intractable problems. What we have seen is that traditional charity has been, for the most part, invaluable in bringing about alleviation of social and environmental distress, but rather ineffective in achieving resolution of the problems themselves. The need for pure philanthropy, irrespective of its strategic alignment to donors, will always be there. There will always be emergencies, crises and urgent problems that don’t link conveniently to business interests.

Venture philanthropy, on the other hand, recognises that we need ways to scale up solutions, and one way is to link business with a social cause, and provide the capital it needs to be effective. Hence, I regard venture philanthropy as one of the transition tools that we need as we move to the Age of Responsibility, not least because it brings creativity and scalability to the table. It is one of the critical enablers that is facilitating the social enterprise revolution, which is discussed in more detail in later chapters.

About the author

Dr Wayne Visser is Founder and Director of the think-tank CSR International and consultancy Kaleidoscope Futures Ltd. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business (2011), The World Guide to CSR (2010) and The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility (2010). He is the author of over 180 publications (chapters, articles, etc.) and has delivered more than 170 professional speeches on in over 50 countries in the last 20 years. In addition, Wayne is Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, Visiting Professor of Sustainability at Magna Carta College, Oxford, and Adjunct Professor of CSR at Warwick Business School, UK.   

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Fat-Cats versus Alley-Cats: Why the Occupy Movement is Right

By Dr Wayne Visser

Part 2 of 13 in Wayne Visser's Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

The most common explanation for the global financial crisis is to point a finger at the banks. And rightly so. But I believe we also need to shine a spotlight on the greed and irresponsibility of executives, fat-cats like Lehman Brothers’ former CEO Richard Fuld. These are the enriched 1% that suck the lifeblood out of the fleeced 99% and which the Occupy Movement is justifiably targeting. Naming and shaming is important, but we need to realise that this is a systemic cancer in our economic and financial system.

It is also not a new phenomenon, but worrying it is showing signs of getting worse, not better. In 2000, Enron was the 7th largest company in America, with revenues of $111 billion and over 20,000 staff. When the company collapsed in 2001, due to various fraudulent activities fuelled by a culture of greed, the average severance payment was $45,000, while executives received bonuses of $55 million in the company's last year. Employees lost $1.2 billion in pensions; retirees lost $2 billion, but executives cashed in $116 million in stocks.

At the end of 2007, just before the crisis went public, Lehmans’ CEO Fuld and president Joseph Gregory paid themselves stock bonuses of $35 million and $29 million respectively. At the time, Fuld lived in an enormous Greenwich mansion, over 9,000 square feet, valued at $10 million. He had four other homes and an art collection valued at $200 million. Hardly a picture of responsible restraint.

Taken on their own, these executive pay packages are outrageous enough. But the extent of creeping executive greed comes into even sharper focus when we look at trends in relative pay. In 1965, U.S. CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than a typical worker, a ratio that grew to 35 in 1978 and to 71 in 1989. By 2000, it had hit 298, and despite falling to 143 in 2002 (after the post-Enron stock market slump), it bounced back again and has continued rising through the noughties (2000s).

The Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess report reveals that the 2010 ratio between average worker and average CEO compensation leaped to 325-to-1, up from in 263-to-1 in 2009. Among the nation's top firms, the S&P 500, CEO pay last year averaged $10,762,304, up 27.8 percent over 2009. Average worker pay in 2010? That finished up at $33,121, up just 3.3 percent over the year before.

According to Fair Economy, the average U.S. worker's salary could pay for 10 months of health insurance, 5 months of college tuition, and buy 10 percent of an average home. On the other hand, the average Fortune 500 CEO's salary could pay for 300 years of health insurance, 200 years of college tuition and buy 34.5 new homes.

But at least these CEOs are contributing through taxes, right? Wrong. In fact, corporate tax dodging has gone so out of control that 25 major U.S. corporations last year paid their chief executives more than they paid the U.S. government in federal income taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice, as part of a study on tax avoidance among the Fortune 500, has identified 12 corporations that have paid an effective rate of negative 1.5 percent on $171 billion in profits.

It is easy to go cross-eyed or brain-fried when confronted by a barrage of numbers like that. And yet, there was one particular number that shocked me so much when I read it   that it stuck in my mind. I believe I read it in Body Shop founder Anita Roddick’s wonderful and feisty book, Body and Soul. She claimed that it would take one Haitian worker producing Disney clothes and dolls 166 years to earn as much as Disney’s then president, Michael Eisner, earned in one day.

Reflecting on this, I wrote in my book Beyond Reasonable Greed: ‘rather than spreading around the wealth for the common good, it seems to us that Adam Smith’s invisible hand has a compulsive habit of feeding itself’. If decades of inaction by governments on executive pay is anything to go by, then we should not wait for our elected politicians to put restraints on the market’s invisible hands.

So that leaves us – civil society. And that is why I believe the Occupy Movement is a revolution whose time has come. But they need our support; they need our determination; they, even need our outrage. If they don’t get it, we will stand by shaking our self-righteous heads and watch as another generation of Wall Street fat-cats gets fatter at the expense of Main Street alley-cats – that’s us by the way: we, the middle class; we the people who create the real wealth of nations; we who need to say ‘enough is enough!’

About the author

Dr Wayne Visser is Founder and Director of the think-tank CSR International and consultancy Kaleidoscope Futures Ltd. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business (2011), The World Guide to CSR (2010) and The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility (2010). He is the author of over 180 publications (chapters, articles, etc.) and has delivered more than 170 professional speeches on in over 50 countries in the last 20 years. In addition, Wayne is Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, Visiting Professor of Sustainability at Magna Carta College, Oxford, and Adjunct Professor of CSR at Warwick Business School, UK.