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CSR or CSI:NY - An Opinion Piece by Craig Anderson

Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:38


So when does Corporate Social Responsibility become Corporate Social Irresponsibility?

I’ll try to answer that question later…

I relish the fact that our UK corporate retail partners are backing our work to reuse their products so that we can help low income families; their customers also recognise the responsibility taken and the actions of these major stores. That is Corporate Social Responsibility in action and we want more of it. My worry comes when corporates that are disconnected from the operations of the charitable sector suddenly gain an interest and start espousing the term ‘donate’.

My visit to the USA involved a speaking engagement in Manhattan followed by meetings with City officials and social-economy reusers across the city.

Reuse organisations who are part of the city’s network DonateNYC are no different to FRN members here in the UK. They have a similar scale of operation, they are driven by similar charitable aims and objectives, and they are dealing with much the same product. It was wonderful to visit such inspiring organisations across the pond and to share history, ideas, and discuss all our future plans and challenges.* There were gigantic warehouses full to the rafters with an eclectic mix of household items, artefacts and vintage memorabilia, to state-of-the art electrical waste reuse and recycling facilities, through to inspiring arts organisations creating amazing artworks, costumes and clothing – with job creation and education at the heart of their operations. It was good to reinforce the passion we share, to do good things through the work of reuse.

Having presented some learnings from running a network in the UK, plus making a few comments about the recent Brexit decision and its links to the impending US election hopefuls; it was a respite to learn about USA Reuse and also to have the chance to give my perspective on options to support Reuse operators to NYC officials. The least I hope comes out of my short visit is some exemptions for parking restriction and fines for social economy reusers in the city; they are saving the city money and bringing tones of social benefit rather than reaping profit.

Yes, reusers have challenges wherever they are – some we can remedy like parking and waste policy, some are more challenging, and some perhaps we in the UK need to wake up to and be wary that they might happen sooner rather than later in the burgeoning reuse market.

I said earlier - where a corporate has a direct link with the charities activities, such as leading furniture retailers with excess or takeback stock - there is a common cause and a mutual benefit and a shared social responsibility made real. The issue I’m struggling with from my trip to New York was how a certain internet-based taxi company has appropriated the term “donation” to charge householders for sending vehicles around to pick up household goods, under the auspices of a charitable remit. A householder is charged approximately $40 to donate; a taxi picks up the bag of goodies; and the charity eventually get whatever is in the bag.

Not a bad idea I hear you say.

But where is this going?

Is the term donation being hijacked?

Would the UK Reuse sector be irresponsible by allowing this to happen?

More to the point - the most pressing and über of matters is who or what is the DRIVER here?

*Whilst in New York, Craig visited the following reuse organisations: Recycle-A-Bicycle; Big Reuse; Materials for the Arts and Lower East Side Ecology Center

Read 1671 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 August 2016 14:12

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