'Green' ruled 2007, but invoke unique CSR efforts next year

Come December, those in the media struggle mightily to come up with end-of-year lists that people usually love and hate equally.

Come December, those in the media struggle mightily to come up with end-of-year lists that people usually love and hate equally. You know it's the holiday season when you spend considerable time arguing with colleagues as to whether Michael Richards' slur fiasco took place in 2007 or 2006.

While lists are fun and provide easy ways to catalogue the year, they often times cannot truly get at the heart of the change afoot. Some celebrity is always going to stumble mightily in the spotlight and seek redemption, and at least one hubristic chief executive is going to parachute out: after doing little to increase shareholder worth and much to malign a company's image. The only variables are which narcotic and which post-employment perks are confiscated and doled out respectively.

If 2007 had an element of change, it was definitely the rediscovery of the earth as a perishable good. That is to say, that humanity was partially responsible for unpleasant things occurring with the earth's temperature and well-being. Al Gore made our "Book of Lists" as a communicator we liked for his frank discussion about climate change and the fact that his message - so artfully constructed and pitched - burrowed into the heads of the choir and non-believers alike.

Many wonder if green will continue to be as hot in 2008. My response is yes, but no. And here's why.

There will still be some - albeit lessening - debate amongst politicians, but corporations are pretty much convinced by either the stats or the public's belief in the stats that green is the way to go. Sure, most will only go at a speed that is beneficial to themselves and their shareholders, but environmental critics are finding it to be an acceptable pace.

However, green is just a part of the larger CSR umbrella. Many people believe climate change is real, perilous, and slowly plunging the world into a looming crisis. But when you're a company looking to take a stand on an issue, it's hard to ignore the fact that 1.1 billion people are currently without potable water, more than 2.5 million people are newly infected with AIDS in 2007, and 515.1 million youth (aged 18 to 24) were living on less than $2 a day in 2005.

In the private sector's rush to prove how green it is, companies all latched onto buying carbon offsets, reducing their energy spent, and working with customers to increase their own energy efficiency. But there are many other pressing matters that could use the philanthropy of more major corporate sponsors. Today, it is no longer considered tawdry to market CSR activities or look at philanthropy as its own form of business. So, companies might want to avoid the green herd and find an untapped market to make a difference.

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