Honoring the obligation of nobility
Uniting business and consumer to address social responsibility
September 19, 2012 - Kristian Partington
The images Chip Conley brings up when he’s asked about the future of our economies and societies are fitting coming from the mind of a respected hotelier.
But actually, the concept of buildings as an illustration of societal might and influence came to him first from a wise friend. Chip just put it into context while speaking to Sustainable Solutions about the history of his company, Joie de Vivre, and the emerging role of business as a tool to make our communities better places to call home.
“You can tell who’s most powerful in a society based upon who has the biggest buildings,” Chip says, in response to questions about his
hopes for the future. “200 years ago it was the churches and the temples and 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago, it was the city halls and the state government buildings or the federal government buildings."
“Today, the tallest buildings are the skyscrapers owned by business. “We’ve moved from the church or religion to government to business; business is the most powerful force in society, so my hope over time is that business understands there is a noblesse oblige — a nobility obligation that comes with being that powerful, and it has a lot to do with how we give back.”
Understanding what it means to be responsible for the betterment of a community is something that needs to extend from the boardrooms of companies to front-line employees and to the hearts and minds of consumers.
It goes well beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR), Chip says, noting he sees this reality at play more and more as an example of business trends in the right direction.
“I’m seeing more and more companies that are trying to engage their customers – not just their employees but their customers – in their philanthropy work,” he says. “The evolution has been moving beyond CSR and toward a really engaged customer who says ‘I put my money where my heart is and I invest based upon where I spend’. I think that’s been going on for a long time but today it’s much more prevalent.”
The next step is to firmly identify a common, universal goal in terms of ushering in a more just economy that lifts up the marginalized people in our communities and provides more opportunity for everyone to participate in the rebuilding of fractured social systems.
“It’s easier to get behind something if it’s universal,” Chips says. “The problem is, here in the U.S., there are so many things that are not universal in terms of people’s opinions, but I think it’s really about looking beyond the politics and the personality to the purpose. What is the purpose that unites us?”
Discovering that common purpose and uniting businesses and consumers in the quest to satisfy it is a key step towards meeting the responsibilities of our times and honoring that ‘obligation of nobility.’
Axiom News provides Stakeholder News services for the Social Venture Network. To read more stories click here. We love to hear feedback; please e-mail kristian(at)axiomnews.ca.