Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Keeping up with the corporate responsibility bullies.

January is a good time to work. I often pick up a week or two of freelance work at a number of advertising agencies when their writers are on holidays.

Sometimes the agencies are busy, but often there is not a lot to do apart from checking proofs, signing off artwork, advising account executives on basic points of grammar or spelling, going out for coffee at Brunetti's in the city square, browsing the collectable books in Kay Craddock's; that kind of thing.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days in a large agency with not much to do. While I was waiting to be briefed on a job, I was idly reading through the agency's mission statement. It was a Monday morning and the job, a six page brochure for one of its financial advice clients, would be briefed in at the work-in-progress meeting at ten o'clock in the boardroom.

Mission statements are merely long-winded expressions of a strange blend of political correctness and the latest business management fads; and this was no different, despite it belonging to an advertising agency, which is meant to be a repository of the new and different.

It talked about the agency's 'modus operandi' and its 'unique selling proposition' and its 'village idiots' network of helpers, namely the freelancers and suppliers it declared were vastly superior to the network contacts of every other agency (thank you for the compliment, except I work for all the others as well).

Then I got to its 'environment statement', which was a subsection of its 'Corporate Social Responsibility' policy, commonly known as 'CSR' in the world of bullying NGOs, cowed major businesses and assorted other organisations striving to subvert the world of trade into a politically correct utopia in which no-one is better or worse than, or different to, anyone else, and everyone earns oodles of money, which comes from ... well, it must come from somewhere.

CSR was once a grand acronym denoting one of Australia's oldest and greatest companies, the Colonial Sugar Refinery. This is a great irony in itself, because every one of the three words in that magnificent title today offends a multitude of social activists, pressure groups and assorted rent-seekers. Today, even CSR probably has a CSR.

The agency's 'environment statement' embedded in its CSR went like this:
As an Australian company, Acme (not its real name, obviously) Advertising has a duty of care both to the local and the global environments.
Both? There's more than one environment?
We treat this stewardship seriously and acknowledge a relationship of interdependence between our business and the environment. What we do inside our office can have a lasting impact on the wider world.
While I was reading this, an account executive was mass-printing the work in progress documents in the alcove outside my office; thirty pages each (single-sided) times twenty people. Six hundred pages every Monday morning. The printer kept jamming and the account guy must was getting a little hot and bothered even though the building was beautifully air-conditioned against the thirty-degree Celsius morning. I read on.
Our sustainability policy also documents our core social and environmental responsibilities and commitments.
Also? I thought we were talking about that already.
We will continue to review our policy to ensure we stay up to date with new approaches to sustainability.
Like photocopiers and air-conditioning that work on 'alternative energy sources'.

Soon, the work-in-progress meeting got under way. They handed out the bulldog-clipped blocks of thirty pages weighing about a kilogram each. No-one read them, they just flipped through the pages while the MD droned on about the week's work. I threw mine in the bin, keeping the bulldog clip, when I got back to my office, switched on my computer and started a financial advice brochure.

1 comment:

Melbourne Girl said...

I thought the industry I work in was bad KH...but I think you win