Sustainability, corporate social responsibility and other jargon based on good ideas

"Don't you hate corporate jargon?!"


This is what somebody recently confessed to me. I am not intimately familiar with the corporate business world. In a sense, I was part of that world from the outside. As a lobbyist and political researcher, I would frequently have conversations with people in corporations. When the subject came up many of them complained about the language they were forced to use. Buzzwords whose meaning morphed. Often the language was unintelligible. To be a player in the game, however, you had to use them. But when the meaning behind the word is about something praiseworthy, well, perhaps we just need to work on making the language less about the jargon and more about the story behind the word.

I care about language. That's why when I hear words like sustainability, corporate social responsibility, or the triple bottom line I get slightly irritated. Why? Because the stories behind those principles, the people who have been impacted by good decision-making in the business world, they matter. Their stories speak volumes about how business can shape the common good. They are not just numbers for a spreadsheet. They are a Dad who can bring home a living wage. This family might have buckled under financial pressure leading to divorce and further heartbreak. They are the stories of relationships built through a company adopting a children's hospital and encouraging their workforce to do something special for that kid suffering from leukemia. They are the story of a business owner deciding to hire displaced refugees fleeing persecution. Sure sometimes some of these words are linked to “greenwashing” only for the good of corporate public relations.

But the words I mentioned above that have a jargony tone, more often than not they represent the story of a business leader deciding to do good with their business. When businesses do good, the world becomes a little better.

This series of blog posts will showcase some business owners who are doing good by going beyond the single bottom line. I will also look at some of the jargony words and help explain what they mean.