Catalyst issue five: All good things?
- 20 October 2016
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Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician and father of modern medicine, is one of those names that might help define the phrase 'paragon of virtue'.
The oath that bears his name is still used today. The Hippocrate Oath is the promise doctors make to carry out their work to the best of their abilities and judgement, to cause no injury and do no wrong. Over the centuries, other professions have taken note, too. The motto 'first, do no harm' became a guiding principle of corporate social responsibility (CSR). More recently, consumer expectations of corporate responsibility have moved beyond 'do no harm' to 'do more good'. Some businesses even seek to describe themselves as a force for good.
Doing good isn't always straightforward, however, especially when different stakeholders – the boardroom, suppliers, consumers – prioritise different outcomes, and when ethical investment is also a cost centre. How does marketing negotiate the sometimes rough terrain between profit and corporate responsibility? How best can marketers build a culture of responsibility that benefits consumers and shareholders? Whichever way they choose, there is an underlying truth that needs to be acknowledged: corporate responsibility can't be magicked from empty rhetoric and slogans, it needs to be fought for. Let's return to Greece. Hippocrates was the first person to believe that diseases were caused naturally, not because of superstition and gods. The future was not in the hands of fate, he realised, and a person's individual actions have real-world consequences. Doing good is down to you.
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