Words are important. They “provide the mental structures that shape the way we see the world”, to say it with Lakoff. We use words in groups and conversations to make meaning.
Yet, I’m sensing a profound discomfort with many of the words we are using in the sustainability space. We were certainly lost for words at Thursday’s conversation on “CSR & Sustainable Development”.
Some felt that corporate social responsibility had become a shortcut for greenwash and mindless reporting. Others were concerned that sustainability was overused and had lost all connection to the original meaning. Both certainly didn’t have the ring of Action! and Change! that we were looking for.
Social entrepreneurship didn’t get a positive review either: We had seem too many well-meaning do-gooders that took the term as an excuse to dabble with nice projects without ever bringing them to scale (or break-even). And changemakers just sounds preposterous if used for oneself.
In the end, we agreed to focus our exploration on this question:
“How can we create companies that thrive on a healthy planet?”
Which words do you use to talk about making the transition to sustainability?
Which ones don’t you want to hear anymore?