Sustainability and the Responsible Enterprise… 2.0!

I just wanted to announce that a long term project is now coming to fruition. I am contributing to, and will help to manage, the Responsible Enterprise 2.0 community and blog. Basically – we see our thinking as related to Social Design, Gov 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, and Web 2.0. Changes in working practices, changes in expectations, changes in tooling- are all creating a context where business will be forced to change.

My partner in the project Steve Rochlin is not only a great writer, but is also making a difference through the AccountAbility non-profit organisation – committed to transparent accountable sustainability reporting. We have some evil plans for non-evil business, and you’re going to hear a lot from us over the next few months. Steve sums up Responsible Business thusly:

Web 2.0 may be the greatest invention to promote the accountability of institutions and organizations since the voting booth. Its tools make openness, transparency, collaboration, and engagement with and responsiveness to wide networks of stakeholders the norm.

Concerning corporate responsibility, applying Web 2.0 tools could work like rocket fuel – propelling responsible practices deep into once impenetrable space of core activities such as manufacturing and production, product and service development, marketing and distribution, finance and accounting, and research and development (R&D).

Put another way, Web 2.0 represents a revolutionary set of tools that enable stakeholders to engage with firms at every level of the value chain. Now we have a very inexpensive and highly effective set of tools to connect specific parts of the business with specific individuals that have a real stake in the way that part of the business performs.

Potentially this alters the very DNA of business process management, so that every decision builds from a foundational expectation of sustainability. This would include sustainability for the business, long-term shareholder value, for the environment, for communities, livelihoods, and health.

Dennis Howlett has already come out and slammed us for using the “2.0″ suffix. Frankly I’d be a lot more worried if Dennis didn’t have that reaction. He will come around.

A couple of things in response though.

Firstly the 2.0 wave is far from over. Arguably its got fresh legs – when Tim O’Reilly is on talking terms with the US Government CIO you know something us up. Government 2.0 just kicked off. When the US Government makes a clear and unambiguous commitment to cloud computing you know something is up. The commentariat may have moved on to the next big thing but 2.0 is a very real phenomenon- its going to define billions of dollars of US Federal IT spend over the next couple of years, for example. That’s something Dennis would acknowledge. Vinnie too.

Tim is a natural leader. He has exhorted us to work on stuff that matter. Well while Tim helps us to rethink how to work with government, being more engaged citizens, it makes a great deal of sense for me to focus on 2.0 and sustainability where it meets the natural constituency I know best- large enterprises. Was I proud that three of the Newsweek’s top 5 greenest companies in America are Greenmonk clients? Of course- we can make a real impact here.

Is is naive to believe we can create a Contribution Society? Certainly. But the genie isn’t going back in the bottle. As I say over on my first post for the new blog:

As participants we must accept a moral responsibility for our actions- for our consumption patterns and ways of life. Its not just the enterprise that must become more responsible, but us. We all make choices, we can all affect the direction that Fortune 500 companies take. Its no good just throwing stones if you disapprove of the actions they take.

The same patterns are at work in the world of what is now being called Government 2.0. The data may be open but its not going to parse itself. Politics in the late 20th century liked to position citizens as passive consumers of services. And so what did we do? Became passive consumers of services, no longer engaged with the political process. Obama then offered us a glimpse of a more active way of living and seeing. We’re not consumers we’re citizens.

In business life we’re not just consumers either, we’re creators of a reality. The market, not the company, owns the brand. The conversations we have about a company help to define its success or otherwise.

Environmental policies, social policies, welfare policies- these are all pivots for responsible business. We plan to explore how the world is changing, and hopefully drive companies towards more sustainable strategies. That’s Responsible Business.

If you are interested in CSR or sustainability – if you work in the field, or are just an interested party, we’d love to have you join the conversation. We’re all stakeholders.

disclosure: talking of stakeholders, SAP sponsored is sponsoring the Responsible Enterprise blog.

photo courtesy of Saad Akhtar on Flickr under a creative commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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James, aka @Monkchips is co-founder of RedMonk, the open source analyst firm, which specialises in developer advocacy and analytics.