Preface: This isn’t a post about whether ExxonMobil is good or bad. It just triggered a thought in my head, so ExxonMobil is only a vehicle for an idea, not the subject matter itself. OK? But maybe the subject matter is corporate responsibility…but maybe it isn’t. I’m not sure yet.
As I walked past my colleague’s desk a moment ago I saw press release about management training for Indonesian women, sponsored by ExxonMobil. This reminded me of the link I posted a week ago about ExxonMobil being sued over human rights violations in Aceh.
So we’re thinking about a company accused to doing ‘bad’ things, who then does ‘good’ things in the communities where it works (forget about the merit or strength of the ‘good’ things vs the ‘bad’ things in the case of ExxonMobil. That’s not where my thoughts are going today).
While you could say that ExxonMobil sponsors projects (another example here) to improve their image (and you’d probably be right), there is probably someone working for ExxonMobil who adopts the philosophy that it’s better to ‘do good’ in the community, even if there are PR gains, than not to do anything at all, and maybe that’s right too. But it makes me wonder about ‘being good’ vs ‘doing good’ (although I’m already having doubts about my own distinctions here. We’ll see how far I can take them).
If we consider a person. A not very nice person (suspend judgment of ExxonMobil now, we’re moving on), called Stan. Stan is a grump, overly cynical and tells four-year-olds that Santa Clause isn’t real. Not a very nice guy right? But Stan knows he’s not a very nice guy, so to make up for it he gives money to children’s charities.
1. Does giving money to children’s charities make up for being a not very nice guy?
2. Should Stan forget about easing his conscience by giving money to charity and just start being a nice guy?
3.Assuming that Stan would like to be a better guy but doesn’t know how to be or doesn’t want to be (surely we all have things about ourselves that we would like to improve but haven’t), is it better to give the money to charity or, because it’s a token gesture, forget about it?
It seems like Stan is choosing to ‘do good’ occasionally rather than ‘be good’ as often as he can.
1. Assuming that most of us want to ‘be good’ but are probably lacking in some areas, should we continue to strive to ‘be good’ or should we accept that we have limitations and take a ‘do good’ approach?
2. Is there any difference between the two? Does ‘being good’ just mean that you ‘do good’ many times a day?
3. Is it just a scale of ‘doing good’ frequency that’s the issue? Stan is still a butt because he does a lot of bad and a little bit of good, but his friend Sally ‘is good’ because she commits herself daily to ‘doing good’ for others.
Epilogue: For the sake of expressing this thought I have ignored what I think is the key issues of ‘what is good/what is bad’, and ‘how do we measure the impact good/bad’. In fact, without exploring those ideas this post is just a silly ramble.
Also, the corporation as person? If you haven’t watched The Corporation yet watch it soon.