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Abstract

Most social responsibility and sustainability issues are inextricably intertwined. Out of sheer short-term desperation for example, many poor farmers do things which cause long-term damage such as soil erosion. Therefore, to succeed, anti-soil erosion initiatives need to tackle the underlying poverty as well as offering technical help on soil erosion itself. Likewise, long-term education is one of the best means of escaping poverty. But poor farmers sometimes rely on child labour to survive. To be successful therefore, sustainability initiatives need to be ''holistic''. The economic incentives of sustainability are also often counterproductive. Under traditional methods, intensive production of cotton involves intensive use of chemical insecticides and fertilisers which in turn creates intensive pollution. But farmers turning to organic cotton production face significant yield (and therefore income) falls. Why should they change? To make sustainability anything more than a public relations spin, companies have to tackle such dilemmas head on. Thankfully, the experience of pioneers such as Starbucks and Wal-Mart suggests that there are ways through the maze. Indeed, sustainability initiatives can generate win-win outcomes that help create a competitive edge.

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Abstract

Most social responsibility and sustainability issues are inextricably intertwined. Out of sheer short-term desperation for example, many poor farmers do things which cause long-term damage such as soil erosion. Therefore, to succeed, anti-soil erosion initiatives need to tackle the underlying poverty as well as offering technical help on soil erosion itself. Likewise, long-term education is one of the best means of escaping poverty. But poor farmers sometimes rely on child labour to survive. To be successful therefore, sustainability initiatives need to be ''holistic''. The economic incentives of sustainability are also often counterproductive. Under traditional methods, intensive production of cotton involves intensive use of chemical insecticides and fertilisers which in turn creates intensive pollution. But farmers turning to organic cotton production face significant yield (and therefore income) falls. Why should they change? To make sustainability anything more than a public relations spin, companies have to tackle such dilemmas head on. Thankfully, the experience of pioneers such as Starbucks and Wal-Mart suggests that there are ways through the maze. Indeed, sustainability initiatives can generate win-win outcomes that help create a competitive edge.

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