For those who had me as a professor at Oregon State University, you know that one of my mantras was that anyone within a company can make a positive difference around socially responsible business practices, regardless of title or position. I truly believe this! And now I have a name for such as person – animateur – someone who leads through engaging and inspiring others!
Authors Peter M. Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur, & Sara Schley use this term in their book, The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, to describe those who “‘bring to life’ a new way of thinking, seeing, or interacting that creates focus and energy.” These individuals inspire others in companies and organizations to ask difficult questions and to respect multiple perspectives – all necessary for the company or organization to move to new levels of creativity and impact.
The authors challenge us to engage in meaningful conversations around socially responsible business practices and to ask difficult questions around “what would we do if?”. They offer excellent insights and very useful tools to create, manage, and follow-through with these conversations. Applying these lessons to the fashion industry, questions might include:
As a company, what would we do if?
• water scarcity meant that traditional dying methods would no longer be viable?
• fashion brands were required to take back all merchandise from consumers when the merchandise was no longer being worn/used?
• the health of the factory workers who made the clothing was a priority to those purchasing the merchandise?
• brand loyalty was dependent on complete supply chain transparency?
• zero waste design was the goal for every new fashion?
In working with those in the fashion industry, I often hear excuses as to why these conversations are not happening; excuses such as:
• My company has a CSR department that handles these initiatives.
• I work for a huge company – it would impossible to get anyone’s attention.
• I work for a small company – we simply can’t afford the time and energy needed for these conversations.
• I work for a chain organization and all of these decisions are made by corporate.
• We need to wait until our competitors move forward before we do.
If you want to make a difference around the socially responsible practices in your company but have made such excuses yourself or heard someone in your company or organization make such excuses, I highly recommend reading The Necessary Revolution. You can make a difference! You can lead through inspiration. Indeed, you can be an animateur!
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