By Bahar Gidwani
Richard Nixon coined the term “The Silent Majority,” in a speech he made in 1969. He felt that there was a vast group of citizens who were sitting quietly between vocal groups on the political left and right. He claimed he was speaking for this group.
Since he defined the concept, many others have tried to find and represent the needs of this group. During a recent panel discussion on sustainability, I heard the term applied to those consumers who are neither strongly in favor of including social issues in their lifestyle choices nor strongly opposed to sustainability and corporate social responsibility issues.
Is there a silent majority that doesn’t have a strong view on sustainability? Does a vast group of consumers and related business and social enterprises have no concern about corporate governance, environmental problems, labor issues, or how their communities are treated? Do these people fail to speak because they don’t care, don’t know who to communicate with, or don’t know what to say? If this group exists, how do we engage them in the discussion we want to have about social issues?
While I can’t provide facts to support answers to these questions, I do have an opinion. It seems to me that almost everyone is passionate about at least one social issue. Sometimes it is a national or international discussion such as drug use, abortion, poverty, or religious freedom. Sometimes it is a local issue—school quality, pot holes in roads, or a mayoral election. But I believe that a desire to improve our lives and our society is deeply engrained in human nature—and something that almost everyone shares.
If this is the case, the question becomes how to fully integrate issues of sustainability into international and local issues. How can we make sustainability relevant to our nation’s PTA and teacher’s union members? How can we engage gun-owners, veterans, civic engineers and social activists, so that they feel sustainability will benefit their own pet social issues? CSRHUB is working to integrate sustainability and business, but more work is needed to reach main street, blue collar citizens without ties to publicly traded companies. As always, suggestions are welcome.
Bahar Gidwani is a Cofounder and CEO of CSRHUB. Formerly, he was the CEO of New York-based Index Stock Imagery, Inc, from 1991 through its sale in 2006. He has built and run large technology-based businesses and has experience building a multi-million visitor Web site. Bahar holds a CFA, was a partner at Kidder, Peabody & Co., and worked at McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to both large companies such as Citibank, GE, and Acxiom and a number of smaller software and Web-based companies. He has an MBA (Baker Scholar) from Harvard Business School and a BS in Astronomy and Physics (magna cum laude) from Amherst College. Bahar races sailboats, plays competitive bridge, and is based in New York City.