CSRHub Blog Research on ESG metrics and comments on sustainability best practice

Compassion is Essential for Climate Mitigation

[fa icon="calendar'] Sep 15, 2015 12:03:09 PM / by Carol Pierson Holding

Carol Pierson Holding

On last Thursday’s  Late Night, Stephen Colbert interviewed Joe Biden about his son’s death. It was remarkable to hear a potential Presidential candidate speak so candidly about his emotions. He used the term empathy in almost every sentence. Viewers could only imagine the magnitude of his decision: to run for President, which he acknowledged would take 110% of his time and attention, or to spend time with his newly fatherless grandchildren, widowed daughter-in-law and his stricken wife.

New Yorker writer Evan Osnos commented the next day that “…it was impossible not to see, in the Biden interview, a rebuttal to Trump’s moment in America—to the notion of self-promotion as success, of cruelty as candor, of empathy as weakness.”

The notion of empathy as weakness is being subverted as mainstream America develops a reverence for gentleness and compassion. You see it everywhere.

I learned about the Charter for Compassion from Cynthia Figge, COO of CSRHub (sponsor of this blog) and a Council member. That charter was created in 2008 to promote dignity and respect among humans. Now, environmentclimate change has pushed the charter to extend to compassion to nature as well, allowing “human beings to survive and thrive.”

Neuroscientist Dan Siegel credits compassion with rewiring the brain. It creates “a flexible and adaptive way of being that is filled with vitality and creativity,” qualities essential for adapting to climate change. Siegel specifically addresses climate change through mindfulness and meditation techniques, which he says will naturally lead us to make decisions helpful to the earth.

Compassion has always been essential to our evolution. As Darwin wrote, “…those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best...”  Time Magazine’s Greg Griffin expanded on Darwin in his article last week, “’Survival of the fittest’ is a sham,” which debunks the myth that American exceptionalism is based on military strength. Griffin’s thesis that cooperation, not strength, is key to survival is founded in our biology: we are “systems of cooperating species,” where microbial cells (bacteria) outnumber our cells ten to one.

We as humans rely on these interconnections and the compassion that feeds them to address society’s ills. One example: Stanford’s Medical School uses Compassion Cultivation Training to strengthen doctors’ empathy and kindness, thereby improving patient outcomes. As part of the program, the Stanford Medical Center will also incorporate more than 40,000 square feet of gardens to connect patients with the healing power of nature.

Just last month, The Sustainability in Prisons Project opened at the Washington Corrections Center to bring nature into the prisons. By making videos of nature available to prisoners in solitary confinement, prison officials intend to reduce prisoner violence, anxiety and depression. (Solitary confinement itself is being questioned for reasons of compassion.)

And then there’s business. With its increasing emphasis on CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility, business addresses four buckets of sustainable behavior — employee, environment, community and governance — all of which fall within the rubric of compassion. India enacted legislation requiring companies with at least $830,000 in profits to allocate 2 percent to CSR activities, institutionalizing this more compassionate approach. And while poverty and malnutrition are terrible problems in India, providing its population with access to clean water and air is even more critical to survival.

Even football has its compassion champions. Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll leads his team with a kinder gentler hand that includes yoga, meditation and respect for the individual. Yelling, swearing and harshness are not allowed. In 2014, his unorthodox technique brought the team its first Super Bowl championship. Carroll’s compassion for his players extends to the environment as well: Four years ago, Seahawks’ owner Paul Allen initiated the Green Sports Alliance with the Natural Resource Defense Council to model environmental behavior. Since then, the Seahawks have converted to clean energy and provided the means for fans to recycle and compost at games.

Just as on the football field, compassion and cooperation work better than criticism and conflict, especially when applied to mitigating climate change. Donald Trump represents a dying model of power and influence, one that has led us to this precipice. We’re ready for something new, albeit built on constructs as old as life itself: the evolutionary imperative to be sympathetic and the neurological requirement to be compassionate. If these qualities galvanize our reverence for nature, we just might have a fighting chance.

Photo courtesy of Ruth Edwards.

Carol2Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 15,000+ companies from 135 industries in 130 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.


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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in climate change, compassion, Compassion Cultivation Training, CSR, Cynthia Figge, Dan Seigel, Evan Osnos, evolution, Seahawks, yoga, Joe Biden, Uncategorized, meditation, Pete Carroll, Sustainability in Prisons Project, Carol Pierson Holding, Charter for Compassion, empathy, Greg Griffin, Stanford Medical Center

Compassionate Action Network

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 6, 2013 9:00:10 AM / by Cynthia Figge

Compassionate Action Network


The HUB Seattle - 220 2nd Ave South, Seattle, WA 98104 - 206-430-6007

Anil Sachdev, founder of School of Inspired Leadership, Gurgeon, India

"Compassion in Business on a Global Scale"


Cynthia Figge, Board Director of Compassionate Action Network, invites you to end your work week by joining us for a conversation about compassion in business with Anil Sachdev, founder and CEO of the School of Inspired Leadership, Gurgaon, India. SOIL India is a consortium of thirty three prestigious Indian businesses offering a Masters level certification that focuses on compassion as one of five pillars of inspired leadership.

Anil has a deep background applying compassion in business. He is a serial entrepreneur: having founded several flourishing Indian consulting businesses that focus on total quality performance by growing employee gifts and creative potential.

He is a core faculty member of an International Executive Development program for senior business executives that meets seasonally in Europe, the United States and India. He is also a valued consultant to the Indian government on matters such as improving educational quality, improving child health and nutrition, and reducing labor violence and conflict.

If you live in Seattle (where our office is located), we hope you'll join us at our inaugural public Compassion Conversation series.

Cynthia Figge, Cofounder and COO of CSRHub is a forerunner and thought leader in the corporate sustainability movement. In 1996 she co-founded EKOS International, one of the first consultancies integrating sustainability and corporate strategy. Cynthia has worked with major organizations including BNSF, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Dow Jones, Noranda and REI to help craft sustainability strategy integrated with business. She was an Officer of LIN Broadcasting/McCaw Cellular leading new services development, and started a new “Greenfield” mill with Weyerhaeuser. She serves as Advisor to SNS Future in Review, Board Director for Compassionate Action Network, and served as President of the Board of Sustainable Seattle. Cynthia has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Cynthia is based in the Seattle area.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on nearly 7,000 companies from 135 industries in 82 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 200 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.


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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in compassion, Compassion Conversation, compassion in business, Compassionate Action Network, Compassionate Business, Cynthia Figge, Global Scale, School of Inspired Leadership, Uncategorized, International Executive Development program, The HUB Seattle, Anil Sachdev

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