Matthew Kiernan makes a gutsy call on the Responsible Investor site for a new term--strategically aware investing--to replace RI (Responsible Investing), ESG (Environment, Social, Governance), and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). It takes guts to come up with a new acronym, especially one that contains the word “strategic”. While I continue to believe as I said in our CSRHUB blog that “a rose is a rose”, words have power, and we definitely need to break through old mindsets to mainstream sustainability. However, sometimes good words take a long time to reach currency, when at the outset they seem “nichey” and live on the edge.
For example, well over ten years ago I had the opportunity to hear the CEO in a Fortune 50 company address his Environment, Health and Safety group. He openly derided the term “sustainability” as part of a cadre of paradigm shifting terms, dismissing it as if created by some academic that had no relationship with the real world. Fast forward and this same person is now CEO of another major American corporation where both the word and the implementation of sustainability are fully embraced and in full drive. Terms (and their underlying concepts) take time to catch on, be part of business practice, and become so integrated that they are hardly used to distinguish excellent operations (think “quality”) from the ordinary.
I applaud the intent of mainstreaming the practice of considering CSR and ESG in investing (and other economic decision making). However, I’d prefer not to create new terms, if we can help it. Instead, let’s keep pushing the mainstream to understand the current sustainability acronyms until they achieve more universally accepted currency rather than increasing the number of noodles in the alphabet soup of sustainability-related terms.