“Let My People Go Surfing” – Corporate Social Responsibility as a Moral Issue

Kate Vavrousek

There are different sides and ways of thinking about sustainability. Some people come from the side of corporate responsibility, some people come from the side of individual responsibility and voting with your dollars. This is a classic argument: where does change come from? Is it top-down or bottom-up? As Yvone Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, states in his book “Let My People Go Surfing” as it “is usually the case in these matters, the truth lies right down the middle.” Neither top-down or bottom-up policies and strategies are going to solve the problem 100%. There needs to be a balance of corporate and consumer responsibility.

There are some, such as Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer Arne Naess, that maintain the belief that capitalism and ecology are completely incompatible. That if you take capitalism and apply it to nature you will inevitably destroy natural resources, as capitalism is placed above nature in a hierarchy of beliefs. And there are some that believe quite the opposite. But again, as Chouinard states, as it “is usually the case in these matters, the truth lies right down the middle.”

A compromise between extremes is the burgeoning field of “eco capitalism.” Eco capitalism is the combining of ecology and capitalism. Eco capitalism is investing in clean energy, buying and selling goods, buying local… choosing to make and buy things that are produced mindfully and with an eye toward the future. This is not to say that all “green” products are good – there are always trade offs. But the bigger picture here is important to preserve the resources we have today so that they may be used by future generations. I argue that we can go back and improve the climate while working within the capitalist system through ecologically minded innovations such as Tesla or Vestas.

Then again, this raises the question of how to incentivize people to invest in eco capitalism or to demand corporate responsibility or to be responsible consumers. I again refer back to “Let My People Go Surfing” for an answer here: to alleviate the classic tragedy of the commons issue of environmental overuse, make it a moral issue. It is a moral issue!

Here are a couple videos about Patagonia and Corporate Social Responsibility:



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