Why I Ran for Water

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For the past couple of weeks, I’ve received nastygrams and have even had a very strong Facebook conversation which required a blocking over my participation in the Dow Live Earth Run for Water. It’s come to the point that I felt it necessary to make a public statement on why I ran. Before I begin, I want to congratulate all of my fellow runners and participants in the Run for Water. It was a big statement across the world.

As many people know, I volunteer a weekly blog post and provide periodic social media advice to Live Earth. When Live Earth decided to partner with Dow in spite of its legacy issues — in large part because of Dow’s current Sustainability Goals — I played team ball. One of the big attractors for me to Live Earth is its constant approach to change, embracing both the right and left, past environmentalists and newly concerned minds.

I do not support Dow’s past actions. Dow has done wrong but clearly has awoken to their impact of their products to some extent if they are creating goals like the above and supporting a very public event like this.

Will we ever achieve progress if we turn away “villains” who now want to be mindful? I don’t think so. Corporate America is part of the ecosystem… We will not survive the environmental crisis without companies changing in order to help become more sustainable.

You can cry George Hayduke and blow up bulldozers, but society will still demand construction, chemicals, plastics, cars, etc. We need to move towards mindful solutions that find carbon neutral and zero environmental impact rather than railing over the ills of the past. I believe in the middle road, and if a company starts acting differently, encouraging positive actions. This can be achieved while maintaining criticism.

Reality is that past acts cannot be unwritten, but the future is open to all of us. Demonstrable continuous action over a long period of time can show a different corporate culture and approach to community citizenship.

Criticism

Initially, most of the attacks were about Bhopal, and Union Carbide’s wrong past actions in India. In my mind, it made no sense to punish Dow’s culture for a company they bought 15 years ago over an incident that occurred 25 years ago, which has already had reparations paid

I doubt that almost anyone from that Union Carbide works at today’s Dow. Is it fair punish the current employees of a different company? In my mind, the answer was no.

Then there were the folks who scream against Dow and companies in general, the greenwashing police, fellows like Andy Bichlbaum who called runners like me Mindless Zombies. On the contrary, Andy, I thought about running and its implications. A lot. And I stand by my decision.

My Feelings on Dow

Now I am saying this as a volunteer, not a staff member, of Live Earth: Frankly, I wish Dow was more communicative about its current vision so I can gauge their authenticity. But like many companies they seem afraid to converse the angry French mob. What companies like Dow fail to understand is that until they engage their stakeholders directly, they will always suffer attacks. Change is good, actions tell of corporate culture, but you need to communicate, too.

And what we as a society need to understand is that we cannot shun companies from doing the right thing, even when they have consistently done the wrong thing in the past. I have been highly critical of Walmart, and will continue to do so, but in reality they are a much better corporate entity than five years ago. Let’s hope they continue to change.

Are we so invested in corporate evil that we won’t let villains evolve into better citizens? For me, the answer is no. I would prefer dialogue and progress. That’s why I ran for water.

4 Replies to “Why I Ran for Water”

  1. right on bro. If we allow corporate America to use social tactics without becoming a social culture, shame on the consulting community. We may not succeed and if not, then this social stuff ends up in some marketing budget line item like printing or web services. If we are modestly successful, then some elements of corporate America will adopt a different perspective which will impact their marketing, product development, R&D, and the way they view human capital, ironically, perhaps they will just drop the word capital.

    All the best my friend.

  2. Geoff – congrats on having the courage to do what’s right despite popular opinion. We live in a finger-pointing cultureand it’s rare when individuals (like you) decide to make peace with vilified orgs in an attempt to make a change. Amen, Geoff.

  3. Congratulations on running for worthy cause. Too often, our culture perpetuates this idea of there being a definite right and definite wrong for everything. This idea sounds like it was evident in many of the responses you received. This idea of absolute right and wrong is true in some cases, but there are a great number of cases where it is easy to fall into the trap of defining gray areas in black and white. If we truly want to make a difference in the world’s largest problems, we need to not only recognize the gray areas, but also recognize that it is going to take a lot of soul searching, and complex action that black and white thinking alone cannot accomplish. Thank you being willing to recognize the gray and take a difficult step for what you believe will bring about a brighter tomorrow.

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