Corporate Responsibility – MLK and B The Change
Landing in flood-stricken Boulder and uniting with fellow B Corps from around the world is inspiring. There’s just no other way to put it. Corporate Responsibility is going to the next level, and the “B The Change” phenomenon – already so powerful – is in its infancy in terms of the global impact.
At the 2013 B Corp Champions Retreat (#BTheChange) I’m learning about the planet, about my business and other B Corps, and a lot about myself too. B Lab has created well-structured team events for self-reflection and creative brainstorming about the status quo – and how to rock it!
An amazing “Aspen Institute Style” session focused on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail
In 1963, as the Civil Rights movement was really gaining steam and nonviolent resistance was rocking the status quo in the US South, Clergymen had written to MLK “appeal(ing) for law and order and common sense… in dealing with racial problems in Alabama.” They pleaded with MLK to wait (“untimely”), not be extreme (“show restraint”), and work within the system (“in the courts and… not in the streets.”)
MLK’s response is clear and poignant.
Wait? While injustice is perpetrated and innocents suffer? “I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was ‘well timed’ according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.”
Not be extreme? In the face of injustice and immorality, is it just or moral to idly sit on the side-line? “(Our) greatest stumbling block … is not the KKK, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.” “Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?… the world (is) in dire need of creative extremists.”
Work within the system? After years of enforced inequality through schools, courthouses, jails and diners… “Privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.” “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal or natural law.” “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’”
Paraphrasing MLK’s amazing letter does it no justice, but I was so moved by the sentiment… So moved that sometimes I am an extremist, and sometimes I am a “moderate.” I just had to share.
I can easily imagine the same letter being written today by government officials or CEOs – instead of clergymen. “Racial” could be replaced with “social” or “environmental.” And “Alabama” could be “anywhere and everywhere.”
“Moderates” continue to perpetuate the status quo and steer laws and business decisions toward unjust and unfair islands of comfort… while the masses suffer on an unstable mainland. There are inklings of change, carrots of hope, but too many are too comfortable for our leaders to implement real change.
But change is coming. It’s no longer a question of whether B Corps are going to rock the boat, upset the status quo, and create a better planet through better businesses and corporate responsibility – it’s just a matter of how fast we’ll do it!