CSR & Indigenous Culture – Bob Chitty

How Ancient Civilizations Did Corporate Social Responsibility
By Robert Chitty, Doctoral Candidate

All Videos Shown In This Post Produced By Doctoral Candidate Robert Chitty

Looking at how organizations today promote sustainability and corporate social responsibility becomes interesting when we draw a parallel between 21st century thinking on this subject and what we know about ancient civilizations and their point of view from centuries past. Modern society can look to indigenous culture to find pathways for more environmental stewardship, governance, preservation and other guiding concepts.

One of those principles is the idea of collaboration and the importance of everyone in the group contributing with the interest of achieving the best possible outcomes. Much is being discussed today about the rise of employee involvement. The thought being that specifically through empowering all members of the organization greater levels of success are realized.

Indigenous society practiced democratic values that included all members within a group relying on a Speakers Stick. The Speakers Stick was used as a prop to let others among a group including Elders or Leaders know that the individual who held the speakers stick was given the opportunity to express their point for the benefit of everyone without interruption or presumption. The structure and attachment to rank and file in our contemporary office environment traditionally has not empowered lateral free expression, moreover, this results in a cost with which companies are burdened. Using the Speakers Stick to bring forward the best solution or consensus today is certainly a good thing, it is demonstrated that the stick forced everyone to just listen, we should look to indigenous cultures for lessons about how to empower all members of the team.

Sharing remains a vital aspect of how Indigenous culture harmonized their communities and ensured all people were cared for. By way of thoughtful consideration about not over-harvesting wildlife or hording fish stocks, food was made available to all those who were within the group. Preservation specifically regarding the land and how the land provided the bounty of food through hunting, trapping and fishing established a form of governance among indigenous culture that ensured that only enough was taken so that ample food supplies were in place for at least seven generations into the future.

Storytelling in oral societies remains an integral aspect of how knowledge and wisdom was taught and passed from generation to generation. The importance of stories and the spoken word in context with survival or for the purpose of expressing ways to reduce risk knowing the extreme circumstances people were accustom to enduring. Stories remain a powerful method of education that brought meaning and context to the listener to help broaden and expand perspective on many different levels. Elders among multi-generational family units often expressed stories, through repetition and emphasis about characters and metaphors, and their stories emphasized the many extraordinarily unique elements of a rich and vibrant culture. Storytelling remains a core aspect of expression among indigenous societies and through this expression another example of sharing is demonstrated.

How stories are expressed today is evident in a myriad of forms and the opportunity exists for corporations to do a better job expressing how they’re making a difference through practices such as corporate social responsibility and what their doing to lighten the impact upon those in their path.