5 Questions for… Deborah Leipziger

1. What was your inspiration for writing The Corporate Responsibility Code Book and what do you hope the book achieves or changes?

I wrote The Corporate Responsibility Code Book to bring clarity and focus to the chaotic field of guidelines and standards. I found I needed such a reference. My clients were constantly asking me to compare different standards and norms and I wanted to be able to look at the different guidelines and principles and see how they interrelated and compared with one another. My goal was to show the diversity of different standards and approaches but also the vacuums.

2. Who or what have been major influences on your thinking about sustainability and/or CSR and/or life?

John Elkington has influnced my thinking, as has Oded Grajew of Instituto Ethos. Being at the UN Social Summit in Copenhagen and the UN Women’s Conference in Beijing were also pivotal moments for me.

3. What are the three best books on sustainability/CSR?

One of the references I use a great deal is The A to Z of Corporate Responsibility. I am a big fan of John Elkington’s books especially: The Chrysalis Economy and The Power of Unreasonable People, which he co-authored with Pamela Hartigan.

I think the key books in the field have not yet been written.

4. What do you think are the major challenges we face in advancing sustainability/CSR – now, and in the next 10 years?

One of the biggest challenges we face is how we train a cadre of people to drive change in organizations. While there are a few MBA programs that offer “green MBA” programs, there is a need to teach courses on CSR and sustainability at all levels of the educational system from young children to graduate students. Many of my clients have positions they cannot fill in the CSR and sustainability fields.

Another major challenge is coining language to capture all of the new emerging concepts. There is a great deal of divergence in how we understand existing terms. For example, the term “sustainability” means very different things to different people. For some, sustainability includes only environmental issues, rather than the full range of social issues such as diversity and human rights.

5. What are you working on now?

I am working to develop sustainability fellowships: to train talented graduate students in a wide range of fields, including biology, engineering, business, law and sociology to give them tools to work in the field of sustainability.

I am also working on a Sustainability Lexicon which captures emerging language in the field.

One of the terms just coined in the Lexicon is:

D-Waste: Data that is unnecessarily consuming storage resources.
The sustainability angle: While data is an increasingly important part of our world and a source of non-material value creation, it can also be cause of wasted resource consumption. Studies repeatedly show that a majority of stored data is never accessed again. And while only a small portion needs to be retained for compliance, a huge proportion is stored multiple times due to wide distribution and/or retention of multiple copies that have only minor difference. This data is consuming physical resources used to create systems, bandwidth in networks, and especially energy required to power and cool the storage equipment. Technologies such as data de-duplication and automated storage tiering help mitigate the issue of D-waste.

— Coined by Kathrin Winkler, Chief Sustainability Officer, EMC Corporation

With many thanks to Deborah Leipziger.

Chloe Parker
Greenleaf Publishing


To contribute language to the Lexicon please contact Deborah Leipziger at dleipziger@gmail.com

Deborah’s The Corporate Responsibility Code Book [2nd Edn] is a highly acclaimed guide for companies trying to understand the landscape of corporate responsibility and searching for their own, unique route towards satisfying diverse stakeholders. Limited offer: Order direct from Greenleaf and get 40% discount. Use voucher code ksbg611 at checkout. Offer ends 30 June 2011.


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