So, corporate social responsibility. That's when big business spends a bit of money in the local community to offset whatever morals it's undermining or harm it's causing with its immense wealth.
Or, as the University of Bath's Tobacco Tactics puts it: "...activity whereby socially harmful companies set their own minimum standards for social performance, enabling them to externalise their costs onto societies and consumers while passing themselves off as socially responsible."
That's what I thought anyway. Before I went into PR I had a pretty cynical view of the whole concept.
You know -- Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund and Philip Morris International's Step Change.
Then, studying for the PR diploma, I learned a bit more about it and saw more of the philanthropic side of things. Appreciated the importance of business paying back.
And then... I started writing the shownotes for podcasts by coaching-in-nature organisation business EarthSelf, and finally encountered some truly conscientious businesses that aren't engaging in CSR just because it's the in thing and their marketing execs told them to -- but because they understand and believe in a wellbeing economy, and the power and importance of supporting community and sustainability.
Companies like SF Bay Coffee, which funds the farmers who produce their coffee beans, and has so far built more than 63 schools, 1,700 housing communities and more than a dozen medical centres.
And Sheets & Giggles, which gives 1% of its profits to impactful non-profits in the local community, last year donated 20% of its revenue in one weekend, between Purple Friday and Cyber Monday — totalling more than $17,000 — to the World Wildlife Fund, and plants a tree in the US for every order it receives.
And Scott Bader's 2036 Vision, which annually donates 80% of its 'Scott Bader Commonwealth' income as grants to charitable activities and projects around the world.
And, last but not least, my client EarthSelf itself, which was the reason I discovered these great companies and was reinvigorated by the idea of what could be done -- what IS being done -- to deliver sustainable business.
EarthSelf's partnership with social enterprise B1G1 saw it marking our working relationship by donating a woman in Tanzania a week's worth of finance and business training.
Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 70% of people living below the poverty line, and 16% of children under five being malnourished.
The partnership work B1G1 offers businesses helps women build their own businesses through education, business training and access to financial services. This, in turn, uplifts their families and communities to help pave the way for a sustainable future.
This is true social responsibility; one that corporates and big business should all engage in.
In fact -- I'll practise what I preach and look to sign up Green Gables Editing with B1G1 right now...
So much confusion around how to structure a sentence referencing multiple people. For example: "Me and John went to the shops."
(I don't know why I chose John. He's my brother. I don't think we've ever been shopping together.)
The key to this area of grammar lies in pronouns, such as I, he, we, you. Those are "subject" pronouns. Then there are "object" pronouns – me, him, us – and "possessive" pronouns – mine, theirs, his.
Where are you going? Come back!
I honestly do feel your pain – during the period when I was at secondary school, the education powers-that-be had decided not to teach students grammar, which has proved quite inconvenient for those of us who have gone on to work with language.
Fortunately, as a teen I read a lot of Victorian literature, which is brutal in its grammatical perfection. It's also the reason my sentences can be interminably long labyrinths. Lol.
I'm basically self-taught when it comes to understanding what is right and wrong, so I know instinctively if a sentence is badly constructed but can't really tell you why. Thank goodness for Ecosia*.
So – me and John went to the shops. This is incorrect because when referring to yourself and somebody else, you put their name first.
"John and me went to the shops." Wait! That's wrong, too!
This is when knowledge of grammatical terms would be useful. Where the pronoun in a sentence is the subject, you use a subject pronoun. In "John and me went to the shops", John and I (see what I did there?) are the subjects. The sentence is about us. So we need to use the subject pronoun "I", not the object pronoun "me".
I found that deleting the other subject from the sentence helps clarify things really quickly. So – delete John. (Not literally.) If you delete John, you have "me went to the shops."
That's clearly wrong.
On the other hand... "Mike bought John and I a drink." (Mike's my husband. He would totally buy the drinks, he's very generous.) We've used the subject "I" there but it doesn't sound right. That's because it isn't – in this sentence, John and I are the objects.
Say, "Mike bought I a drink." Nope. So, extrapolate from that and you have "Mike bought John and me a drink."
I cringe the most when I see/hear people using "myself" when they just mean I or me. "Myself and Katie went to the cinema," for example. It's easier and more acceptable, really, to make these mistakes in speech rather than writing, but I honestly don't think anyone says "myself went to the cinema".
I'm just glad my children are being taught grammar at school now.
*Ecosia is my go-to Google replacement.
Setting up Green Gables Editing, I was establishing what sort of products I would provide. In addition to proofreading and editing for businesses and individuals, I thought I would deliver a writing service for those who might not have the time, inclination or confidence to write themselves.
And then a friend suggested a “drop-a-strop” facility saying it was a concept she had been mulling over herself. (For the record, she isn’t a writer or editor, and wasn’t being entirely serious, so I’m honestly not stealing her idea…!)
I thought it sounded brilliant – a special service writing complaints letters for people, to whomever they’re annoyed with. Well, not anyone. Mainly companies and businesses. I draw the line at sending angry missives to philandering husbands or nosy neighbours.
I have form in this genre myself. I went through a phase in my twenties when I was free of family constraints and so had the time to sit down and craft an acidly worded tract of complaint.
For the purposes of this blog post, I trawled through my catalogue of carping, and the images you see here are excerpts from those epistles. How wordy! What an intense sense of displeasure and having been inconvenienced!
But also how egotistic, almost snobbish. Obviously it’s important to be detailed and clear about the subject of one’s complaint, but it will also get you further if you remember there’s a human at the other end, reading your grievances. More understanding, and a lot more readiness to accept an explanation, will allow for compromise and a satisfactory, amicable outcome.
Anyway, if you’d like to “drop a strop” with a service or business that you feel has failed you in some way, and don't quite know how to word it, I’ll be more than happy to chat about how we can get your message across – politely…
With thanks to Ruth H-P.
In a world that’s becoming more inclusive and understanding of diversity comes the new importance of understanding etymology and the origins of certain words.
Put simply – think about what you say before you say it…
This has been drawn to my attention a couple of times in recent months, both times by mums with neuro-diverse children. (Now there’s an expression – neuro diverse – that wouldn’t have been dropped into casual conversation until very recently.)
And both times, these mums called out the use of particular words as being essentially offensive.
The words? Loony and cretin. And looking at them there, in all their bald glory, of course they’re offensive. They’re used as insults, right?
The word “cretin” is often used as a synonym for idiot but if you look into its background, you’ll find that “cretinism” was originally another name for those suffering congenital iodine deficiency syndrome, a medical condition present at birth, marked by impaired physical and mental development.
Of course, it would have been the condition’s mental impairments that led to “cretin” being used interchangeably with stupidity or idiocy – itself, at heart, an incredibly offensive attitude. Cretin, idiot, moron… these are all ableist slurs.
As for loony – this one elicited much more of a discussion over on a certain social media platform. It’s especially an issue up here in Scotland, where the “loony dook” is an annual event. This sees hardy (foolish?) souls launch themselves into the sea on New Year’s Day – on the East Coast no mean feat, since the ocean is the North Sea.
And the implication there is much clearer – the sort of person who swims in Scottish seas in the depth of winter is a “loony”. A lunatic.
Many of the responses to the mum drawing attention to this, though polite, essentially shouted her down. It wasn’t meant as an insult, they said. It was a harmless joke. And, in this context, that might be true.
But loony is still an insult. And using it so casually in an otherwise harmless context is only normalising the insult, not weakening the word. It reinforces the word loony as an indicator of someone’s reduced mental stability – and thereby reinforces mental ill health as something that should be stigmatised.
Remember when the National Spastics Society changed its name to Scope? When the word for a particular condition (in their case cerebral palsy) becomes buried in our everyday lexicon as an insult, perhaps it should be abandoned altogether.
So, what do you think? Is a word harmless when its user doesn’t mean to be rude? Or are certain words just intrinsically… offensive?