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Friday, November 12, 2010

CSR Author Spotlight: Deborah Leipziger

Age: 43
Born in: São Paulo, Brazil
Kids: Three daughters - "my triple bottom line"
Lives in: Brookline, Mass.
Currently reading: Manuscript for The Age of Responsibility, by Wayne Visser and reading and impressed by Corporate Impact, by Adrian Henriques
Favorite non-CSR books: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gifts from the Sea, The House of the Spirits
Favorite movie: I actually liked Avatar.
Favorite musician: James Taylor
Favorite poet: Pablo Neruda
Favorite CSR report: I like CSR reports that explore dilemmas, such as Chiquita's exploration of its dilemma in Colombia.
Favorite flavor ice cream: Mint chocolate chip
If I could, I would …: Start a think tank and foundation to share lessons learned in the field of CSR

A concise spotlight on Deborah Leipziger was first published on on 10th November 2010

Deborah Leipziger is one of the game changers in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Amongst her achievements I believe we can count two significant events in the history of CSR development: the publication of the Corporate Responsibility Code Book. Her book created order in the emerging chaos of CSR frameworks and remains an important reference work to this day, especially since its second revision. And, second, the birth of the SA8000 standard (that Deborah helped create whilst working with Social Accountability International), which has become a widely-used standard for the apparel industry and other sectors.

In addition to researching and writing, Deborah advises companies, governments, CR organizations and UN agencies on CSR issues including the UN Global Compact (UNGC), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA), Oxfam Novib, Maplecroft and Social Accountability International (SAI). Deborah serves as a member of the International Board of Ethos, the leading CSR organization in Brazil, and is a member of the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investment for Aviva Investors in the UK. Deborah has a Masters in Public Policy from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts from Manhattanville College in Economics and International Studies. When she is not doing any of the above or spending time with her "triple bottom line" (her daughters), she writes poetry and gives poetry readings.

Deborah shares her insights in the interview below:

What prompted you to write the Code Book ?
I found I was constantly in need of such a book. Every day, I was looking up different codes and standards and comparing them.

What was your biggest challenge in writing the first edition ?
The biggest challenge was keeping the book to a manageable size.

What did you not include in the first edition ?
I had to draw the line at certain sector-based codes.

What was your most significant insight when writing the Code Book ?
As I worked on the second edition, I realized how much progress has been made by CSR initiatives in reaching a critical mass. I also noted that some of the initiatives and codes that are excellent are not necessarily well-known in the corporate community. The ILO Code of Practice on HIV AIDS is an excellent code, but not well known among companies.

In writing the Second Edition, did you perceive the world of CSR had truly moved on, or was it just more of the same old codes and frameworks ?
It was wonderful to see how far the field of CSR has evolved since 2003 when the first edition was published. Nearly all of the initiatives had grown. I was also struck by how many initiatives had become less relevant-- they did not fail, they were successful in drawing attention to an issue.

Which of all the Codes/Frameworks in the Code book do you personally feel has had the most impact on corporate behavior ?
I think the CERES Principles have had a significant impact on corporate behavior.

Corporate Citizenship: Successful Strategies etc…… published in 1998 was really at the vanguard of the CSR movement . How relevant is that book today ?
I think it is useful as a historical review of where and how CSR began as a movement and how far we have come. I think the definitions of key terms are very useful, still.

SA8000: the first decade: were you pleased with the first decade of SA8000, the code you helped create ?
Yes, it is inspiring to see how far SA8000 has come and how well-known it is in Brazil, India, China and elsewhere.

Will there be a second/third decade for SA8000 or has it been overtaken by other frameworks?
SA8000 will continue to provide a useful framework. It is quite a stringent standard and one of the key challenges is to build capacity to allow for broader adoption.

Now that ISO26000 has been published, what will be the Next Big Code ?
I think codes will remain relevant. However, the future of CSR will be about new products and new types of relationships with stakeholders. The challenge for most companies and their suppliers is capacity building and understanding their impact on communities.

Which book about CSR have you not written yet ?
I would like to write about a specific supply chain and trace a product through a chain of custody.

Do you like chunky Monkey?
No... I love chocolate and bananas, but not together, not frozen. (oh dear, says elaine)

I would like to thank Deborah Leipziger for sharing her insights and for her fabulous contribution to our body of CSR knowledge and practice.

Deborah Leipziger's CSR Book Bibliography:
SA8000: The First Decade. Edited by Deborah Leipziger. Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing, 2009.
The Corporate Responsibility Code Book by Deborah Leipziger. Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing, 2003. Second Edition, 2010.
Living Corporate Citizenship by Deborah Leipziger with Malcolm McIntosh, Ruth Thomas and Gill Coleman). Publisher: Financial Times, 2002.
Social Accountability 8000: The Definitive Guide to the New Social Standard by Deborah Leipziger. Publisher: Financial Times Prentice Hall, May 2001.
Corporate Citizenship: Successful Strategies of Responsible Companies by Deborah Leipziger with Malcolm McIntosh, Keith Jones, and Gill Coleman. Publisher: Financial Times Pitman Publishing, 1998

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices   Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

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