Leadership Profile: Aron Cramer, President and CEO of BSR

Aron joined BSR in 1995 as the founding director of its Business and Human Rights Program, and later opened BSR’s Paris office in 2002, where he worked until becoming President and CEO in 2004. Aron serves on advisory boards to CEOs at Marks & Spencer, and SAP, and previously for AXA, Barrick Gold, Shell, and Nike. He is also a director of, the International Integrated Reporting Council, and We Mean Business, and serves as co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s  Future of Consumption System Initiative. Prior to joining BSR, Aron practiced law in San Francisco and worked as a journalist at ABC News in New York. He holds a B.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Source: https://www.bsr.org/en/about/staff-bio/aron-cramer

At BSR, your title is the President and CEO, please describe your responsibilities. Since BSR is a nonprofit, what does it mean to be the CEO?

My job is to help steer the organization and ensuring that our strategy is the right one,  making sure that we have a good culture and that people are thriving, that our voice is heard externally,  and that our financial performance is strong.

While those are the things I focus on, I also engage in  project work sometimes. It is important for me to be involved in the work that we are doing and understand it the way my colleagues understand it.

BSR is a very entrepreneurial organization, even though we are a non-profit. We have a social mission. We’re here to make an impact and that has a lot of influence on how we do our work, with the kinds of people who join the organization, with the projects that we choose to take on or not take on. We have to stay on mission.

BSR operates in this niche where it is both a business consulting organization but also a social responsibility advocate. Could you speak to the benefits that BSR has in this niche?

That blend is one of our real strengths. We’re here to achieve an outcome. We have a mission to achieve a more just and sustainable world. That drives what we do, and it’s highly motivating. I think it helps us occupy a powerful place in the ecosystem in which we work. At the same time, we know how business operates. We don’t just like to make aspirational statements. I like to think of us as practical visionaries. Yes, we have a vision of where we want to head, where we want businesses to head, where we want the world to head, but we’re practical about it.

Compared to organizations that are more grassroots or organizations that deal with government on social issues, what advantages does dealing with businesses have? Who does more to make progress on the issues?

I don’t think it’s about who does more. I think it’s about different. In my view, all of the  diverse organizations working on sustainability are very important. If BSR were the only organization working on sustainability, or if our type of organization was the only type of organization, we could never achieve our mission. It’s essential that there are grassroots organizations, international NGOs, academic researchers and think tanks, trade unions, governments, and all of us as citizens, all focus on these issues. There have been many times when a company might start to think about an issue because there is a campaign being led against it by an organization like Greenpeace. We don’t do that, but we’re then there to help the companies translate those ideas into action.

I would say similarly, that if the world only had organizations like Greenpeace, you would have campaigns, but you wouldn’t have needed follow-up.  I like to think of this as an ecosystem and BSR has a place in the ecosystem. I think that it’s very important. But the rest of the ecosystem is also very important.

Some people that work at human rights organizations do not deal with businesses, and often advocate against them. To those people, what would you say to convince them that BSR’s mission should be valued and that businesses should be engaged with, not ignored or set as the adversary?

If we want to have decisive action on climate change, if we want to protect and secure human rights, if we want to make sure people are treated fairly, then we need businesses to play a role. Business-as-usual is not enough to get the job done. We are not here to defend business. I think that organizations that are just there to defend business are problematic. Businesses need to change and evolve. There are many examples, unfortunately, of companies not doing things the right way. But it would be foolish to dismiss what the business community is capable of accomplishing when it is focused on sustainability, on responsibility. Businesses make investments; we need those investments to be made in a way that is supportive of community development and the environment, not in a way that interferes with people’s rights. Businesses create products and services; we need those products and services to be focused on the things that people really need so that people can have their basic needs met. A lot of the traditional things that every business does can create economic and social value and protect the environment. We are here to make sure that those things are aligned with environmental and social value, with economic fairness, with good governance, and with transparency.

Again, it is not a binary choice. It is important that there are human rights organizations that seek accountability in the business sector. But that is only part of the picture. We need organizations to help business, challenge business, support business in having positive impacts on the wider world


Many of BSR’s blogs talk about the “business case for human rights”. What is the business case for sustainability, and what will happen when one day there is no more “business case” for sustainability?

Sometimes there isn’t a business case. Sometimes there is just right and wrong. And so it’s important we promote the business case, but sometimes there is just a right way to do things. And it might cost a compan money. Not everything is a win-win solution and people who work on sustainable business need to acknowledge that, be explicit about it, and not run away from it. There’s just a right way to treat people, and that remains an important part of what we do.

That said, there are a lot of business reasons as to why attention to sustainability is really important. And the reasons are growing and becoming more powerful. Starting with climate change: if we collectively, including the business community, don’t come up with effective solutions to climate change, our economies are going be hurt. There will be business disruption, there will be financial loss, there will be uncertainty. If we don’t manage climate well, the business climate will be significantly diminished, if not undermined. That’s a very strong business case for getting climate change right.

If you don’t treat your workers fairly, you won’t have motivated workers. There is a raft of surveys to prove this to be the case. Look at the companies that have had a problem in the MeToo era. Women don’t want to work at a company where the chief executive is mistreating women.  In a thousand ways, for a thousand reasons, there are very good business cases for paying attention to diversity, fairness, and equity and inclusion.

Given those cases, such as mistreatment of workers leading to lower productivity, why have businesses mistreated their workers in the first place? How have businesses gotten away with bad behavior even though good behavior leads to better business outcomes?

I agree with the quote Barack Obama always used: “The arc of history is long and it bends towards justice”. What’s implicit in that statement is that we don’t have it right yet. Things are improving, but we have a long ways to go.

People aren’t perfect. We make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes it’s with the best intentions, and sometimes it’s not. But we’re human, and we’re fallible. Second, investors are paying more attention to ESG issues, but the pressures to deliver short-term profits is really intense and has a big role to play in this. Consumers say that they are interested in responsible business, but I am a bit skeptical. Many of us as consumers do, but we don’t all the time. And many consumers don’t care. Policymakers also enable companies to get away with things. 

During your tenure as President and CEO, what have some of your greatest accomplishments been?

The one that I will remember until my last day on Earth is the day the Paris Agreement was signed. Our team at BSR, including me but certainly not only me by a longshot, we were very actively engaged at COP 21 (Conference of Parties), in the run up to COP 21, generating business support for a strong agreement in Paris. That was one day where you could say that this had the potential to change the world. Those days don’t come very often, but that was one that I will always, always remember.

The other kinds of things I’m proudest of, there’s a couple of things. One is internally focused; one is externally focused. When I became head at BSR, all but 3 of us were in San Francisco. We have become a truly global organization over the last 14-15 years. We have 8 offices, 30 languages spoken at BSR. Externally, we have had a lot of firsts. We were the first to do human rights training in China. We were the first to work with NGOs going into factories to review labor conditions. We did the first, if not one of the first, major global stakeholder gathers. BSR produced the first website dedicated to corporate responsibility.

To close: What would you say to people like me and other students who are in the later years in college, who are conscious about human rights, who are passionate about the world, moving forward? What are some words of advice or lessons that you have picked up along the way that you think are critical in us going forward with our careers?

I think what people need to thrive in today’s world, and this goes well beyond BSR, is the ability to a lot of different things and understand a lot of different perspectives. The notion that someone is going to go into a career and stay there for decades – that world doesn’t exist anymore. I am an anomaly being at BSR as long as I have, but you’ll want and need to do new things, develop new skills, understand new perspectives. The most powerful way someone can demonstrate that they’ll succeed at BSR is if they show that can see laterally, think laterally across lots of different ways of thinking, different sectors of society, different geographies, different cultures. That diversity of skills is key.


*Interview edited for brevity and clarity

The Banality of Evil

As I sat in a class with military officers, former legislative aides, and doctoral candidates, I realized the importance of different perspectives…and the frustration they often face when dealing with others. My college career began with already a preliminary understanding of the philosophical and legal foundations of human rights, understandings that came with their own biases and ideals. As my studies in international relations and political theories advanced, however, I found that my previous perspectives, undoubtedly held too by others, were incomplete. They lacked the interests and information from other sources, other perspectives, that were equally valid and rational. Soon, I could better understand why leaders decided to stand by while human atrocities continued. I learned why civilians made better heads of government than military. I discovered that the world is not black and white but rather, operates in shades of gray. As much as those without access to all perspectives may not understand why a politician votes a certain way, they may also not understand why businesses often choose to act in immoral ways.

Source: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/m/make-money.html

When I first started at BSR, my lack of faith in a company’s ability to do good was apparent to anyone that I talked to. I was skeptical about whether a company’s positive actions outweighed their negative ones. I doubted the sincerity of corporate commitment to upholding human rights beyond branding reasons. Now, after eight weeks of working at the nonprofit, I have confirmed that my previous beliefs were not completely unfounded. In fact, even the palpable pessimism in my previous beliefs may be justified. My works at BSR deals with BSR member companies, companies that have the foresight and dedication to put money and effort into trying to do good. Plenty of companies do not seem to care about important issues like climate change, women’s empowerment, or indigenous rights. But even the companies that do commit resources to acting ethically put the requirements of corporate social responsibility (CSR) below many other priorities. Sometimes, this deprioritization leads to failures to completely fulfill the company’s responsibilities to important stakeholders.

My intention for this post is not to merely repeat the critiques of past posts. Fortunately, my time at BSR has not simply reinforced my prior beliefs. It has also reminded me that I can apply what I have learned about political institutions to business institutions. Just as in government where a military general may not understand why the president issued a certain order, the Head of Sustainability may not understand why the CEO did not act in a certain way. Just as the president who must consider the interests and opinions from a multitude of sources, the CEO must consider the interest and opinions form a multitude of stakeholders. Understanding business operations in a more bureaucratic format may explain the reasons for why interest in sustainability has only started in the recent decades, and why even in companies with strong CSR department act in obviously unethical ways.

The problem with businesses, and any other institution with many objectives, is that all too often, doing what is right is not the highest priority. As such, entities are willing to sacrifice other areas of interest, or even all other areas, to achieve their highest goals. Unfortunately, in many businesses, ethical behavior and guidelines are sacrificed to reduce risk, increase profit, or appease shareholders. The current global norm is one where companies only undertake certain ethical actions that also happen to further their business goals. The problem is not an individual one, where CEOs do not have the will to act ethically. It is not even predominantly a problem involving people, be they the consumers, board, or other shareholders. The problem that perpetuates deprioritizing morality is one that is institutional, and quite simple. An institution that places profit, be they short-term or long-term, at the top of a list of priorities cannot act morally all the time. In this institution, that which is inalienable is money, not rights. As with any institution that does not place ethics before all else, companies cannot, in their current design, be anything but something that violates rights. No matter how far the status quo moves, as long as corporations place morality below the very top of their list, complete dedication to doing the right thing will be but a daydream.

Divided We Fall

Cersei Lannister is one of Game of Thrones’s, and possibly one of television’s, most hated characters. From framing her adversaries to blowing up churches, there are plenty of cruel acts that justify the collective distain. Yet despite the wide array of heinous crimes she has committed, her most frustrating decision may have been what she did during the penultimate season. Even after seeing the zombies, from myths, that could end all life, Cersei decided against helping those who were threats to her throne combat this global menace. She decided not to put aside political struggle to support the fight against an existential threat.  

BSR Conference Panel
Source: https://www.3blmedia.com/News/BSR-Alumni-Discuss-Evolution-Sustainable-Business-Over-Past-25-Years

Perhaps this frustration stems from clear links to the current political and international response to climate change. Even the writer of the book series the show is based on, George R. R. Martin, has come out to talk about the parallels between the fictional world of Westeros and the world we live in today. But this issue is not new. It has quite literally been around since the first people walked the Earth. The problem Cersei faced, much like the problem businesses face, can be categorized as a collective action problem.  Collective action problems arise when a group of people or organizations would benefit the most if they cooperated together, but because of conflicting interests or imperfect information, they fail to do so. For Cersei, the rational, albeit immoral, act would be to do exactly what she did and abandon the fight against the existential threat. If her enemies use their resources and are successful in beating the threat, then she will only have to deal with the weakened enemies. If her enemies don’t, then she still has plenty of resources to deal with it afterwards. When dealing with large social and environmental issues, businesses face the very same collective action problems, and so in theory, should end with the same rationale. 

Interestingly, reality seems to say otherwise. We live in a world where plenty of companies collaborate with their peer competitors to tackle difficult issues. In fact, these peer competitors even come together through their own initiative to form these coalitions. Tech Against Trafficking, a collaborative initiative for which BSR is the secretariat, was the brainchild of BT, Microsoft, and Nokia. The group, now comprised of seven large, global tech companies, looks for ways to utilize technology in combatting the crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery on a worldwide scale. By all logic, this type of collaboration should not happen, at least not between rational businesses . And the model of this type of collaboration, where businesses contribute resources willingly while their competitors do not, should not be sustainable. Yet, from programs such as the One for Good program to the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking, these collaborations seem only to increase in number. This raises a simple question: what incentivizes businesses to collaborate to solve large issues when they can reap the benefits of others’ work on those issues without contributing any resources?

At first, it may be tempting to attribute these works to the good will of CEOs, strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) sectors, or even a desire for a stronger brand and reducing risk. However, each of these reasons fall apart at a closer look. CEOs are not hired to make sure the homeless are housed and the hungry are fed. Their job is to create more value for the company. Similarly, a company cannot be successful if its CSR programs cripple its ability to compete with peers. Having a stronger brand seems most in line with corporate interest and thus most promising in answering the question. At first, I had thought this was the answer. However, the sheer amount of resources contributed by companies to different initiatives could not possibly outweigh the slight boost in their image. Furthermore, if companies wanted to bolster their brands as a tool for competition, there is little reason for them to place their logo side-by-side with that of a peer competitor’s. Reducing risk may answer as to why companies might treat their workers better, such as reducing risk of striking, but it does not answer why companies help with external rights violations. Like Cersei’s rationale, it would be more beneficial for one company to wait for others to alleviate the problems, contributing their time and resources, and come in to reap the benefits.

The answer is quite intuitive. The reason companies collaborate in large groups is because organizations like  .  Collective action problems arise when the actors have conflicting interests or because of imperfect information that changes their cost-benefit calculus. Organizations like BSR help align the different values of companies and give information to influence that cost-benefit scale. Forming, organizing, and maintaining a coalition of tens of the largest businesses in the world is no small task, but it is also a very prestigious one. No company wants another to claim to be the operator of the collaborative, but few would want to dedicate the heavy amount of resources and expertise required to keep the collaborative going. Thanks to the network at organizations like BSR, companies are able to more efficiently be connected to others with similar interests. Knowing that all parties will be held accountable through third-party management and reporting  for contributing resources, companies are alleviated from worries about too heavy a burden on their end because of free-riding members.

It is thanks to credible, resourced third parties that collective action problems are  feasibly being addressed. Unfortunately, for this model to work, it requires changes in the cost-benefit for a company to favor supporting responsible behaviors. This prerequisite raises again a host of practical and ethical questions about what ought to be done in the future in the realm of business and human rights. Nonetheless, the current works in progress are a good start to a long road of complete ethical business conduct. And all paths to the finish line begin with the first step.

Orcas and Obligations

Following the shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, where 59 people were killed in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, President Trump vowed to ban the sale of bump-fire stocks. These bump stocks enabled semiautomatic weapons to mimic he functionality of a machine gun. It took the president more than a year to issue a new ruling to ban bump stocks. Walmart and Cabela’s, two of the largest firearm and gun accessories retailers in the U.S., took only days after the shooting before they stopped selling bump-stock devices. Rather than waiting for governmental regulations, in this case and many others, businesses decide to self-regulate.

Source: Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Killerwhales_jumping.jpg

The idea of companies acting in the right ways, rather than the profitable ways, may be alien in the United States, especially after the overexploitation of high-risk loans caused the housing bubble to burst and worsen the recession. However, in recent years, with regulatory rollbacks in areas like greenhouse gas emission in the United States, some corporations have stepped up and voluntarily sacrificed short-term profits to act responsibly. In other areas such as artificial intelligence, companies, like Microsoft, have proactively sought more stringent government action and regulations. Despite democratically elected governments being beholden to the people, and companies being beholden to its board, the former has become less responsible and the latter more so. The current political and economic climate in the United States raises the question of why it is that this phenomenon has become so prevalent.

I believe the answer lies in the story of SeaWorld. SeaWorld is a theme park that revolves around marine animals. In 2013, a documentary titled Blackfish was released, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. The project began after the 2010 death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau and looked into the orca responsible for Brancheau’s death, from the capture to the effect of stress on orcas’ behaviors. The release of the documentary resulted in the cancellation of multiple bands, including the Beach Boys. SeaWorld’s CEO announced that the corporation had suffered nearly $16 million in losses, and stock prices had dropped by 50% in the years that followed. In short, Blackfish was SeaWorld’s worst nightmare. And no company wants to have their own Blackfish incident.

What SeaWorld did was unethical, inhumane, but ultimately legal. And while SeaWorld should, and have, suffered for its poor moral judgement, the conditions that allowed for SeaWorld’s practice came from poor regulations. The government did not regulate properly orca enclosures, just as it is not properly regulating many commercial sectors today. A company has every right to act legally. But companies have voluntarily taken steps to act in ways that do not stretch or even reach the legal boundaries. One of the reasons, the business reason, is because of the risks posed by violating basic human rights. In a twist of irony, the company is protecting those rights, and the government is failing to step up.

Corporations being responsible is promising for the future. But a stable and sustainable system cannot rely purely on good people and intentions. Some companies will always want to exploit loopholes and try to break the system for their own gain. The problem right now is that businesses don’t have to break the system for their own gain, they merely have to follow it. Big corporations may take steps to prevent possible risk because they can afford to, and possibly because of the weight of internal discussions on the moral arguments for being responsible. But some companies won’t act in that way. Many don’t. Building a system that only relies upon the goodwill of corporations to protect human rights is naïve and idealistic. The bulk of the work must be done by the government. The government must heed many influencers in legislative decisions, many stakeholders, especially in a democracy. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, but whether to protect basic human rights should not be a question to ponder.

The Business Case for Morality

When I told my friends that I would be working at a nonprofit business consulting organization this summer, I was met with their baffled faces. How could a nonprofit calling on businesses to be more sustainable and responsible use a consulting model? Or is this just a nonprofit advocacy group that simply misbranded itself? And when I first learned about BSR, I had some of those same questions. But apparently, an organization can both operate under the business consulting model as well as the issue advocacy model. One of the notable ways BSR succeeds in promoting human rights through engaging businesses is to use the language of business, to give the business case for respecting and upholding economic, environmental, and social rights.

Source: https://www.needpix.com/photo/1209489/ethics-right-wrong-ethical-moral-integrity-honesty-morality-dilemma

One of my first encounters with BSR was during my initial research of the organization. I had stumbled across a report about the effects of climate change on health. At the time, I thought that the report was just an informative piece giving valid arguments for why businesses should act. After working on several projects at BSR, however, it became clear to me that a recurring theme at BSR, and indeed at many organizations that engage with businesses to promote change, is presenting a business case. The business case for action on topics such as human rights and climate sustainability usually revolves around two factors: brand and risk. Actions that elevate a company into the position of being ahead of others in the field could give the brand a boost in reputation. Some brands utilizing particularly leading practices may even be classified as a thought leader in those areas, such as labor rights or recruitment ethics.

Risk is also a major concern for companies and investors. Salient issues like corruption and climate impact increase risk for companies looking to enter country markets or maintaining their profit margins. For example, a previously peaceful country may be more prone to infighting after climate change affected the abundance of water in certain areas. The changes in status quo would force corporations to either move their operations elsewhere, an expensive endeavor, or the equally expensive endeavor of increasing security. Companies would rather not have to make either choice. The business case here is straightforward: take proactive actions, such as increasing climate sustainability of operation or minimizing destabilizing operations, and it will safeguard the company against costly damages in the future.

Although it makes sense to use the language of business when dealing with businesses, reliance on “the business case” to promote ethical behavior has both pragmatic and moral implications. The simplest argument against the business case is that it may not be appealing for some companies. Some may be willing to accept the future costs for short-term gain. Others may choose to invest in ways to adapt to the changing landscape and profit off the harms they have done, rather than dedicating funds to preventing those harms in the first place. Even if a company accepts the business case for ethical behavior in some cases, there are still many where talking business is not persuasive. If there is such a profit incentive to act morally, all corporations would logically do so.

Making profit the justification for acting in moral ways cheapens the real reasons for respecting rights, not to mention that at times it will be more costly to do right thing and more profitable to be abusive. The reason for not violating human rights is no longer because doing so is wrong, but rather, the consequences of it would cost the company future profits. Normalizing this behavior and attitude towards ethics is dangerous, because it makes it acceptable for companies to profit over people in cases where the two conflict. The system raises the question: should there be a reason to do the right thing other than that it is the right thing to do?

Given the host of issues from using the business case to justify corporate action on rights issues, it may be difficult to see why organizations like BSR still continue to make business arguments. One answer may be that it works. Formulating arguments to respect human rights in terms of profit and risk appeals to the logic businesses use in determining their annual strategies. The reality is that the world has already been subjected to destabilization, exploitation, and injustices, some caused by corporations themselves. But given the speed and drive of businesses, especially given a monetary incentive, they can help . From individual businesses pledging millions to help with the rising cost of housing to the largest multinational companies working together to protect workers’ labor rights, the private sector has been able to achieve that which governments and advocacy groups have not been able. Given these advances made by businesses, it may be that even in the face of the issues of emphasizing the business case for ethical actions, it is still the most optimal path to change.

Many, if not most, companies place returns to shareholders as the highest priority they have. The business case is an important tool for mobilizing corporations with resources to act in ways that preserve and protect human rights, but its flaws necessitates changes in business models and incentives to prevent wrongdoings before abuses can take place. Perhaps best expressed by BSR President Aron Cramer, “Sometimes there isn’t a business case. Sometimes there’s just a right way to do things and it might cost you money.”

Between Profit and Humanity: A Balancing Act

“There can be no ethical consumption under capitalism” is a punchline for those that lean to the far left of the economic-belief spectrum. Of course, the mantra is not without its truths. History consistently shows examples of corporations exploiting people and lands for wealth. The goods and services they produce, then, would certainly be unethically sourced and therefore unethically consumed. The corporation has a singular interest that it sets above all others, profit. Anything that hinders the maximization of profit is one that ought to be discarded, merely something to be overcome by the company; after all, this is what most corporations have done since the shift from feudalism to capitalism. Effects from horrific atrocities caused by profit-driven corporations are still felt today in many local and global communities.  It is no wonder then, that many modern human rights organizations view the historically self-centered and exploitative corporation as diametrically opposed to the interests and rights of humanity.

Billions vs. Billions
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/salty_soul/6247921381

In the 1970s, the idea of “corporate social responsibility” began to reshape the relations between the private sector and the communities it impacts. Corporate social responsibility is a self-regulating business model that urges companies to move beyond mere profit and towards becoming more socially accountable to the public and other stakeholders. With this wave of restructuring of company values, for-profit corporations and non-profit rights advocates found themselves with certain interests aligned. No longer would being simply opposing the corporations be enough. As is becoming increasingly the case, the most good for the most people can only be achieved with the two sectors working together. This new circumstance created a new niche within the non-profit community: one that would engage with corporations to better their corporate social responsibility policies and behaviors without driving the companies out of business. Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is one of the organizations that have risen up to occupy the niche.

BSR is a global non-profit organization that is dedicated to working with multinational corporations in order to promote the self-regulatory, sustainable, and accountable behaviors apparent in leading practices regarding corporate social responsibility. Because of unique position that BSR occupies between the rights-focused organizations like Human Rights Watch and the profit-focused corporations like Amazon, the non-profit organization is structured and ran similar to a business consulting firm. This structure allows BSR to retain the expertise and skill for the advisory role it plays in optimizing social responsibility while also maintaining credibility as a rights-focused organization with corporations, stakeholders, and the public. Through its various methods, such as sustainability consulting and multi-corporation collaborations, BSR seeks to use business as the force for positive change in the world.

I am personally quite skeptical about the extent to which businesses are willing to self-regulate if that regulation requires sacrificing both short-term and long-term profitability. However, despite only being at the organization for a week, it is already becoming clear that the methods used by BSR associates to convince companies to sign on to agreements designed to help the public and stakeholders are quite ingenious, yet surprisingly intuitive. Rather than asking a company to commit to an agreement that required high costs to the company in return for high rewards for the public, BSR convinces companies of the immediate rewards of being a thought-leader in the industry, as well as the potential future gains by decreasing externalities. Perhaps witnessing successful negotiations and commitments by corporations will curb my cynicism. If not, then I will nonetheless have experienced the issue of human rights from the unique perspective that takes into account both the interests of companies and stakeholders.

The mission of BSR is no easy one. It must try and balance the interests of the community with the interests of its clients. Too much sway to one side and the organization fails its duty and commitment to the other. It is still an open question as to whether any group with a primary focus of profit can wholly operate ethically; however, the current world is one where corporations still have many steps they can take to make their behaviors more ethical. BSR’s objectives is to create more sustainable supply chains, more ethical sourcing, and more awareness of human rights. So maybe there can’t be completely “ethical consumption under capitalism”, but through BSR’s work with its member companies, the future could allow for more ethical consumption. And I am excited to be able to contribute to that mission.