“My sense is that the commons movement could benefit from deeper engagement with the corporate community, including activists who advocate for corporations to take full accountability for their impacts on capitals that are vital to stakeholder well-being. And I know that the sustainability context movement would benefit from expanding its advocacy base beyond the core of the corporate accountability community.”
Excerpted from Bill Baue:
“CBS is focused on measuring, managing and reporting sustainability performance at the organizational level — primarily, corporations. And CBS is rooted in capital theory, or the idea of multiple areas of capital stocks (natural, human, social, constructed and financial) that yield flows that ideally are harnessed for human well-being and managed to sustainably preserve their so-called carrying capacity. Of course, many (if not most) of these capital stocks are based in the commons as resources shared jointly by diverse individuals and entities.
My sense is that the commons movement could benefit from deeper engagement with the corporate community, including activists who advocate for corporations to take full accountability for their impacts on capitals that are vital to stakeholder well-being. And I know that the sustainability context movement would benefit from expanding its advocacy base beyond the core of the corporate accountability community.
Right now is an opportune moment to mobilize, as there are currently three major new standards being established in the corporate community, and all of them are adhering to capital theory, which arguably compels them to take account of impacts on the commons — or on capital resources that are shared amongst stakeholders.
These three are:
* International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)
* Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
* Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR)”
David Bollier critically chimes in:
“I don’t think the commons would mesh very well with Context-Based Sustainability, at least so far as I understand it. It sounds as if it is trying to quantify or monetize everything into capital stocks so that it can be put on the same discursive plane. But the commons is precisely about breaking up such “universal grid” approaches to understanding the world, including nature, and eschewing standard economic calculuses. Commoners generally insist upon the inherent diversity and localism of resources, people and social systems, and therefore resist quantitative, top-down, purely scientific approaches to nature (a term that itself connotes that nature is objective and separate from humanity).
From the perspective of my work and that of my colleagues, the commons are not simply resources or capital stocks that are shared; they are distinct social communities with their own self-organized governance rules, management practices and cultures that matter, especially in counterpoint to markets and the state. A commons is not the resource alone, in other words. So treating “the commons” as a capital stock would be seen by commoners as a category error and a misunderstanding of what the commons is truly about.
Finally, I am a bit skeptical about the willingness of the corporate community to voluntarily assent to standards that would truly empower commoners to manage resources in the ways they see fit. There would be too many power shifts and “inefficiencies” for most public corporations to accept. For all I know, there may be some constructive middle ground or points of mutual engagement between Context-Based Sustainability and commoners as I know them, but I am skeptical. You can get a better feel for the commons movement and their views from the website of a recent conference that I co-organized in Berlin, the Economics and the Commons Conference.”