Socially Desirable Ends 51
This is why true social responsibility is strategic planning, not
philanthropy or a marketing tag line: there is a clear relationship
between societal outcomes and your organizational results.
Socially Desirable Ends as a
Definition of Accountability
In case the link to accountability isn’t already clear, let’s detail
just how these define a framework for accountability as well as
performance standards. Performance standards tend to be
something an organization articulates for itself—whereas
accountability tends to be standards that are externally defined
by some entity, that a given profession or set of organizations
are then held to and measured against.
Socially desirable ends are the ethical bases for account-
ability of social responsibility. The measures presented here
are outcomes every organization delivers, and based on how
your organization impacts these measures (do you increase or
decrease deaths, or do you increase or decrease self-
sufficiency?), society determines the relative value you are
adding to their lives. By using these measures as an explicit
framework, accountability for societal impact can cease being
the squishy concept it usually is and become a clearly-defined
framework. The benefit of working with a clearly-defined
framework is that we are then able to develop a common lan-
guage for discussing social responsibility and detailing how a
given organization is adding or subtracting value from society.
For example, when homeowners are sent into foreclosure
as a result of shady lending practices, ignorant buying deci-
sions, and onerous terms for loans, this directly impacts self-
sufficiency. When highway maintenance or assessment teams
fail to address a deteriorating bridge structure, this directly
impacts injuries, deaths, and accidents. When an industry con-
tinues to purchase goods (be it oil or coffee beans or raw mate-
rials) from a region where workers are subjected to unhealthy,
polluting, abusive work situations, that industry (or individual
companies) impact abuse, injury, self-sufficiency, and in some
cases even war or riot.
52 Ethics by Design
When we get clear about those societal-level impacts, we
also get clear about what we are going to hold each organiza-
tion accountable for. It then becomes more straight-forward, as
examples, for:
1. a consumer to identify which organizations they want to
support with their purchasing power (dollars);
2. society or a regulatory body to determine what the
desired impacts should be, and whether an industry is
adding such desired value;
3. an organization to identify the specific ways in which
their industry or individual organization impacts society,
and therefore plan for the desired impact;
4. training grounds for professionals (trade schools, higher
education, etc.) to integrate clearly defined social
responsibility standards into their curricula;
5. offices or bodies of assessment to detail the societal-level
impact of a given industry, organization, or decision.
Rather than defining accountability in process terms (e.g.
banks are making loans available to millions of new homeown-
ers they never would have before), we can now define
accountability in impact terms (e.g. banks are making it possi-
ble for more families to purchase and keep their homes to
establish a sound quality of life, wherein they can be self-
Accountability is about more than just being a good steward
or good corporate citizen. It actually is a distinguishing charac-
teristic between quality organizational planning and organiza-
tions that either are poorly shaped or simply are scams to begin
with. In dissecting the “conventional wisdom” of the single-
bottom-line approach, Bernardez provides an excellent critique
of precisely why a profit-only approach to planning is a recipe
for on-going, drastic, systemic failures.

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