Teaching Our Children Personal Responsibility

As a founder of Seventh Generation, I have spent the last twenty years working on building a company that was focused on corporate responsibility. In the early days the notion of corporate responsibility was quite novel. Corporate citizenship, which is how good acts were referred to, consisted primarily of philanthropy.

Traditional companies had one goal, to increase the value of their stock by generating more sales and more profits at any price. Doing anything else for any reason was believed to be irresponsible.

Responsible business, first described in great detail by Harvard's Lynn Sharpe Paine, was viewed as a dangerous distraction by mainstream business. The notion that a company has a responsibility to its community, its employees, and the planet had been practiced by a handful of firms, but not in a way that was recognized as a trend. Today, most would agree that green is good -- good for business and good for shareholders.

I am proud to say today that the path Seventh Generation carved has been adopted by most companies. Today, it is rare for a company to not publish a corporate responsibility report. The case for a triple bottom line, profits, people, planet is more the norm.

But what about the notion of "personal" responsibility? This is certainly not a new notion but it seems to have gotten lost in the quest for better schools, jobs, and money. No amount of corporate responsibility will create a better world for our children unless we teach them to take personal responsibility for the world around them. It is up to us as parents and to teachers to lead them to the understanding that they are part of a greater universe.

We can no longer ignore the fact that every child must learn that the world they find themselves in is one which can only thrive if every individual takes it upon themselves to be good stewards. We must teach our children that the "self" is part of the larger whole and can only succeed if the whole succeeds. Moms, dads, it is up to us to make this happen.


photo: Congressman George Miller