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“The greatest way to change the world is _________.”

That’s how KPMG’s Director of Citizenship and Diversity Lord Michael Hastings started the opening keynote at this year’s Net Impact Conference in Portland, Oregon.

In the next half an hour that followed, the former — and the first ever — CSR director of BBC offered observations that felt alternatively poignant, realistic and perhaps unattainable.

On America’s prison system:

We must recognize that social dysfunction is a critical part of our reality and is perilously expensive.

On 9/11:

I say this with the utmost respect in my heart for the victims of 9/11: It has cost us one trillion dollars and over 6,700 deaths to avenge one event. Within hours, what was supposed to be the war on illiteracy – remember the picture from that day of President Bush reading to a classroom of kids? – became the war on terror.

Today, we are facing the repercussions of that decision. Now, we must switch on our acutest sense: Our intuition and listening power.

On Occupy Wall Street:

[We have to figure out] how do we respond? Because we have to. These protests must drive transformation, which can only come through sacrifice, only by accepting responsibility.

On the answer to changing corporate culture and mindsets:

The answer is cynicism. This is an understanding that I am responsible for the conflicts around me, that I absorb the duty, steel my back and face society to do the unexpected.

On reputation:

We cannot build a reputation on what we are ‘going to do.’ Our moral fiber, clarity of values, past record and leadership contribute to our ultimate reputation.

On the role of people in business growth:

A change in reporting is occurring that will correctly calculate the real assets of a business. Integrated reporting offers this framework for the future. We’re in a time when the idea of responsible capitalism is becoming a part of business strategy. We must continue with it.

And his answer to the earlier question?

“Overcoming cynicism”

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