Lance, Livestrong and Nike: CSR Doesn’t Demand Purity

Pam Moore Pam Moore is Senior Vice President of Content and Strategy for UBM Connect. She oversees editorial strategy for 9 physician-oriented web sites and 5 print journals.
About Pam Moore (7 Posts)

Is there really anyone who thought that Lance Armstrong could win the Tour de France 7 times and not be doping?

America’s appalled shock at his confession feels like hypocrisy to me. Of course professional cyclists dope. But that doesn’t mean they can’t also do good.  Just like the rest of us.

Lance Armstrong at the 2005 Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong at the 2005 Tour de France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Businesses who align themselves with not-for-profit efforts with celebrity founders or spokespersons sometimes feel they take a risk. What if there is scandal? Is this person really all good?

There very well might be a scandal, and no one is all good, I think. But that shouldn’t stop anyone.

We all –  as corporate businesses, non-profits, and individuals –are rife with contradiction. A business can work genuinely on corporate responsibility while at the same time some of its employees bribe Mexican officials to open new stores. A not-for-profit can declare itself wholly devoted to helping Hispanic immigrants while at the same time discovering that the executive director is siphoning money for car payments. And a spokesperson aiming to do good can also do bad. It happens.

I applaud Nike for reaffirming its commitment to the Livestrong Foundation in the wake of Armstrong’s confession. The company distanced itself from the cyclist and declared it doesn’t condone doping (just in case there is some dufus out there who thought Nike’s official corporate position supports performing enhancing drugs), but it was able to see that even a flawed human could start something valuable. Thank heaven for that, otherwise we’d have nothing valuable.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” as the socially responsible Jesus had it.

A similar dynamic – a un-nuanced demand for purity –  is sometimes at work between not-for-profits and the businesses that work with them. The businesses are the tarnished money makers while the not-for-profits remain on a high ethical plain.


In a more real and productive CSR world view, we are all in need of a polish, but have different roles to play. We ought use each others’ strengths to make up for our inevitable weaknesses. That is mature, complex and productive; it helps the world much more than casting stones.

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