The Challenges and Opportunities of Being Socially Responsible
The SAA Statement of Core Values and Code of Ethics includes eleven core values. Among them is Social Responsibility. In fulfilling its charge to investigate and recommend changes to SAA’s annual meeting, the Social Responsibility Subgroup has been looking into ways in which the annual meeting can help us to be better local, national and global citizens. We've been focusing mainly on three areas:
Fair labor practices
A labor dispute at the Hyatt Regency during SAA's 2011 meeting in Chicago served, in part, as the catalyst for including social responsibility in the Annual Meeting Task Force’s substantial reconsideration of the annual meeting. We have been looking at ways in which SAA can support fair labor practices at our conference facilities, and have discussed a variety of methods we may use including adding language to hotel contracts that would allow SAA the ability to change venues in the event of a labor dispute. In addition, we've also discussed whether SAA might need to rethink the frequency with which it holds its annual meeting in Chicago, given the city's history of ongoing labor disputes in the hospitality industry.
As we began to think about ways in which the annual meeting can be more socially responsible, the idea of environmental sustainability has also come up. We've thought about ways to reduce the amount of waste the annual meeting produces and reducing its carbon footprint. These might include actions like reducing the amount of signage, eliminating some of the printed material from the welcome packet, and explicitly considering public transportation when selecting conference venues.
At the most recent annual meeting in San Diego, the Archivists of Religious Collections Section sponsored a very successful service project. This was an idea we'd talked about in the subgroup, and would like to continue. SAA frequently meets in certain cities, so it may be possible for these projects to support both the short and long term needs of local archives and service organizations.
In our discussions, the subgroup has often acknowledged that having a more socially responsible annual meeting can be costly and inconvenient, both for us as individuals as well as an organization. It can be difficult to balance the many competing priorities and needs of an event as complex as SAA's annual meeting. Issues of environmental responsibility, fair labor and service are challenging and often compete with compelling logistical and financial demands. Despite such complications, we feel these issues deserve to be explicitly addressed in the context of the annual meeting. If we - individually and organizationally - fail to address these issues because they seem too overwhelming or too hypothetical we are, by failing to act, making a statement about the importance of these issues to us. In that vein, we're also drafting language for a general statement of social responsibility in regards to its annual meeting, for Council’s consideration.
We invite your input on these issues. Specifically, we ask that you think about the issues that we have raised and offer your feedback.
- Do you feel that SAA should negotiate hotel contracts with fair labor language?
- Are you willing to pay a premium for a hotel that provides that escape clause?
- Do you have other avenues to recommend making sure that the Society is able to follow its core value of social responsibility?
- Do you feel that that the Society should have a separate statement of social responsibility?
- What should we be doing about sustainability?
- Are you interested in service projects?
Please contact any of the members of our sub-group or leave a comment on this blog post.
Rachel Vagts, Sub-group chair