Corporate Social Responsibility will never offer companies a competitive advantage – unless it is both competitive and advantageous. If you are a risk taker, and step out from the herd, CSR may offer you the edge. If you can tie it to key business strategies, it will also make you more successful. Mediocre action coupled with reporting ‘company niceties’ won’t do it.
How to be Remarkable
I like Mallen Baker’s stuff. He’s a writer, speaker, and strategic advisor on corporate social responsibility and the Founding Director of Business Respect. He also writes pretty regularly for the Ethical Corporation (also liking it). Just today, I came across a bold article regarding CSR strategies. Baker’s point is simply the following: If you want to advertise CSR as giving your company a competitive advantage, well then it has to stand out. It has to be remarkable.
Here’s what Baker feels might make for remarkable CSR:
- Publicly breaking ranks with your industry sector over an issue where you know things have to change, but everyone has been holding on hoping it wouldn’t change just yet.
- Taking time to understand what it would look like to have achieved sustainability in your company, and then announcing this vision as your target.
- Accompanying point 2 above with a clear action plan of how you’re going to get there
- Selling the imperative for this to your shareholders, and standing up to those who think it’s fine so long as it doesn’t affect next quarter’s figures
- Understanding your customers as citizens, not just as consumers, and reflecting that in the products you make, the marketing you do.
- Lobby governments when you see market signals promoting socially undesirable outcomes – even when they benefit you in the short term.
- Admit your mistakes in your CSR report, and what you’ve learned from them. I mean including your biggest ones, not just a token one because you know people give credit to reports that admit to something negative.
This article first appeared in the 21 March 2009 @ 03:10 pm EST issue of The International Business Times. You can read the full article here.
How to Report “Remarkable”
I agree with Baker, and wrote up an article addressing the flip-side of the coin: CSR reports.
CSR reports. Why, oh why, is naivete the norm? The information is available, the compilers are smart (smarter than me, I’m sure), the readers are vested shareholders (and smart too, no doubt). There is simply no justification for reports on Corporate Social Responsibility to be so disastrously void of compelling data.
You can read it here – Corporate Social Responsibility Reports Fail To Prove The Business Case.