Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has many definitions however can be summarised as “an organisation’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates.” What that looks like is very much a subjective perspective and in this months’ article, we will provide some background to its evolvement and rationale for the board to take a leadership role in its implementation as part of an organisations business model.
The concept of the “triple bottom line” has been around for many years but it is in recent times that it has grown to take its rightful place in strategic business management. The tripe bottom line refers to three perspectives or responsibilities that should drive an organisation and form the basis of CSR, namely:
Economic responsibility: that is, without a sustainable economic framework, organisations, whether non-profit or for- profit, will not be in a position to invest in any other perspectives. However, the model is not based on a profit at any cost; it must recognise and consider the other “partners” in the business.
Social responsibility: organisations have responsibilities to the individuals it employs and the communities in which it operates – this includes human rights, employee rights, behavioural expectations, adherence to the laws of the land and not to abuse its power. Whilst an organisation is an inanimate structure, its representatives must behave as good corporate citizens. Its status as an organisation does not dissolve its responsibility to the community in which it operates.
Environment responsibility: economic prosperity should not come at the cost of the degradation of our natural environment. This means an organisation should be firstly aware of the environment in which it operates and the natural resources it is impacting on through its daily activities. From simple activities such as recycling and waste management through to the protection of our natural environment and controlling and minimising greenhouse gases, organisations are able to have a direct impact of the natural environment that contribute to its business model.
What does CSR look like?
CSR evolved from both a compliance and performance perspective- that is, compliance in that regulators reacted to bad behaviour and forced organisations to be better corporate citizens or face the consequences of financial penalties; and performance in that enlightened organisations recognised that by being good corporate citizens and implementing a CSR policy, good things happened in a number of ways (more on this later). Here are a few examples of CSR initiatives to provide some context:
The range of initiatives and activities is only limited by imagination and commitment, not by the type or quantity of opportunities available in the community.
Benefits of a CSR strategy
Whilst implementing a CSR strategy will take leadership, resources and commitment, starting with the board and cascading throughout the organisation, the benefits are generally acknowledged to be tangible and sustainable and include:
The development, resourcing, implementation and management of a successful CSR strategy starts with the board of directors. Without board leadership and commitment, it is highly unlikely that CSR will become part of an organisation’s DNA and thereby generate the resultant positive benefits.The board has to believe it is the right thing to do, then make it happen through policy and leadership.
This article has only skimmed the surface on CSR. Much has been written on the development, implementation and benefits of adopting a CSR strategy in organisations of all sizes and types. A simple search of the www will provide detailed information, “how to” guides and working examples of CSR and how a commitment to this approach will derive sustainable and substantial benefits to both organisations and communities alike.
From a governance perspective, it’s not should our organisation develop and implement a CSR strategy, but when and how should we do this – because it is the right thing to do.