Friday, December 09, 2005

Corporate Social Responsibility – I hope we are serious!

I have just started reading about something called Corporate Social Responsibility. It seems I am a bit behind many people on this.

My limited understanding is that the ‘penny has finally dropped’ that running a business is NOT JUST ABOUT PROFITS. The best definition of Corporate Social Responsibility I have found was in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph;

‘The acknowledgement by companies that they should be accountable not only for their financial performance, but also for the impact of their activities on society and/or the environment. Striking a balance is all important.’

I think it is a wonderful aspiration that we should all aim for. I look forward to see what money is ploughed back into society by all the big companies. I have detected in the last few years a much more responsible position being taken by Tesco for instance with their continuing support to cause such as Cancer and there are many examples such as the Body Shop and Virgin of massive companies who plough millions of pounds back into good causes in the UK as well as overseas.

There is something very good about this initiative and the inter-dependence between society and business underpins it. It is perhaps appropriate that I post something about this at the time of the year too.

I love the idea and my biggest concern is that managers, academics and management consultants will turn this wonderful idea into an unnecessarily complicated process – lets keep it simple and then we all win.


/pd said...

"massive companies who plough millions of pounds back into good causes"

Why ?? Because they all get tax gains for deferred captial on charity. which one of these companies actually will give to the good causes, if there is no montoery benifit ?? Let the governement tax them at the top line (revenue) and then lets see how many will give money away !! (i.e their profits away.. first- rather then to the share holders/ directors etc etc)... that will be the day !!

Sriram said...

CSR is the continuing commitment by any business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large. CSR is about business giving back to society and am sure it can be done in small doses rather than attracting the media & publicizing the stuff you do (we don’t require sensationalism, we require action!). There are lots of companies doing their own little part to project themselves as a responsible corporate citizen for eg: employing physically challenged people as a part of their workforce, running schools for the deaf & dumb, building hospitals, day-care centers, promote afforestation & other eco-friendly initiatives, providing land-less laborers with farms, empowering women in rural areas, promote education & literacy, eradicate poverty, provide food, clothing & shelter, increase self-sufficiency amongst the down-trodden… much is being done. All I wish is that MORE needs to be done and time is running out. This would also require Public-Private partnerships and involvement of NGOs inorder to reach / penetrate into the masses. Well, lets hope for the best!

servimetrica said...

Corporate Social Responibility should be "second nature" to all companies, and not something to brag about (and score goodwill points) in their ads or on their websites.

Gabriel S.

omm said...

Couldn't agree more with Gabriel, companies are intrinsecally something created for improving society. What is funny is that we need to make whole responsibility programs and guidelines for remaining to companies on how not to loose sight of their most important mission.
Re. pd's comment I am allright with companies giving back part of profits to charity and mananagement choosing where to put that money instead of letting to the Inland Revenue deciding about it. To me advertising these things is also a good point and the fact that it cleans up their image at the same time is fair -always it is true, indeed- and set a fairly good example.

Sriram thank you for the explanation, it is excellent.

shinsato said...

Hi Trevor, interesting post. Having recently listened to "The Google Story", an audio book about the most popular search engine, and I was intrigued at how strongly the book conveys that these people are on a mission to do good. The "Don't be evil" motto is not just something that got tacked on later, it was there in the beginnings.

It's become more and more clear that the old style of working just isn't good enough anymore, showing up at the office, putting in your 8 hours, and then tuning out work. It just doesn't cut it. The successful companies are on a mission. Not just to make money, but to make a difference, make the world a better place, or something.

Peter Drucker has said a lot about non-profits, and he believes that they hold the key for the social health of our societies. Non-profits are fully about the mission, and completely voluntary. If your heart isn't in it, why bother when you're not getting paid?

Companies that are doing well today, seem also to need to be doing good. Maybe that's why it's been elevated to a TLA (three letter acronym), CSR.

Thanks for pointing this one out, Trevor.

Trevor Gay said...

Wow - thanks all for some excellent comments

/pd - Its ok to be cynical but I think people like Richard Branson and Anita Roddick do it for the right reasons. I am sure you are correct about the motives of some other people. I would rather look to Roddick and Branson as role models.

Sriram - putting something back is how I see it and I agree a lot of companies already do things quietly without publicity and I remain optimistic.

Gabriel - 100% with you

Omara - it is a good point you make. Why indeed do we have to remind business they should give something back to their community.

Harold - I am so pleased to see more recogntion of the fantastic work of non profit making organisations. Most of my career has been spent working closely with or for non profit organisations and almost everyone on their payroll see their responsiblity as giving service - long may that remain