Friday, May 21, 2010

Standing at the CSR Crossroads

Business in the 21st century is now full of catch phrases such as employee engagement, embedding CSR into the DNA, alignment of values and behavior, integrity, core values, going green, sustainability, corporate survival and respect.

Companies that are stumbling into this cry for transparency (another positive trend) may be overwhelmed or even intimidated by both the pressure to perform an unfamiliar set of behaviors, and by the variety and complexity of the types of CSR activities – with the added catch that those that are too tentative about the process and chose to stay with familiar and true behaviors run the risk of watching their companies fade into the background or cease to exist all together. No pressure.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by David Suzuki the renowned environmentalist, documentarian and activist. He was speaking passionately and at times angrily about the stupidity and selfishness of man and big corp as we systemically create irreversible harm to the ecosystem that we depend on for our survival as a species. And then…he paused. He recounted a conversation he had had with his twenty-something daughter. As I recall it went something like this. He asked his daughter how she felt about the future, her future. Her reply was that she was excited. Suzuki senior was incredulous, “Excited?....Excited? How the hell can you be excited? Don’t you know what is happening to our planet? To the food we eat, the oceans we harvest, the air we breathe?”….”Dad”, she replied…”We are standing at the crossroads of choice. If we continue on the path we are on we will destroy ourselves, but if we take the other road we have an opportunity to truly change the future of humanity – what an opportunity, to be part of taking the right road”.

Companies that choose to see themselves as part of the fabric of the communities in which they operate and in which their employees live, or where they outsource….are facing this wonderful choice. They too have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the future of humanity. They get to use their innovative skills that differentiate them from their competitors to create a method of practice that sets them firmly on the course of sustainability.

In the brilliant book The Responsibility Revolution – Jeffrey Hollender outlines the notion that corporate consciousness is the latest horizon in the competitive landscape. Those corporations that are seriously engaged in CSR strategies understand that true transformative change can have its genesis today but that the benefits of this change may be a generation or more away. These corporations acknowledge and then act upon effective environmental and social agendas that are integrated with the value proposition of the company and give back to the communities in which they do business. They have moved beyond measurement of ROI in the next quarter to understanding that investment today has to be for the long term. Fundamentally they understand two principles, first of all. Do something of substance. Second of all – Commit to see it through.

Hollender outlines key steps of developing a CSR strategy, including and not limited to; keeping mission and legacy front and center, elevating sustainability to the top of the corporate agenda and supporting authenticity by allowing individuals to “own” sustainability ……. Are these activities easy? No. The tendency to go toward the bright light of short term gains to meet the hungry and perceived needs of shareholders is still compelling. But progressive companies make the hard choices anyway. To pull from a previous blog, they see that they need to do the right thing not just when it is convenient for them, but as a standing method of practice. They have reached the crossroad and are choosing to make their journey longer by making the right choice.

The Acacia Group’s mission is to offer transformative and unique leadership development for organizations seeking to live out their global citizenship. To do this we blend knowledge from Corporate Social Responsibility, Community Development and Leadership Development and Learning to create new opportunities for excellence for our clients. For more information, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment