Younger employees along with the public and media continue to apply pressure on organizations to address Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues including human rights and environmental sustainability. For many consumers, a robust and transparent CSR program is a necessary condition before they are willing to buy.
How best to address society’s expectations for social responsibility has become a challenge. How do you address these issues in meaningful ways and avoid accusations of “green washing”?
For many organizations, the approach has been to support philanthropy or community engagement, donating a portion of profits, offering employee volunteer time, pledging to provide certain products or services free of charge. For other organizations, the approach can be best described as CSR compliance – certifying supply chain behavior, meeting third-party standards for board diversity or conducting social audits.
A third approach is also beginning to gain momentum. This approach focuses on more strategic CSR programs that engage in activities that serve both the business and the community. More and more companies are finding ways to help their communities while simultaneously providing more value to employees, customers and improving operations.
Here at NAVEX Global, our Outreach Program allows team members throughout the organization to develop and implement community outreach events. These projects both improve the communities in which we work as well as provide invaluable inter-personal and project management experience to the future leaders of the organization.
Examples of initiatives from other organizations include:
- Working with third parties to ensure they provide safe working environments and fair wages. By helping suppliers improve conditions for workers, CSR programs can limit the possibility that an organization’s supply chain will run afoul of labor laws or be subjected to negative media attention.
- Creating more environmentally-friendly industrial processes. By investing in environmentally-friendly innovation, CSR programs can help replace costly, polluting processes with cheaper, cleaner alternatives. This ensures the organization is protected from current and future regulations and can help reduce health risks for employees that may lead to litigation.
Key steps for organizations to take:
1. Identify and understand your organization’s CSR image and what shapes it
On a regular basis, gather and assess information about the impact of your organization’s actions or lack of action from news reports, CEO statements, employee perceptions, customer experiences, social media, activists and other organizations in your industry.
2. Reposition E&C as a broader social good
Employees are rarely motivated by the call to “be compliant,” however, they will respond more positively if they can see that their actions are advancing a broader, societal benefit. Most compliance efforts can be repositioned within the broader context of “values” and social good work – which are often more meaningful and motivational frameworks than strict compliance.
For example, abiding by anti-corruption requirements in order to ensure ABC compliance is less motivating to employees than demonstrating the deleterious effect that corruption has on the lives of people in emerging economies and articulating the role they can play in eliminating corruption and its effects.
These, and similar efforts, also resonate well with employees who see it as a sign that the organization truly means what it says in its code of conduct and policies. Although many organizations are beginning to see the benefits of this new approach, only a few have fully capitalized on this change in the CSR space. We expect to see more.
By Ed Petry
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