The Future of CSR–10 Things You Should Start Now

CauseCapitalism_Future_of_CSRWhat can U.S.-based businesses learn from Asian corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs? A lot and a little at the same time. My view is that businesses engaging in CSR at home and overseas face the same fundamental issues, with varying secondary issues (like governance, specific consumer behavior or local environmental standards).  So I’m turning to CSR Asia‘s annual CSR in 1o to glean how American, European and South American businesses should position themselves in the coming decade.

1.  Engage your stakeholders

Relationships with stakeholders should be strategic. Effective stakeholder engagement will become a source of market research and help reduce risk and build a company’s brand. Stakeholders’ views should shape a company’s CSR priorities. Well-structured stakeholder engagement can become a competitive advantage.

2.  Look at new business models

Companies should look for ways to more broadly impact local communities and serve the environment. CSR initiatives, in addition to being central to a company’s business strategy, need to be included in long-term planning. Everyone in the organization should to recognize her own role in advancing CSR and management should facilitate this.

3.  Tweak management’s mindset

Organizations’ social and environmental contributions will become more valued, and in turn, will encourage even more responsible models of business.  The emphasis will move from short-term profit making to long-term competitiveness, particularly as resources become scarce.

4.   Be a leader in capacity building

Employees will be increasingly recruited for their understanding that social and environmental responsibility is a business imperative.  An organization’s commitment to CSR will be partly judged by the resources it allocates to the job.

5.  Add value to human resources

Job descriptions and employee evaluations should include employee responsibilities and expectations around CSR. Employees should be seen as key partners in executing CSR.

6.  Act on climate change

It’s becoming progressively important to understand the business risks and opportunities associate with climate change. Companies should measure and disclose their own greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrate how they are working to curb their environmental impact. More importantly, organizations should actively support environmental initiatives in their communities.

7.  Become an expert on corporate governance

Demand for transparency and accountability will only increase. Strong anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies will be necessary. International standards and guidelines should be appropriately adopted.

8.  Know your supply chain

It will be critical for a company to fully understand its supply chain (a potential area for lax product safety and human rights abuses). Supply chain standards should also include environmental considerations.

9.  Invest in your community

Invest in your community rather than acting as a community philanthropist. This emphasis on investment over giving can help organizations target resources that will benefit both the company and the community.  Companies can demonstrate their commitment to long-term development by partnering with local community groups and NGOs on local and international imperatives. Measure the impact on the community.

10.  Reporting and disclosure

Call for increased transparency necessitates better reporting and information disclosure. Reporting methods are starting to come of age–growing up from annual bound tomes to dynamic, online platforms that also engage stakeholders.

A number of the report’s findings are already (or should be) best practices for CSR programs (transparency, buy-in, data collection, reporting, investment in your community). Yet these recommendations tease out greater expectations on a company and its employees. Consequentially, they also call for improved consumer behavior. With greater transparency, effectiveness and selection of responsible companies, consumers will be accountable for the impact their purchases have on their communities and the environment.

You can download the CSR Asia’s full report, which also includes a ranking of institutions influencing CSR in 2008 and 2009. Consumers hold tight as the #5 influencer in both years.

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