Editor’s Note: A version of this post was recently featured on the CSR Reporting Blog.
I am often asked, by clients or people I meet in the course of my work: What is the difference between embedding corporate social responsibility (CSR) into business decisions and doing business that improves sales and profits, provided its ethical?
When you talk about embedding CSR into business decisions, it’s hard to know where business stops and CSR sets in. After all, both should lead to better business results. How can you know when a business decision has integrated CSR principles, or if it was based solely on goals of delivering income and profit growth? Doing “good” business, beyond philanthropy and community investment, is just doing good business. Or is it?
I often answer this question rather simply, in a way that more or less aligns with the direction described in the Big Idea of Porter and Kramer, who explain:
“The solution lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center.”
My answer, then, is about the considerations involved in developing new business initiatives or products. If it’s about selling more to create economic growth (which is, in general, a good thing if business is done ethically), then this is hardly embedded CSR. Economic growth alone, as we have seen, does not always produce equitable social benefit and even risks perpetuating many of the global divides — poverty, malnutrition, access to medicine, etc. — that society faces today. Embedded CSR means approaching business development in a different way, that includes an assessment of the social and environmental impacts of potential decisions, and the social and environmental imperatives in the markets where a company operates. In making such decisions, then, economic considerations as well as social and environmental considerations share valuable weight in the decision-making process. The outcomes are measurable benefits to business, to the economy and also equitable social advancement.
So far, I suspect, there’s not much new here for the rather enlightened readers of this blog. Most of you already will already be familiar with shared value and integrating CSR type concepts. So let’s get to the point. It’s this. Vodafone. Mobile Technology. Economic Empowerment. Measurable Outcomes. Connected Women. Click to continue reading »
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