Business Approach to CSR: An interview with PwC’s Jeff Senne

By Madhurya Prakash

Wikipedia defines CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. Ideally, CSR policy would function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business would monitor and ensure its support to law, ethical standards, and international norms.

CSR is increasingly becoming business imperative. But not all companies have effectively integrated CSR into their overall strategy. For many of the firms, even today CSR remains a PR tool only. What is the most effective way for a business to integrate and promote CSR within the organization? How can a company engage its employees in such initiatives? I had an opportunity to discuss some of these important issues during a brief chat with Mr. Jeff Senne, Director, Corporate Responsibility at PricewaterhouseCoopers during Net Impact 2010.

Triple Pundit: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and experiences in the CSR Sector?

Jeff Senne: I currently lead lead the PwC Environment and Marketplace as the Director of Corporate Responsibility. I have also served as the head of Communication on Progress and Participation of United Nations Global Compact program.  I aim to advance social responsibility as a corporate, national and global priority.

3p: What is United Nations Global Compact ? Can you tell us more about this program

JS: The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption UNGC stands today as the largest corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative of the world. There are around 7700 corporate participants from over 130 countries taking part in this global initiative. The participation is completely voluntary. PwC is a proud partner of UNGC and its participation in UNGC is established through a written commitment to uphold the UNGC’s ten principles. By participating in the Compact, PwC’s global network of member firms actively support the UNGC’s ten principles in their respective geographies.

3p: Wonderful to know about UNGC. On this note can you tell us more about the CSR initiatives at PwC.

JS: Sure. PwC has always been a pioneer in the field of CSR and corporate reporting.  Building Public Trust, a book on corporate reporting  co-authored by our CEO Samuel A. DiPiazza Jr.  helped create a bona fide framework for a new, open form of transparent financial reporting that should prove more palatable to businesses and their stakeholders.

We at PwC strongly believe that decisions and actions taken by the private sector can have profound effects—for better or for worse—on the public welfare. So for us Corporate Responsibility is not about what you do with your money once you have earned it, but it is about how you earn money. Which means that we consider CSR as a part of our core strategy. Our CSR initiatives have 3 main themes –Youth Education; Climate Change and Social Inclusion/Diversity. – around which we design and implement our efforts.

3p: What are some effective ways for a business to become more sustainable?

JS: I think sustainability is a continually improving journey- it’s not static.  It is important to take a strategic approach to CSR and evaluate in what ways, good or bad, is its business affecting the society. A business can always leverage its core competencies to make a positive impact on the society. In doing so it becomes necessary to engage all its key stake holders and actively involve them in the sustainability efforts. To achieve tangible results, its not enough to have just good intentions. Instead one should set clear goals and start the dialogue towards achieving those goals. In this way companies can achieve some good results.

It is also critical to measure your impact. At PwC we ensure that we measure the impact of our initiatives such as carbon reduction. However there are some challenges for businesses, specially in the developed nations to make a business case for CSR. Because in developing nations,   impact of business on environment and society is  very evident; where as in developed countries such as US, it is challenging to effectively measure the impact on environment and society.

3p: So you mentioned that it is critical for businesses to engage its employees in this large theme of sustainability. Can you share some advice on implementing stakeholder engagement?

JS: Yes, it is key to inspire and engage the employees in ongoing CSR efforts to make a meaningful impact. We see our employees as our partners in all our sustainability initiatives. By doing this, not only we succeed in getting their active involvement, but also benefit from the fact that employees gain a lot of valuable skills and experiences which makes them a better asset to our organization. The idea of the sustainability needs every one in every title to think of triple bottom line – people, profit and planet.

3p:  Any final thoughts on the conference experience ?

JS: Net Impact conference has been a great experience thus far. Kofi Annan once said that ” If we can win the heart of tomorrow’s business leaders , we will succeed global compact “. I believe this conference is helping do this by bringing together the sustainability leaders of tomorrow.


Madhurya Prakash is young career woman from Bangalore, India. She is currently pursuing her full time MBA at Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. Her interests include technology, sustainability, social media and blogging. She aims to work at the intersection of technology, business and sustainability after her MBA.

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