7 Issues that CSR needs to address if it is to be accepted by the mainstream business community

There are some hard questions that CSR needs to give real answers to in the coming years. As time goes it is become harder and harder to change any poor practices which are already becoming embedded in governance processes around the world.

  1. There is a lack of definition of CSR. We can’t measure what we cant define and CSR is not a exception in the past I have touched upon this issue as every year seem to come up with a new way of defining CSR normally because some new interest group have tried to make their mark.
  2. CSR have rapidly become another part of the ever-growing Public Relations industry. As CSR is a none-definable concept is has become the task of the communication specialists to come up with answers to questions raised be the corporate stakeholders. If we are to develop CSR in any meaningful context both in the terms of business development and in relation to sustainability in a wider context we need to focus on the activities of CSR rather than the branding of an organisation or product to a very narrow stakeholder group.
  3. Thanks to Porter and Kramer CSR is by many business people being synonymous with strategic philanthropy. Basically giving money away in the belief that in the long term they will return to the company in the form of customers and increased sales. With this very narrow view of the concept is it of cause to activate the whole Business-to-Business part of business. Because there is no real incentive for engagement in strategic philanthropy when you do not have any involvement with “real” customers.
  4. CSR needs to address the neoliberal argument that CSR is “giving the owners money away” if it is to gain any real footing in a broader sense. In many ways this is already happening as the concept have teamed up with ethics and corporate governance, strongly supported by several high-profile corporate scandals, which have highlighted the need for better governance. If CSR is to succeed it need to outlive it-self. This might seem an odd thing to say but if companies and organisations are going to be truly socially responsible they need not to think about whether a decision is good or bad in the context of social or ethical ground but it as to be part of how the organisations DNA. How it thinks, believe and communicate about and to all its stakeholders.
  5. CSR needs to be though in a global context and not just something for that is part of the developing world. In more and more cases CSR is being used as means to keep developing countries out of developed countries economies. As trade-barriers are being lowered on a global scale new forms of barriers are being raised in the form of standards and systems, which companies and not the countries have to abide by. This forms a second semi-legal layer, which is hard to enforce by any objective party and even harder to efficiently to govern. This is a form of governmentality, which is outside the normal control of individual governments, but is superimposed on countries economics by multinational corporations in the effort to live up to some ethical guidelines they themselves have invented. While e might argue that in part of the world there are weak governments were corporations needs to impose rules, which are above local law it is a dangerous path which the professionals and academics of working in the field needs to address.
  6. The issue ever elusive Business case for CSR also needs to be confronted. In my experience and I believe that this is also shown in scientific surveys is something profitable because business wants it to be so. Just having a webpage and a annual report that describes a series of activities is just not good enough. If managers want to make a profit of their CSR activities they need to focus on the things that matter. How do one think that telecommunication for bottom of the pyramid customers became a reality or the widespread acceptance of the business model of microfinance came to be? It is because it was directly linked to a clear need and ability of the company to do well by doing good and not some philanthropic endeavour which was more or less linked to the core business. If a company wants to make CSR profitable it need to use it resources to make it so and not leave it to the Marketing, Human Resource or Communication department to construct a more or less proven business case.
  7. Law or self-regulation? Is rapidly becoming a concern that both companies and the governments need to address. Should be let companies become so powerful that they can dictate democratic governments way of governing their countries or should we let intergovernmental institutions like the UN, EU or OECD decide? And can these institutions even enforce any legislation they might come up with? These are central issues, which will require some careful thinking. On one side we are unable to effectively govern social, environmental and governance issues on a global scale on the other side we are reluctant to just leave it to capitalism and a neoliberal dogma to solve things out. Some institutional proponents argue that we should have interstate regulations on these central issues of corporate governance. Maybe even a global tax system, but it would seem to be just another layer of inefficiency, which is both bureaucracy and unmanageable.

3 thoughts on “7 Issues that CSR needs to address if it is to be accepted by the mainstream business community

  1. Pingback: It is now that CSR have to prove its value « SRI Portfolio Management

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  3. Pingback: Shared value in the EU « SRI Portfolio Management

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