Change THE World

Article excerpt

Guide your corporate citizenship programs with project management competencies.

Whether businesses want to participate in volunteer programs in their local community or change they way vendors operate manufacturing facilities in developing nations, they must approach their responsibilities effectively. Project management skills not only guide a firm's corporate citizenship program, they can be taught to community groups to improve their effectiveness. Because project managers take complicated situations, develop plans to solve problems and manage projects to achieve desired results, they are the ideal individuals to spearhead corporate citizenship programs for their firms and those of their clients.

Why Corporate Citizenship Matters

Corporate responsibility programs-defined by the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Economic Forum Global Corporate Citizenship Initiative (GCCI) as the contribution a company makes to society through its core business activities, social investment and philanthropy programs, and its engagement in public policy, or the overall manner in which a company manages its economic, social and environmental relationships and engages its stakeholders-seem to conflict with a firm's perceived exclusive goal of maximizing profit for shareholders. But research suggests there are concrete business benefits.

"We see increased interest in the social and environmental aspects of corporate performance by pension funds, insurance companies and other shareholders. Investment analysts, trustees and portfolio managers appear to be taking these issues more seriously than they were a few years ago," says Richard Samans, managing director of the World Economic Forum. Seventy-six percent of investors and analysts believe there is a link between nonfinancial risks, such as brand quality and company reputation, and overall shareholder value, according to a study of almost 400 European money managers conducted by the GCCI, which represents more than 40 global companies. Companies that do not address emerging issues such as global climate shifts, social and environmental risks in the supply chain, bribery and corruption, financial and operational transparency, and access and affordability of essential products and services risk harm to both their reputation and brand equity, according to the GCCI report, "Values and Value: Communicating the Strategic Importance of Corporate Citizenship to Investors."

* Corporate responsibility programs often can manage these risks to reputation by communicating a company's good deeds to customers, activist groups and regulators. Half of the general public in North America, Australia and some parts of Europe have a degree of exposure to companies' corporate social responsibility reports, according to Toronto, Canada-based GlobeScan Inc.'s "2004 Corporate Social Responsibility Monitor," and in 13 of the 18 companies with comparable data, trust levels for global companies, while still low, have returned at or above where they were before Dec. 2000, prior to the Enron scandal.

Many investors view corporate responsibility as a proxy measure for management quality, according to "The Business case for Corporate Responsibility," a research report by Cambridge, U.K.-based Arthur D. Little Ltd. and London, U.K.-based Business in the Community. These investors believe corporate responsibility programs offer insight into an executive team's priorities and its ability to consider the long-term sustainability of the organization over the short-term bang in quarterly earnings, the report says, adding that corporate responsibility offers more effective risk management by helping companies reduce avoidable losses, identify emerging issues and leverage their leadership roles to influence regulations that strengthen competitive advantages.

Companies remain competitive when they incorporate corporate citizenship into their business models. "There is a real chance that your clients are thinking about, talking about and doing corporate citizenship in different ways," says Michael Blowfield, Ph. …