Magazine article Management Today

Doing Good Do It Right

Magazine article Management Today

Doing Good Do It Right

Article excerpt

You're keen to implement CSR, but it's a demanding exercise to establish a sound and effective policy that percolates through the entire organisation and shapes everything it does. Mark Vernon and Craig Mackenzie offer 20 top tips to put you on the path of righteousness.

MANAGEMENT

1. Make sure the CEO gets it. If he or she doesn't, companies will struggle to pay more than lip-service to corporate social resposibility In this respect, CSR is no different from any substantial corporate activity. For example, at telecoms company Vodafone, CSR is set as one of six board-level, strategic goals. The company's group executive committee, chaired by CEO Arun Sarin, is responsible for policy and performance.

Incidentally, there is a serious economic argument to be made for CSR: it doesn't just deliver for the environment, it delivers on the bottom line too. Companies as diverse as the retailer Marks & Spencer, the telco BT, the healthcare specialist Novo Nordisk and the bank HSBC have found that being known for ethical integrity is quite as important financially as a strong brand and good management. Moreover, good CSR practice has been shown to reduce attrition rates and absenteeism in the workforce.

2. Formally involve the board in approving CSR policies. For two reasons: first, CSR will not flourish without serious time and money being allocated to it. Second, as James Bennett, sector director for technology at consultants Ernst & Young, puts it: 'Companies need to have a comprehensive strategy to deliver a full CSR programme that looks at all aspects of being a good corporate citizen.' That requires involvement at the highest levels.

While on the subject of the board, companies like pharma GlaxoSmithKline and energy group Shell have set up dedicated board committees of non-execs, to keep the execs on the ball.

3. Get an enthusiast to lead the charge. Make sure you hire someone to lead CSR activity who has real enthusiasm for the subject, and the ability to win the respect of hard-bitten operational staff. Too many companies give the role to failed middle managers, or people too junior to be credible. Don't give the job to a tree-hugger. CSR is not fluffy, it is about sound management and tough issues.

4. Direct centrally, deliver locally. Head-office control of CSR is good, but programmes need to be delivered throughout the whole organisation. The way to do this is to put in place a network of CSR champions and co-ordinators. Similarly, Accenture, the management consultancy firm, advises that while leadership is critical, it should not take the form of a series of diktats delivered by the executive. The talk may be worthy, but without fully engaging the attention and interest of employees, a CSR programme is almost certain to fail.

5. Consider the big picture. It means more than just philanthropy. Charitable giving is fine, but CSR demands more than that. 'As a registered charity, we see a lot of companies looking to implement CSR programmes,' says Mark East, chairman of the board of trustees at Digital Pipeline, a company that refurbishes IT equipment. 'That's all well and good; however, it needs to be more than just a marketing tool. It needs to be strategic and must take into consideration the bigger picture, making sure your programme goes full-circle.'

Also, commercial companies should not feel ashamed at the benefits they gain from the activity, such as increased employee loyalty. 'Commercial organisations, by their very nature, will put more effort into something that will benefit them too,' says Mike Phillipson, management director at PR company Propaganda.

And finally, make sure that any charitable work you do is actually wanted. 'Don't second-guess the need,' says Marcus Jamieson-Pond, CSR manager at City law firm Addleshaw Goddard. 'Talk to the people you want your CSR programme to support - their needs may be different from your expectations. …

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