Last time, we discussed our learnings on why CSR is important. Today, we dive into the fun part of designing and executing an impactful CSR strategy.
To determine the key elements of a CSR strategy, we went where any self-respecting consultant with too many pedigrees would go: Google. There were over 50 million hits…
So we refined our research strategy and instead looked at what the fancy firms and publications to develop an “über-framework” of CSR strategy (aka the 5 most important considerations cited by the experts).
I’ll be honest, we were a bit surprised by this chart – namely, how little variation there was across the various experts (was everyone in the same room at the Aspen Institute? More importantly, can we score an invite to the next one?)
Our takeaway: CSR isn’t rocket science, but like most things it requires intentionality and thoughtful planning to get it right. If you’re an organizational leader who’s intimidated by CSR, don’t be. You can get started now.
A few other thoughts and musings:
1. “Play to your strengths” is good advice
Even if all the experts mentioned this lever, it’s still worth talking about. Your organization’s core capabilities should be well-connected to your CSR strategy. This will increase your impact and could lower the cost to implement.
2. Avoid spreading “propaganda” couched as CSR
In the CSR world, the means are just as important as the ends. CSR should produce mutual benefits for the community and the company – otherwise it’s just propaganda. (exhibit A: Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” campaign, aka “Dieselgate”)
3. Collaborate with key stakeholders
You could have the best intentions – but if your CSR strategy isn’t actually built with the people it’s meant to benefit then you’re SOL.
4. Diversity and inclusion plans are not CSR – they’re table stakes
In our research, we came across multiple articles and corporate reports citing diversity / inclusion as part of CSR strategies. We couldn’t disagree more. Diversity and inclusion is a growth strategy. Companies that can’t attract, retain, and promote a diverse workforce (defined broadly) will be at a competitive disadvantage – end of story.
Innovative approaches to CSR
We also came across a few examples of companies really taking a comprehensive or innovative approach to CSR that we’d like to share. Here are a few:
LEGO: Foundation-funded research on play-based learning, employees trained as “play agents” in communities
MOD pizza: industry-leading benefits
Orix: employee-governed charitable foundation
Unilever: expanding distribution into rural areas through job training
Thanks for reading. Let us know if you like the content so far or have suggestions for future posts and deep dives – send us an email on the contact us page. Our next post will take a more local and quantitative tack where we dig into data on Washington state school districts… stay tuned!
Boston Consulting Group: Total Societal Impact
Bridgespan (Chris Addy, Maya Chorengel, Mariah Collins, Michael Etzel — published in HBR): “Calculating the Value of Impact Investing”
FSG (co-founders Michael Porter and Mark Kramer): Creating Shared Value (FSG site, HBR article)
HBR (V. Kasturi Rangan, Lisa Chase, Sohel Karim): “The Truth about CSR”
McKinsey Quarterly (Tracey Keys, Thomas Malnight, Kees van der Graaf): “Making the Most of Corporate Social Responsibility”
Stanford Social Innovation Review (Jody Kirchner): “Three Steps to Making CSR Count”