Guest Post by Robin Deliso, Associate Director at APCO Worldwide’s Corporate Responsibility Practice
On another blog, I recently wrote about a Bloomberg Businessweek column where consultant Steve McKee presented view of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that struck me as limited and arguably incorrect.
I was reminded that those of us working in CSR often need to explain to others that CSR: a) does NOT equal nonprofit and b) is not an all-or-nothing proposition for a company contemplating CSR initiatives. For a company to be “known for CSR,” it does not need to trade away things like profit, optimal business performance and remaining as competitive as possible, all of which McKee asserts are necessary.
Good CSR strategy aligns company interests with societal ones, and bad CSR strategy does not. Good CSR is good business strategy, and can and should result in better business performance. Why else would strategy guru and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter be so invested in his Creating Shared Value concept, launching the Shared Value Initiative through consulting firm FSG? It’s not new thinking; instead, it’s the natural evolution of CSR (with better branding) that clearly outlines what companies can do to create social good while still optimizing against other, more traditional business goals.
Some argue that only smaller companies can become sustainable enterprises. I disagree. There is a cadre of larger companies striking the balance between shareholder and stakeholder management and leading the way, with more to follow: Starbucks, IBM, GE*, and Nestlé, to name a few.
In the end, CSR done right is not a distraction. In fact, CSR is becoming increasingly central to smart business operations as companies ensure ongoing supplies of scarce resources (why do you think, for example, water availability, crop shortages and other agriculture challenges are such hot topics of late?) into the future. With companies beholden to the tyranny of quarterly earnings, those that pull their heads out of the Wall Street reporting quicksand and look ahead will be best positioned for long-term viability.
Robin Deliso is an associate director who works in APCO Worldwide’s corporate responsibility practice. She’s interested in companies using CR to engage stakeholder audiences, especially consumers, in innovative ways and started her career in nonprofit communications strategy. Robin is a frequent contributor to Shared Purpose, a forum by APCO to think about, discuss, and predict what’s next for business and society. Follow on Twitter: @robindeliso and @apcoworldwide.