Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) started as a concept among forward thinking companies, but it has grown to become a pervasive aspect of all business for everyone. Starting with obvious targets like energy and manufacturing, CSR issues are now a routine part of the dialogue for companies in sectors such as investing and professional services. From customer requirements to recruiting, acting as a good corporate citizen is an integral part of the business brand.
However, while many companies have developed a concise set of talking points around CSR issues and may have one or two choice anecdotes about an initiative, that’s usually where it ends. In our experience, too many companies have little to show in the way of CSR if you dive just a bit below the surface.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to pierce the surface to see these flaws. Ask a management team “what, specifically, does your company mean when you talk about ‘CSR issues,’” and you’re unlikely to get a consistent response—if you can get a coherent one. Often, we hear corporate leaders offer recursive definitions that are essentially meaningless: “For our CSR program, we analyze all of our business practices to ensure that we are acting responsibly on issues important to our constituents and communities.”
As they say, “specificity is the soul of narrative.” A quality response will go the extra step to name discreet issues that a company is focused on and how they determined those issues. Being able to tell someone “CSR is important to us and we focus on three main areas: energy use, recycling and environmental impact” is leaps and bounds more credible and compelling than saying “CSR is important to us.”
A world-class organization will go even further, and be able to show a coherent policy, explain how each issue is addressed and how the overall CSR effort is evaluated on a regular basis.
This may seem daunting or overkill to some, but a robust CSR strategy—and being able to communicate it coherently and convincingly—is increasingly important to a growing array of audiences for every organization.