As our globalized world becomes more connected than ever, those who continue to hold fast to the view that corporate social responsibility is an unnecessary expense seem to be falling into a dwindling minority. Virtually everyone else, including business leaders, has embraced the philosophy that Corporate Social Responsibility can and should be a strategic tool for growth.
CSR is certainly by no means a “modern” business initiative. Even as far back as 1700 BC, King Hammurabi in Mesopotamia introduced a code in which “builders, innkeepers or farmers were put to death if their negligence caused the deaths of others, or major inconvenience to local citizens.”*
Fast forward some 3,700 years and you have a much more modern and mature approach to CSR and its main component, stakeholder engagement. Companies are increasingly understanding the need for corporate accountability and long-term community development as core organizational responsibilities.
So now that the business case for socially responsible business activity is commonly accepted, where is the industry headed? Here are four main CSR trends to watch in 2019.
„In the past decade, “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) has become the norm in the boardrooms of companies
1. Measuring will be key.
Measuring CSR initiatives is extremely important because it allows you to:
- Demonstrate your CSR activities and their outcomes to stakeholders and customers
- Improve decision-making as your CSR programs evolve over time
- Align CSR activities with corporate goals
Many companies struggle to effectively measure CSR efforts, although this needn’t be the case. There are proven CSR management tools out there that with powerful analytics tools that allow you to report your progress in real time.
2. Reporting with graphs, not with words.
Gone are the days of eye-burning 90-page reports. The new mode of CSR reporting will be graph-based. Graphs are a welcome antidote to information overload and when well done, a single graph can tell just as much—if not more to our visually-oriented minds—than an entire page of words.
The good news is that CSR teams don’t need to become graph-building gurus or waste hours trying to produce meaningful and professional-looking graphs. If you’re using a specialized information management system to manage your CSR efforts, there’s a good chance it can generate customized reports in just a few clicks – whether it’s for real-time reporting or for a given time period.
3. Building a corporate memory.
Globally-speaking, organizations have long treated areas like corporate social responsibility and stakeholder engagement as an after-thought, rather than as a strategic business function that must be optimized to effectively support growth. This has translated into a lack of investment in professional CSR tools and training. Team members often worked in silos with little-to-no synergy with other business units, and when a member left the team, so did most of their data and communications (along with the built-up knowledge stored in their brains). No company today would consider using email or Excel files to manage their finances, but these basic tools are what many companies are still using to manage their CSR programs. No longer. Companies now recognize the strategic importance of building a lasting corporate memory, which among countless other benefits, will ensure that commitments are being fulfilled and that processes are constantly being improved, rather than being reinvented with each new project or emerging issue.
Companies that take corporate social responsibility seriously are now investing in integrated CSR management platforms. These centralized tools allow team members (and others with access rights) to access, analyze and report on data such as stakeholder information, industry requirements, engagement efforts, community commitments and regulatory compliance – all from a single location, regardless of where they may be located on the globe.
4. Adopting a neutral stance.
It seemed that in 2018, just about everyone was drawing allegiances. Nike’s campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick is just one high-profile example. But not everyone is comfortable with the staunch bi-partisanship that’s dominating the mediascape. As the CSR pressure to stand for something grows, risk-adverse companies will increasingly turn to widely supported “neutral” causes such as disaster relief, human health research and child education.
Like all other business areas, CSR should follow best practices. Having access to a wide international community of practices will support CSR efforts and reduce the risk of taking a stance on issues that could alienate key stakeholders. Thankfully, organizations and standards like the IFC,B Corp, SDGs,GRIand AccountAbilitylead the path with guidelines, best practices and tips to assist companies in achieving more responsible business.
Embracing corporate social responsibility can help to support organizational growth, strengthen stakeholder relationships and even make the world a better place. But don’t let those feel-good thoughts detract you from the truth of the matter: CSR is all-business and in 2019, it will be more important than even to treat it as such.
For over 15 years, Boréalis has been helping companies deliver successful CSR programs. Our integrated management system is used by industry leaders around the world to measure, analyze and report CSR efforts more efficiently. Want to learn more about how we can you’re your organization? Contact our teamfor a personalized demo.
*Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility in Practice, By J. J. Asongu