Cause & effect
BY SIMON KENT · ILLUSTRATION BY KEN ORVIDAS
WITHOUT A DOUBT, corporate social responsibility (CSR) should strive for the greater good. But let's be honest, it's not entirely altruistic. CSR projects need to have clear business goals and established metrics to make sure those goals are hit. That takes a new kind of project leader—a do-gooder, yes, but one armed with a keen business sense.
Here are five CSR project leaders looking to make a difference.
〉 YOY HAVE TO justify everything you do for environmental programs. Whether that means measuring a tangible cost saving or attracting more customers, there has to be an impact on the business itself.
–JULIET SILVESTER, FUJITSU SERVICES, LONDON, ENGLAND
Fujitsu Services, London, England
Juliet Silvester had a pretty impressive gig at IT and business consultancy Fujitsu Services.
“I was a project and program manager with 140 managers reporting to me,” she says.
Then she took on a new mission as head of environmental programs.
“The remit I was given was to take hold of the ‘green’ agenda and push it forward across the company,” Ms. Silvester says. “It wasn't that we weren't doing anything before this, but we were covering the area mainly from a legal and compliance perspective, rather than an overall program of which legal and compliance was simply one element.”
The program Fujitsu Services adopted is integrated into the company's growth strategy and splits into five areas. Alongside legal and compliance, there are now green initiatives around buildings, management, IT solutions, teams and sourcing.
“In each of the areas, there are people responsible for making things happen, and we also have ‘green teams’ where employees not necessarily related to the program in terms of their day job can also contribute,” Ms. Silvester explains.
Although the Fujitsu parent company in Japan has been using the program for many years, it was only introduced about 12 months ago in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region Ms. Silvester covers. And creating and delivering the program proved to be a challenge. Not only was it a new subject area for Ms. Silvester, but she also had to contend with the novelty of sustainability as a business strategy.
“The program was fairly vague at first,” Ms. Silvester admits, adding that she had to define much of the program's detail. “We wanted to make sure we became environmentally responsible throughout our services to our customers so that [we] would enable them to do the same. But if you're going to have credibility in this area, it's absolutely crucial you can prove you really are serious and not part of the ‘greenwash’ brigade.”
In each area of the program, the company has established a benefits roadmap that outlines the outcomes to be achieved at defined milestones and at project close.
“You have to justify everything you do for environmental programs,” says Ms. Silvester. “Whether that means measuring a tangible cost saving or attracting more customers, there has to be an impact on the business itself.”
Freelance CSR consultant, New York, New York, USA
Former director of CSR at Time Warner Inc., Heather Shaw knows a thing or two about how the big guys work—and how much they need CSR.
“CSR is about the community and the business and the things that tie those two together,” she says. “Small shops and stores used to have a close relationship with the community in which they were based. If you're a big company, you still need those close relationships. Indeed, you need them more than the small store does.”
Now a freelance CSR consultant, Ms. Shaw says the time has come for companies to bring CSR to the fore, applying it to their internal as much as their external relationships with people.
“This is about creating a workplace with a good work-life balance as much as it is about dealing with the environmental side of things,” she says.
And if companies do it right, the payoffs are there.
“Companies are reaping direct business benefits, including a responsible reputation with stakeholders and attracting and sustaining employees,” Ms. Shaw says.
Like many in CSR, she didn't take the direct route, starting out as a lawyer and then segueing into management.
“By transitioning into CSR, I found I could make a more meaningful contribution to the company and community,” Ms. Shaw says.
And the current marketplace is full of opportunity for the well-intentioned corporate citizen.
“You can leverage CSR strategies into areas such as professional development, employment and education,” Ms. Shaw says. “The work gives a great deal of professional and personal satisfaction because you see the long-term impact you have on society locally, nationally and globally.”
〉I LOVE the challenge of helping companies to change their thinking and behavior to become more sustainable, good corporate citizens.
–LEEORA BLACK, Ph.D., AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Leeora Black, Ph.D.
Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Melbourne, Australia
Leeora Black, Ph.D., was drawn into CSR before it was the big buzz word it is now. Dr. Black first started working in the field in the 1980s while consulting on public affairs for the steel division of what is now BHP Billiton. At that time, the company's reputation was headed downhill rapidly because of an environmental catastrophe occurring close to a BHP mine in Papua New Guinea.
Intrigued by the relationship between organizational strategy, structure, culture, accountability systems and reputation, Dr. Black went back to university to study for a doctorate in management with a dissertation on public relations and CSR. She then went on to establish the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, which offers CSR research, training and advice.
“I'm fascinated by how the power and size of modern corporations makes them important participants in the delivery or protection of outcomes that are traditionally beyond the walls of the corporation—outcomes such as quality of life, amenity of neighborhoods or regions, and preservation of the environment,” she says. “I love the challenge of helping companies to change their thinking and behavior to become more sustainable, good corporate citizens.”
Although CSR can mean a better environment and even a better world, Dr. Black is clear on the business advantages, too. “Benefits can include employee attraction and retention, creating new strategic opportunities, reducing risks and improving long-term outcomes,” she explains.
Good Deed Foundation, Tallinn, Estonia
Minni Tint first developed an interest in CSR as a college student in Norway between 1995 and 1997. An Estonian national, she was worried by what she calls the “predatory capitalism” operating in parts of her country since its independence from Russia.
“I thought there should be a fairer way of doing business, and CSR seemed to be what was missing,” says Ms. Tint.
After graduating with a business degree, she set out to see firsthand how social responsibility played out in diverse scenarios. She worked at Philips Medical Systems in the Netherlands as the company was trying to build CSR throughout the organization. And then she took on positions at two India-based non-governmental organizations.
Ms. Tint brought her knowledge and skills home to Estonia to the Good Deed Foundation, where today she serves as a portfolio manager. The organization tries to act as a facilitator for social entrepreneurship, helping identify, develop and fund projects aimed at bettering Estonian society.
Ms. Tint says there are three key questions the Good Deed Foundation asks before making a proposal: “Is this organization able to [make] a large impact on Estonia? Does it have a water-tight business model? Does it have the leadership capacity to achieve the set goals?”
To get things moving, the group calls on some big names in the business world, including KPMG, Hansabank, Hill & Knowlton and Fontes.
Among the projects in the Good Deed portfolio is an initiative launched by the Health Estonia Foundation to engage businesses in helping address the country's HIV problem. Since its launch in 2006, the group has reached almost 3,000 people, with close to 100 percent of them reporting they've learned something new and useful from the program.
Even with success, project leaders may have to work to maintain buy-in. Some of Estonia's larger businesses were major supporters of Good Deed Foundation's early projects. But Ms. Tint and her colleagues now face a challenge in maintaining their portfolio.
“It was easier to get people involved in the early days,” she says. “Now our operations are extending, we need more resources, and getting the second round of supporters is harder. Some people pick up the idea easily and understand why it is necessary, but we're beginning to feel we need to start selling the idea.”
〉A CARING employer with a good reputation and profile is important for getting the best people to fill our vacancies.
–DR. STEVE BOORMAN, ROYAL MAIL, LONDON, ENGLAND
Dr. Steve Boorman
Royal Mail, London, England
Dr. Steve Boorman didn't plan to go into CSR. He was working as an occupational physician with the U.K. national postal service before he was promoted to a position tasked with integrating CSR across the organization.
“I came to this post with a steep learning curve,” he confesses. “I quickly realized the job was more about threading together things the organization was already doing—getting them to operate in a more joined-up way, rather than trying to do new things. I was also making the case to maintain or reintroduce approaches that were under scrutiny during financial constraints.”
Setting clear targets has been central to the success of integrating CSR into the organization, says Dr. Boorman. For example, the company aims to be carbon-neutral by 2015.
On the employee welfare front, Royal Mail has already cut accidents among its employees across the business by 50 percent during the past five years. And it has also launched a project aimed at reducing injuries among employees within the letters business—those who actually deliver the mail—by another 25 percent this year.
Some CSR initiatives are not only delivering efficiencies, he says, but improving the company's talent management as well.
“The retention issue has been important to us,” Dr. Boorman says. “It was one of the reasons for wanting to strengthen our performance in this area. We are recruiting from a marketplace that's highly competitive, and some of our positions may offer lower pay than other employers. A caring employer with a good reputation and profile is important for getting the best people to fill our vacancies.” PM
PM NETWORK OCTOBER 2008 WWW.PMI.ORG