Thou Shall Do Good: Seven Commandments of Exceptional CSR

If I had a penny for every time I see big names defy some of the basics of good business, I would be the next Warren Buffet…. OK maybe not Buffet but could definitely give Donald Trump a run for his money (yes Buffet is richer than Trump….by about 42 billion dollars). Anyway back to the point; after having wasted millions of my valuable brain cells trying to drill the basics into some rather obstinate corporate brains, I have decided to write about it and hopefully get it out of my system. I am giving below the seven commandments of good business that in turn drive exceptional CSR. I am not claiming that the list is exhaustive. Nor am I claiming that it’s all there is to creating a good business, but these are those absolute must-dos that I see being ignored so very often.

1.     Know Thyself:

Does it really make sense to go full throttle into saving the world when you don’t know your own realities? It may seem obvious but you will be surprised how many companies actually skip this one, assuming, often mistakenly that they do know everything there is to know. Yes, you may know about the operational capacity, the market mix and the budget spend but for creating exceptional CSR you need to know what your own social capabilities are. We are quick to do SWOTs before taking any key decisions, then why not for determining your CSR direction. Why not conduct something we call a social SWOT; an analysis of your core competence, your inherent limitations and your enabling factors with respect to CSR. Without this simple exercise there really is no use going forward no matter how good your intentions are.

2.     Know Thy Purpose

When you make a conscious decision to start strategic CSR, the first question you need to ask yourself is why you are doing it. The leadership needs to be clear about the business rationale of doing this. I have sat across CEOs and heard answers like “we want to give back to the community” one too many times to appreciate the emotional rush from taking the moral high ground, because I know it won’t last. Whether it is to get more customers, improve your image, get better investor opportunities or retain high calibre employees, get clear and do it now, before anything else.

3.     Understand Thy limits

If you are operating in a region like Middle East where certain activities are just not possible, acknowledge it and embrace it. This is your reality and reality of all the other companies operating in the region. You need to know your Industry issues, regulatory limits, civil society advocates or even that lone activist who thinks your company is the reincarnation of the devil. Without knowing about your limitations, you may end up with an initiative that looks great in theory but just won’

4.       Know Thy Stakeholders

Your Stakeholders can make or break your company and knowing what matters most to them is imperative. Taking decisions that impact them, with their consultation and buy-in can take you from a PR seeking, green washing shark to a company that actually cares.

5.     Target Thy Efforts

Whilst some experts think it’s best to start a number of activities simultaneously so that you cover more CSR issues, I believe that when you are just starting off, it’s important that your efforts are concentrated in one or maximum two priority areas. Having too many focus areas will make losing focus very easy. It’s always best to decide your quick wins and then take concerted efforts toward achieving your set goals in those areas.

6.     Measure Thy Actions

They say you can’t control what you can’t measure. I will take it one step further and say that if you can’t measure it, don’t bother doing it. We are talking about a business here and if you can’t have measurable returns on your investment of time and money, just ditch the idea.

Creative Commons Marcus Erne

7.     Celebrate thy victories…and losses:

CSR is not a milestone that one you achieve, you unpack your bags, put your tent up and settle in. It is a continuous journey of improvement, changes, achievements and often disappointments and it is important to celebrate each of these milestones. A CSR report is one of the many ways in which you can talk about what you have achieved, where you have fallen short and what steps you plan to take in future that will take you closer to your goal. This celebration, this communication is not merely a “Feel Good Exercise” but also conveys your commitment and seriousness towards the cause.

Photo Credit: Flicker.com Marcus Erne

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