How will CSR evolve in the New Decade


Image: townandcountrymag

Happy New Year folks! I pressed a snooze button on my blog-posts. I moved to a new role as a communications consultant and landed my first project with an Austrian conglomerate. You may like to hop over to my LinkedIn profile to know more about what I'm doing.
After 2 decades of headhunting experience and past couple of years focusing on D&I with extreme deliberation, I am full of gratitude for my clients who have instilled their belief in me to deliver in areas where I have had very little experience but only the passion and desire to make a difference in my own little way.
As I settle in gradually to my new reality, I want to come back in action on the writing front. I have been an advocate of Social Responsibility for a long time and have actively been hooting for corporates that are community-serving, primarily operating in applying profit by creating a positive social impact. I'm often asked rhetorically on why CSR needs to evolve? I often answer in the most non-rhetorical way: And, Why not? 
How is CSR Evolving and preparing for the New Decade '2020
Government regulations notwithstanding, very similar to declaring diversity statistics, CSR declarations (reporting corporate responsibility information in the annual financial report of companies) are becoming more common place. Self-Proclamations by organisations identifying themselves as ‘socially responsible’ have 0 validity. Walking the talk is more like it this year as the real value of contribution is not proportional to the net worth of organisations or the philanthropists who lead those initiatives. Some of those that routinely fall under the Forbes 400 lens have contributed almost a third of their wealth in philanthropic endeavors while the richest in the list seem to be contribuing only a fraction.

CSR is moving from a business-case/ strategy sphere to becoming more of a business necessity as many big and small corporates are touting the importance of pushing a socio-environmental and also the socio-political agenda regardless of the political and economic uncertainties that plague the world and will continue to do so. 

Greenwashing No More?

Tech giants, notably the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple may become one of the first trillion-dollar publicly traded companies in the near future, but considering all the wealth they continue to garner, they aren’t best known for their charitable giving but for their limited engagement with global issues, arguably based on the premise that innovation and profit through technology, not charity, drives positive social outcomes be it through job creation or changing lives for the better. 

Quoting from Meet the 12 Most Generous Tech Leaders. . . And 6 of the Least by Michael Gentilucci in Inside Philanthropy  that resonates:

Delayed philanthropy can prove quite fortuitous” 
Point taken!

The problem lies in the better-late-than-never mindset of tech entrepreneurs like Page and Bezos. Many such companies seem to take CSR with an aspect of linearity which mostly revolves around giving to charities, charitable foundations and non-profits without giving much thought to cause and effect or, purposely only giving money where it benefits them directly i.e. vanity projects (tax evasion, better short term investor returns or figuring in the global top CSR indices). In retrospect, such donations can be considered to have a minimal and a less than significant social impact.


CSR – Integrated, not Fragmented

Few, however, seem to be taking the path less travelled, by putting their money where it could do more long-term good, not letting their fundamental business diminish in achieving that goal and, without compromising on their capacity for commercial success.

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk perhaps is a perfect example of this duality of giving and reaping. He has been instrumental in partially solving Puerto Rico's electricity crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, last year.

CSR is going to be seen as a collective process, not fragmented based on the tenets of classical CSR, and will encompass diversity, inclusion, environment and many other related areas converging in an intersection of development programs along with more socio-political issues like immigration, women’s rights to racial equality and environment challenges like conservation to renewables. 

Every year we have buzzwords. Last year was about Diversity, Ai in the beginning and towards the end Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency, Blockchain ruled the roost. 

This is another way CSR will evolve in 2018. Bye Bye Chief Diversity Officer, Welcome Chief Responsibility Officer (!) More on this my next post :)

Communicating Culture of Responsibility

Communicating CSR efforts by not dubious promotions but more by progressive revelations is the new norm.

Quoting, Reputation Institute managing partner Fernando Prado in a FORBES article by Karsten Strauss : “Companies are not communicating what they do, their good deeds,” said Prado. “A lot of times we see that companies have a lot of people who do not know a lot about what they’re actually doing or people that have a very neutral opinion. If they are able to communicate, they can build their reputations and reputations build business.”

Part of my role entails enabling such clients I consult to assess the viability of their efforts and integrating value in areas of education, aid/development programs, medical research, health services, economic empowerment, environment, sustainable philanthropy among others and fulfilling their social development goals.

In addition to amplifying those efforts (not dubious promotions but more by progressive revelations) in order to re-brand their global CSR agenda. 



Honesty and Empathy Wins!
There is endless strategizing on creating brand identity, voice and personality, and it has to also include strategizing around a moral framework - Why It’s Critical Brands Take a Stand on Tough Social Issues By Molly DeWolf Swenson, Adweek 
Organisations that manipulate and act in a way so that only the part which is instrumental to their own progression find their way up the customer are most likely to fail, Case in point: Apple apologising for slowing down older iPhones with ageing batteries. Or, the VW emissions scandal and the subsequent efforts by the brand (Volkswagen) to rescue their reputation.
While the ones that are responsive in solving some of the urgent challenges of our world, will stand to gain the trust and the business from the customer. Redefined societal aspirations are transforming the ways organisations deliver value for their customers.

Profit and Purpose to go hand in hand. Well, that's a given!

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