Discussing a High Impact CSR Strategy With Alice Korngold, CEO of Korngold Consulting

by Aman Singh Das | June 02, 2010

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Regardless of how you view corporate responsibility, there is no denying that it has been increasingly grabbing more news space in mainstream and alternative media than ever before. Especially in the wake of the ongoing BP oil spill fiasco, there remain some core questions regarding the extent, criteria and involvement of CSR that could use some honest answering. Whether you ask these questions as involved consumers or informed professionals, the answers remain central to the heart of our daily decision making: How do personal accountability and responsible actions extend to the brand I work for and associate myself with?

I turned to consulting expert and CEO of Korngold Consulting, Alice Korngold, who helps companies build fully integrated CSR strategies, including leadership development through nonprofit board service. (See below for more info on Korngold Consulting.) Bluntly candid and extremely relevant, the following Q&A should help you demystify CSR on the social, environmental, as well as corporate and personal levels. In a wide-ranging interview, we discuss her experience with company boards and nonprofits, what a good integrated CSR strategy involves, how the changing economic landscape is redefining MBA curricula, and dig deeper into the many aspects that together translate into corporate social responsibility.

Whatis most important for companies to understand when they are learning about CSR?

Put CSR in the context of the company and what thecompany seeks to achieve. CSR as a term is used fairly broadly but generally,it refers to an “ethical corporation” that is concerned about People (itsemployees and the community), and the Planet (environment), as well as Profits.Good board governing practices and corporate leadership, ethical laborpractices, thoughtful risk management, environmental practices, philanthropyand community service are all parts of the equation.  In the world today, companies are learningthat customers, employees, and shareholders place a high value on CSR.  It’s about trust and reputation.

 

The key lessons for high-impact CSR:

--Leadership should come from the top,
--CSR should be aligned with the company’s purpose, and
--CSR should be integrated across the company.


What'syour advice for students interested in CSR in their job search and not findingenough leads?


CSR is a new and emerging field, where we willcontinue to see innovation and expansion over the coming decade. Since CSR willcontinue to encompass a number of areas of expertise–board governance, riskmanagement, fair labor practices, environmental practices, philanthropy andcommunity service, my advice is to find jobs and volunteer opportunities whereyou can learn and develop experience in one or more of these areas.

 

As for business school students, I’d say that the millennialsare and will continue to change this world in ways we can’t even fully imagine.I already see it beginning. A good source is Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation


Howdo you see the MBA curriculum modifying as the economy reshapes itself after eventslike the Goldman Sachs vs. SEC case?


My focus and fascination for the past 20 years hasbeen boards of directors.  The concept,responsibilities, and actions of boards have been opaque.  Yet, their authority and power not onlycontrol global economies and markets, but also the pensions, jobs, healthcare,education, housing, and lives of countless families in cities throughout theworld. I expect and hope that corporate boards will become a central topic onMBA curricula.


Howhas your experience working with board(s) of directors and sustainability been?


I think that the recent BP situation and financialfirms show us that much needs to be done to improve board governance andaccountability. 


Ibelieve that innovation and thinking about CSR doesn’t necessarily have to gofrom bottom to top in the corporate hierarchy. Senior management approval isessential in any initiative to have real teeth. Your thoughts?


Actually, CSR needs leadership from the top, sincethe CSR plan needs to be designed to advance the company’s reputation,branding, relationship-building, and hiring and retention, leadership development,and community improvement. A high-impact CSR program supports and engagesemployees who are enthusiastic about improving their communities, while achievinga variety of benefits for the company and the community.


Whatare some of the things you’ve learned from feedback for your blog on Fast Company?


First, the fact that Fast Company devotes so much attention to CSR (they callit Ethonomics) speaks volumes. Theresponse to my blog has been amazing…no one is more surprised than me!


Youfocus a good deal of attention on business executives serving on nonprofitboards.  I can see that this is good for nonprofits, but how is thishelpful to the companies and their executives?


Helpfulto executives: Since I’ve been placing business executives onboards for 18 years, I’ve seen them grow and develop through their boardexperiences, most of them advancing into leadership positions. As board membersand then leaders, they learn how to work with peers to imagine anorganization’s greater potential, create the revenue model, galvanize supportfor the organization, achieve success, sometimes facilitate organizationalmergers, mentor new board members, build consensus, and so on. Nonprofitboard service is the ultimate experience in ethics, accountability, leadership,group dynamics, and crisis management and communications.


Helpfulto companies: Nonprofit board service is a unique leadershipdevelopment opportunity for company executives and professionals.  It’s also a vehicle for their people and thecompany to shine in the community for leadership and high-impact service…greatfor the company’s reputation. The only caveat is that the company and itsexecutives only look good if its executives are highly effective board members,and that only happens when they are thoughtfully matched to boards and wellprepared.

Alice Korngold is the CEO of Korngold Consulting LLC, which assists corporations in building fully integrated, high-impact CSR strategies, including leadership development through nonprofit board service. Korngold Consulting also trains and places business executives on nonprofit boards, and consults to nonprofit boards and leaders to strengthen governance for financial and strategic success. Besides being a vocal advocate of corporate responsibility on Twitter, Ms. Korngold is also an expert blogger for Fast Company.

Filed Under: CSR

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