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by Aman Singh Das | March 18, 2011


You sweat the CSR report. You work to stay on top of best practices across the globe. And since Elaine Cohen published , you're getting it integrated into the HR function. You may be an officer, a manager, or an individual contributor carrying out these programs and projects.

It's not enough.

Or maybe more accurately, there are changes to be made in what you're doing now, including just stopping a lot of what you are doing. [CSR 2010: The Year Before The Year That HR Woke Up to CSR]

Your business leaders likely believe there are global opportunities at the societal and planetary levels. Yet they are often not working in the best way to produce results—or, in many cases, there is no way to determine if they are. The work CSR professionals are now called to take on is threefold.

  1. Educate the business as to what will really make a difference in terms of meaningful effects. It won't be using best practices developed by other companies.
  2. Assess Progress effectively so that your business can tell if it is actually achieving meaningful results from its efforts. Measure effects in terms of benefits to stakeholders, not in terms of business efforts.
  3. Finally, to achieve items one and two, make responsibility system wide. Don't fragment it by focusing it to supply-chain or packing design or any other aspect of your business.

Your next effort to achieve responsibility is to make it pervasive in every aspect of the business, all at once, all the time. In other words, you will be even more of a businessperson than you are today, to play a role in imbedding responsibility into everything the business and every one of its people does. You make responsibility a part of business DNA.

To do so you will adopt the Quintessential Top Line:

    1. Ensure your business is benefiting the health and life of customers—not just making sustainable offerings
    2. Foster employees' and suppliers' direct connections to markets in order to make their own unique and meaningful contributions—not ones determined by managers
    3. Improve the capacity of Earth to regenerate itself everywhere your business affects it—beyond doing less harm to genuinely creating benefit
    4. Work with communities to express their uniqueness and make them more economically resilient—not just giving back to help solve social problems
    5. Engage investors in the creation of enduring ethical returns

Together these five arenas work as a system to define The Responsible Business. You will increasingly be called on to be a resource and educator working through the system to re-imagine responsibility as you do business.

--By Carol Sanford

Editor's Note: Please join Vault and Carol on March 30, 2011 for a panel discussion on how the evolving role of CSR is changing the way businesses and professionals think about growth and talent management. For more details and to register, visit Responsible Business: Reimagining CSR as an Engine of Innovation, Profitability & Purpose.

Carol Sanford is the CEO of InterOctave and the author of upcoming book The Responsible Business:Reimagining Sustainability and Success. She is a judge and mentor for University of Washington Global Business Center Social Entrepreneur Competition, Seattle and has published dozens of works in 10 languages, including a series of articles in Executive Excellence, Stephen Covey's newsletter and At Work, a Berrett-Koehler Journal. Carol is on Twitter @carolsanford.


Filed Under: CSR

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