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Corporate Social Responsibility – Competitive Advantage? Maybe.

Corporate Social Responsibility will never offer companies a competitive advantage – unless it is both competitive and advantageous. If you are a risk taker, and step out from the herd, CSR may offer you the edge. If you can tie it to key business strategies, it will also make you more successful. Mediocre action coupled with reporting ‘company niceties’ won’t do it.

Corporate
Social Responsibility will never offer companies a competitive
advantage – unless it is both competitive and advantageous. If you are
a risk taker, and step out from the herd, CSR may offer you the edge.
If you can tie it to key business strategies, it will also make you
more successful. Mediocre action coupled with reporting ‘company
niceties’ won’t do it.

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How to be Remarkable

I like Mallen Baker’s stuff. He’s a writer, speaker, and strategic advisor on corporate social responsibility and the Founding Director of Business Respect.
He also writes pretty regularly for the Ethical Corporation (also
liking it). Just today, I came across a bold article regarding CSR
strategies. Baker’s point is simply the following: If you want to
advertise CSR as giving your company a competitive advantage, well then
it has to stand out. It has to be remarkable.

Here’s what Baker feels might make for remarkable CSR:

  1. Publicly
    breaking ranks with your industry sector over an issue where you know
    things have to change, but everyone has been holding on hoping it
    wouldn’t change just yet.
  2. Taking time to understand what it
    would look like to have achieved sustainability in your company, and
    then announcing this vision as your target.
  3. Accompanying point 2 above with a clear action plan of how you’re going to get there
  4. Selling
    the imperative for this to your shareholders, and standing up to those
    who think it’s fine so long as it doesn’t affect next quarter’s figures
  5. Understanding
    your customers as citizens, not just as consumers, and reflecting that
    in the products you make, the marketing you do.
  6. Lobby
    governments when you see market signals promoting socially undesirable
    outcomes – even when they benefit you in the short term.
  7. Admit
    your mistakes in your CSR report, and what you’ve learned from them. I
    mean including your biggest ones, not just a token one because you know
    people give credit to reports that admit to something negative.

This article first appeared in the 21 March 2009 @ 03:10 pm EST issue of The International Business Times. You can read the full article here.

How to Report “Remarkable”

Ouch.
The above list may be a bit of a wake up call for many corporations who
are doing their best just trying to capture the metrics to go in a
report, let alone beat their competitors.

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I agree with Baker, and wrote up an article addressing the flip-side of the coin: CSR reports.

CSR
reports. Why, oh why, is naivete the norm? The information is
available, the compilers are smart (smarter than me, I’m sure), the
readers are vested shareholders (and smart too, no doubt). There is
simply no justification for reports on Corporate Social Responsibility
to be so disastrously void of compelling data.

You can read it here – Corporate Social Responsibility Reports Fail To Prove The Business Case.

Mallen Baker’s site can be found at www.mallenbaker.net. His www.BusinessRespect.net site is also a source of great information. Oh, and you can follow him on Twitter @mallenbaker.

chrisjarvis@realizedworth.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisjarviscan
twitter – @RealizedWorth

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About the author

At Realized Worth, we help companies connect with their communities. We do this through corporate volunteering and social media

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