This is a continuation of our series on an Effective Global CSR Vision. See Part One: CSR Goes Global.
Headquarters v. Local
Your head is your headquarters. It may come up with the strategy, create and know all the guidelines. But your heart has the feeling and spirit behind it: Your team has chosen the causes it wants to support, such as providing education for children in Tanzania or preserving a part of the Amazon river in Peru. And the hands and fingers are your employees and ‘doers’ on the ground in locales all across the world. But what if they aren’t speaking together? You have to coordinate leadership on all levels in order for your CSR efforts to have a true and lasting impact.
It’s important to involve the company’s executive leadership from the start, if possible. Often someone in the U.S. decides what the goals are. It’s important to start from this position, but to not end there.
Your first two objectives should be to: 1) help meet the profit-minded goals of your company; 2) translate that into value for the community both domestically and internationally. Try to ensure you have a good plan that is accepted by headquarters, by the CEO, and by your Foundation, Community Relations, Corporate Communications, Marketing, and now Human Resources departments. That synergy is very important to achieve when you’re first starting out.
Once you’ve decided your goals, your Heart needs to kick in…What kind of goals in the community do you want to achieve? What issues move you as CEO, or your employees? Do you want to help disenfranchised children outside of the factory in which your employees work? Is disaster relief important to you and your employees? What cause might fit with your product, such as education if your company works with computers?
The third, equally important, part of the planning process is to make sure that you include your local offices, all over the world. These are your Hands and fingers, which are operating, taking in messages from the Head and Heart. Yet they also have practical experience on the ground, working with local NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). So listening here includes local employees, local governments, local NGOs, and sometimes even local tribe people. And the key here is listening.
What are their needs?
What are they experiencing in this country?
What are they seeing in their local community?
For example, your company may have decided technology and education are important headquarter objectives which will help your company’s bottom line. But what are your local employees, in different international communities, experiencing?
Perhaps one of your employees in India walks by the slums every day on the way to work. She might like to support a soup kitchen. When you listen to a team of employees in Norway, they might be concerned about the increasing pollution or global warming. This group might like to support an environmental initiative which helps the world and improves the local community in which they live and work. Your employee in Cambodia or Guatemala may see that conservation of important monuments and past civilizations is being neglected. Will you be open to responding to the concerns they face on a daily basis? Will you commit to creatively finding a way to tie this into your CSR objectives?
It is most certainly challenging to balance corporate headquarter objectives with what local employees know and feel on the ground. But this brings us to our next point. By enfranchising your employees to make a difference, you absolutely will affect your bottom line. Your company employees are your presence. Your company employees are the face of your company. They represent you in their daily actions, conversations and being. Sincerely help them to be their best example of a respectful, caring community member, and it will naturally help you.