By Jocelyne Daw
I am pleased to share with you my recent speech from the Women’s Executive Network Leading Edge Corporate Social Responsibility. “These days brand is king. Companies want to improve their image as good corporate citizens in both the marketplace and in the community. For this to ring true they need to do a lot more than talk the talk.”Leading Edge Corporate Social Responsibility is the title of the session today. So what does this mean and how can you embrace the new thinking and practices to power increased results for your company and society? Defining CSRLet’s start with defining Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). You may have heard it referred to as corporate responsibility, sustainability, corporate citizenship or corporate philanthropy. Whatever it may be called, CSR is a company’s commitment to manage their operations in a responsible way and to contribute to the society in which it operates.CSR was established as a pioneering concept only about 20 years ago as society recognized and even demanded that companies play a broader role beyond producing products and profits. In the early days of CSR the focus was on "being responsible - responsible not just to shareholders but also to employees, the community, customers, stakeholders and to be responsible in its environmental operations.Giving back through community investmentThis meant “giving back” to the community. Philanthropy and community investment was used as a main vehicle and the public face of a company’s CSR. Dollars were channeled to multiple charities, all doing good work with the goal of managing a company’s image, building relationships with the community and enhancing its social license to operate.The concept of the triple bottom line of responsible environmental, social and financial business practices was a driver in the initial years of CSR. And a cornucopia of responsible business codes, standards and indexes strung up to help companies with a checklist of responsible operations and to recognize leaders.The early results can be credited with opening the eyes of companies to the importance of social and environmental issues and motivating them to operate at a heightened set of standards and commitment to society. That’s been no small feat.We are ushering in a new era in CSR and in the relationship between business and society. Now the expectation and demands are to elevate the game. Today, “being responsible” is expected – it’s just the baseline. There is recognition that checkbook philanthropy and checkbox responsibility is not enough.From being responsible to "taking responsibility"We are entering a new age - the AGE OF RESPONSIBILITY! Moving CSR as “being responsible” to CSR as TAKING RESPONSIBILITY. The next generation of CSR is moving from an innovative concept towards the potential for positive social change. The age of responsibility is about ambition. It’s about infusing a values-based social purpose into a company’s brand, strategy and culture. Not just as series of activities to secure public relations.Leadership companies are thinking more holistically about their approach to community engagement and meeting the growing expectations of key stakeholders. I believe the future of sustainable business rests in taking responsibility and being active, substantive partners in addressing and improving social issues.There is an urgent need for action on a myriad of issues from education, health and wellness, economic development and more – that affect us all. It is going to require the combined resources, ingenuity and sweat equity of business, government, nonprofits and citizens. The critical issues of our time are far too complex and significant for any single entity to address alone.What does this mean for your CI program?So what does this mean for your company? In the community investment world, this means a focus on driving impact. Companies are looking at their community investment as a way to truly improve social conditions and make a fundamental difference in the community. They’re moving away from “sprinkling pixie dust” to a variety of good causes, to really standing for something that drives social impact and infuses a social purpose into a company’s strategy and culture that makes a stronger connection for people, the company and the community.When your organization leads with a social purpose you will foster positive conversation and interaction and drive sustainable profits and brand loyalty.Watch for my next blog on building a community investment strategy driven by social purpose.