ResponsAbility » Corporate Responsiblity http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability Thoughts on corporate responsibility and sustainability Tue, 24 Jul 2012 15:12:42 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 America “lost” the iPhone work – but maybe that’s not the worst part http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2012/01/26/america-%e2%80%9clost%e2%80%9d-the-iphone-work-%e2%80%93-but-maybe-that%e2%80%99s-not-the-worst-part/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2012/01/26/america-%e2%80%9clost%e2%80%9d-the-iphone-work-%e2%80%93-but-maybe-that%e2%80%99s-not-the-worst-part/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 19:41:15 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=320 I was forwarded a recent New York Times article about Apple’s manufacturing in China that really got me thinking about the scope of Corporate Social Responsibility and the entire ecosystem that exists around multinational companies. The intended – and unintended consequences of the choice of actions by corporate management, and ultimately, what it says about our societies as a whole.

What really got me thinking in the article though was a story of the creation of the glass screen for the iPhone.  Steve Jobs wasn’t happy with the prototype’s plastic screen, and demanded a glass alternative that wouldn’t scratch. Famously uncompromising, his insistence demanded the flexibility and instant change of manufacturing capacity and capability that could only be accommodated in another jurisdiction (China) primarily because of working expectations (both written and unwritten) that are no longer legal, expected or accepted in many other countries.

The article quotes a current Apple executive, saying “we shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers. The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.” In this case, however, what Apple needed, was workers who could be roused from their dormitory beds in the middle of the night for a 12 hour shift (Apple does monitor and publish an audit report of their suppliers). Obviously, Apple is only one of many companies choosing more “flexible” and “capable” locations for their manufacturing needs.

What does it say about our society that expediency and efficiency – valuable and real requirements of business today – have a trump card over how we treat and cooperate with other societies? I know many brilliant people have tackled this question, with few palatable answers – and the cynical among us might learn towards the idea of corporate activity as inherently pathological.

I am caught – ultimately, our corporations, our institutions, our interactions are defined by someone –and how these “someones” charged with the responsibility of directing organizations choose to  interact and collaborate with the world are an example set for the people around them.  I fall more with John Locke if only that I cannot bear the idea of Thomas Hobbes’ society that puts so little faith in its members. The question remains, in our global economy, is it possible to be a healthy, ethical corporation? How do we realize a global social contract – or are we simply unable to think beyond our immediate world and consider the reality of others?

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Update on ISO 26000 (Guidance on Social Responsibility) http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/03/14/update-on-iso-26000-guidance-on-social-responsibility/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/03/14/update-on-iso-26000-guidance-on-social-responsibility/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2011 17:14:25 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=235 This is an update to a post I previously wrote about the publication of ISO 26000

Since the official publishing of the long-awaited ISO 26000 (Guidance on social responsibility) code in November 2010, many companies have been excitedly leveraging the standard to their business process.  

The ISO 26000 code is intended to provide an international consensus on definitions and principles of Social Responsibility and guidance for integrate it throughout the operations of an organization. Unlike many other ISO standards, the working group that developed ISO 26000 decided that it would not be appropriate to be a certifiable standard – but that hasn’t stopped consultants from offering to certify it. 

To the ISO 26000 working groups’ surprise, it turns out that ISO’s national standards bodies are not bound by that decision. So, national ISO bodies are offering to certifying national variations of the international standard. Under the ISO system, the national bodies are within their organization rules to offer this certification. It is certainly creating a lot of confusion for an international code that expressly states is not intended or appropriately “certifiable” not to mention, creating a host of national versions of what is supposed to be one international consensus.

It is an example of how companies are clearly seeing value in CSR – why would organizations so ardently seek independent verification for their CSR policy if it didn’t offer them some reputational or organization value? However, to ‘get back to the basics” the aim of CSR – and the ISO 26000 standard – is to create and follow the policy and principals of social responsibility – not just acquire the symbols of it.

@TaraKnightHK
 Q3YJSKERK8SM

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A CSR tale of two mines: when the path chosen makes all the difference http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/01/05/a-csr-tale-of-two-mines-when-the-path-chosen-makes-all-the-difference/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/01/05/a-csr-tale-of-two-mines-when-the-path-chosen-makes-all-the-difference/#comments Tue, 04 Jan 2011 21:43:29 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=201 In November of 2010, the Canadian government rejected an $800 million copper-gold project of Taseko Mines, called “Prosperity” in my home province of B.C. Although the federal government ultimately cited environmental concerns in declining the license to operate, relations between the company and the First Nations communities in the areas around the mine really hit rock bottom during a federal environmental review process for the project.

Taseko’s “Prosperity” mine had potential to generate significant economic wealth for the Williams Lake region of BC, an area hard-hit by other economic factors and desperately in need of jobs. However critical stakeholders, such as the First Nations in the area of the proposed mine believed their communities would not benefit from the mine in their territory and actively opposed the project during the environmental review.

Interestingly, on the same day the Canadian government rejected the Taseko Mines Prosperity project, it approved a $915 million copper-gold project (“Mount Milligan”) in a different area of the province. In speaking about its decision, the federal government indicated that the Mount Milligan project (Prosperity mine rejected, Mt. Milligan approved) had designed appropriate mitigation measures and minimized environmental impacts and that as a result, was likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. 

In further contrast to how Taseko Mines managed key stakeholders such as the First Nations communities in the area around their proposed mine, Thompson Creek Metals (Mount Milligan copper-gold project) reached out to First Nations communities in a meaningful way, and adopted Principles for Sustainable Relationships with First Nations, a framework developed by the Association for Mineral Exploration BC.

The Mount Milligan project had First Nations support in the form of a revenue-sharing agreement between the province and the McLeod Lake Indian Band – only the second such deal in the province. Further, Thompson Creek Metals partnered with post-secondary institutions to create an environmental training employment program for First Nations – allowing them to participate in project operations.

Although neither mine is without opposition, nor serious environmental and local concerns, it is an interesting contrast of the employment of two very different stakeholder strategies. It is also a powerful narrative about the power of relationship building for economic prosperity, and recognizing stakeholder dynamics as a critical component in a company’s social license to operate.

What is the cost of developing a solid CSR program that incorporates social and environmental responsibility concerns into the cost of business? In this tale of two mines, the path chosen made all the difference.

Disclosure: Taseko Mines and Thompson Creek Metals are not clients of Hill & Knowlton.

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The medium sends a message… http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/12/08/the-medium-sends-a-message%e2%80%a6/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/12/08/the-medium-sends-a-message%e2%80%a6/#comments Wed, 08 Dec 2010 17:44:32 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=191 Maybe the format of CSR reports isn’t keeping you up at night (OK, it’s not keeping me up at night either) but each year, I find it fascinating to review the CSR Trends 2010 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Sustainable Business Solutions practice and Craib Design & Communications.

If you haven’t had a chance to review the report – PwC and Craib do a great job of sifting through hundreds of reports mainly from Europe, Japan, Australia, The United States and Canada, reviewing trends and providing a useful snapshot of the differing expectations business cultures have about CSR reporting – and the best practices you may want to emulate. The report doesn’t address truthfulness, instead it delves into how effective companies are in communicating their CSR strategies and performance.

No surprise, there is still a significant difference in how much North American companies report on CSR in comparison to their European counterparts. Virtually 100% of European companies surveyed had CSR information on their corporate website – and 81% published a CSR report. North American companies are further behind than I would expect, with 80% of American and 72% of Canadian companies posting CSR information on their website, but only 37% of Canadian companies and 40% of American companies following up with a published CSR report.

One of the things I was surprised to see in the report is how few companies are taking greater advantage of the benefit of websites and the social web for communicating their CSR commitment. Although 28% of American companies surveyed are using blogs to engage with stakeholders, that is more than double the rate of Europe and Canada. Of all the companies surveyed, while 48% are using CSR microsites, just 35% are leveraging video (particularly for stakeholder testimonials) and only 23% are using interactive diagrams or maps.

The lower use of interactive maps and diagrams particularly surprises me, given that graphics are such an incredibly powerful way to communicate complex information – and websites are a perfect vector for interactive visual mapping and diagrams. Given how many graphics are developed for printed CSR reports, companies clearly understand the value in making complex information clear with the use of design. So, I am a little astonished that more companies are not considering how they could translate these to better leverage the attributes of the web.  (If you are really keen, the report covers some very impressive “best practices” in online communications and interactivity starting on page 42 – such as my personal favourite, Stora Enso’s sustainability microsite (which I wrote about previously here, and is a client of H&K Finland.) 

Bottom line? Move ahead of the pack by first – talking about your CSR activities, and second, building your CSR reporting into every aspect of your communications. Use the attributes of the communication tools you already have to make your CSR reporting come alive.

@TaraKnightHK

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New “standard” for CSR? ISO 26000 gets official November 2010 http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/10/05/new-%e2%80%9cstandard%e2%80%9d-for-csr-iso-26000-gets-official-in-november-2010/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/10/05/new-%e2%80%9cstandard%e2%80%9d-for-csr-iso-26000-gets-official-in-november-2010/#comments Mon, 04 Oct 2010 22:22:19 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=166 Last week, I had the opportunity to review the final draft of the International Standard ISO 26000, Guidance on Social Responsibility with Robert White, who sits as a Canadian Representative and Expert Member of ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Working Group. Approved in September, the ISO 26000 guidelines will be officially published in November 1, 2010.

If you haven’t been following the story, it’s been a long wait for this standard – ISO 26000 has been in development for well over five years. Given that CSR as an area of business concern is relatively new, rapidly evolving, and frequently difficult to accurately define, it’s no surprise that this document has been subject to vigorous overview and discussion. A multi-stakeholder effort, 400 people took part in developing the standard, which makes it ISO’s biggest working group to date.

So what is it? ISO 26000 sets out an international consensus on definitions and principles of Social Responsibility (SR); identifies seven core issues to be addressed, and provides guidance on how to integrate Social Responsibility throughout the operations of an organization. Significantly, the standard has been intentionally written to be accessible to non-specialists, and unlike many other ISO standards, it is a voluntary guidance standard, meaning it is not eligible for certification.

You can review an overview of the contents of ISO 26000 here. If you are looking for the ‘quick hit” version, ISO 26000 defines seven core principles of Social Responsibility, as: Accountability, Transparency, Ethical Behavior, Respect for Stakeholder Interests, Respect for the Rule of Law, Respect for International Norms of Behavior and Respect for Human Rights.

Under these principles of SR, the guidelines lay out an additional seven core subjects to consider in integrating Social Responsibility in an organization. These are organizational governance; human rights; labour practices; the environment; fair operating practices; consumer issues; and community involvement and development. Economic aspects, as well as aspects relating to health and safety and the value chain, are dealt with within each of these core subject areas.

Final word? For organizations that feel daunted in even considering or initiating a Social Responsibility program, or processes, ISO 26000 will provide valuable structure and guidance in helping to shape and define Social Responsibility for organizations big or small (or just smaller). For those organizations already leading the way, ISO 26000 may help illuminate areas where Social Responsibility governance or practice is not as developed as it could be, and provide guidelines for improvement. In short – there is something here for everyone to learn.

Which organizations do you think are already leading here? Are “the leaders” too far ahead to benefit from this guidance? I am very curious if organizations that do not currently track their CSR policies/programs will choose to take advantage of this effort and utilize the ISO 26000 guidance standard prior to implementing CSR reporting or policies.

@TaraKnightHK

Q3YJSKERK8SM

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Stock market says: CSR = $$ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/09/29/stock-market-says-csr/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/09/29/stock-market-says-csr/#comments Wed, 29 Sep 2010 19:36:24 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=162 I feel one of the most pervasive characterizations of CSR is that companies experience a financial penalty as result of subscribing to or integrating CSR practices and policies into their business. Of course, the recent Wall Street Journal  “The Case Against CSR” op-ed is one example of the disconnect that many people have of the value of CSR to a profitable business (Boston College’s The Voice of Corporate Citizenship provides an excellent overview of some of the commentary.)

Making a business case for CSR within a company whose corporate culture believes that integrating CSR comes with a significant cost to the bottom line is a huge challenge.   Recently I have been circulating a couple studies with my colleagues that have been really helpful in reframing this “CSR costs money” debate.

An August 2010 working paper from Harvard Business School, The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Investment Recommendations delves into how sell-side analysts perceive CSR information, and how this information affects their recommendations. The researchers reviewed a large sample of US firms over 16 years, examining the ways corporate CSR activity is communicated to investors through analysts, and how it this affects public equity markets. Analysts’ recommendations can substantially affect stock prices and trade volume. The researchers found that firms with strong CSR strategies are perceived to be value-creating, especially over time, and this is reflected in analyst’s positive recommendations for these firms.

Another collaborative study, Does Corporate Social Responsibility Affect the Cost of Capital? from Principles for Responsible Investment, used a sample of 12,915 U.S. firms. This study found firms with a better CSR score had a lower cost of equity capital – even after controlling for firm-specific issues or type of industry. The study found that CSR investment particularly in improving responsible employee relations, environmental policies, and product strategies substantially contributed to reducing a firms’ cost of equity.

It’s clear that investors are looking for, and paying attention to CSR information. Investors with Bloomberg’s Professional market data service for example are able to access carbon disclosure information supplied to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) by the world’s largest firms.  Analysts and investors are certainly accessing information about CSR policies and practices, and considering this in their investment decisions. CSR may need investment, but whether environmental, social or governance related – smart companies are leveraging strong CSR  practice as a positive factor in improving their market valuation.

@TaraKnightHK

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Do plantations cause violence and death? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/09/07/do-plantations-cause-violence-and-death/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/09/07/do-plantations-cause-violence-and-death/#comments Tue, 07 Sep 2010 18:39:15 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=153 It’s a powerful question. Certainly, the last type of question I expected to see leading me into a corporate global sustainability microsite. Amazingly, it wasn’t my first surprise during my visit to the Stora Enso Global Responsibility site.

Stora Enso’s CSR microsite is ambitious. An integrated paper, packaging and wood products company based in Helsinki, Finland, Stora Enso is one of the world’s largest pulp and paper manufacturers, with operations in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Stora Enso and Hill & Knowlton’s Helsinki office built this global sustainability site to communicate Stora Enso’s commitment to sustainability. I was introduced to the site by a colleague, Jari Lähdevuori, who is part of the H&K project team that developed the microsite.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a tour, allow me to offer you a brief overview of the site. In addition to questions like “Do plantations cause violence and death?,” the site also asks visitors “How much does the forest industry accelerate climate change?” and “Does recycling paper really do any good?” Each of these questions are answered by different employees of the Stora Enso company and its stakeholder groups (including customers, forest owners and activists).

I was seriously impressed when I toured the site and found a one-on-one interview between Sini Harkki,  Greenpeace’s Nordic forest campaigner and Stora Enso CEO Jouko Karvinen where they speak quite frankly about the challenges and efforts of Stora Enso’s forestry policies. The site also includes experiential elements such as “How to build a plantation” , a module on “Lessons Learned”, and a “Test Yourself” knowledge section narrated by Carrot Mob Finland.

I asked my colleague on the project team, Jari Lähdevuori, to tell me a bit more about how this project came about:

Tara: What was the reason for the site?

Jari says: Stora Enso felt the communications about their commitment to sustainability were lost in the wash of messages from mainstream media and Non-Governmental Organizations, which seemed to have much greater reach and impact. Stora Enso did not feel their own sustainability messages were reaching the general public on a global scale.

Stora Enso wanted to communicate their sustainability policies and practices directly to the public, and bring more attention to these topics. To do that effectively, our team felt we needed compelling and entertaining content – hence, the global responsibility site.”

Tara: It’s no surprise that the site has been successful. What has the feedback been?

Jari says: “The internal feedback from Stora Enso has been very good – the site is seen as a very fresh way of communicating sustainability in a credible manner. People who have seen the site are very impressed. In fact, Stora Enso’s Head of Communications Lauri Peltola was asked if it can be used as a CSR case study at the G20 summit. It has been an exceptionally powerful way of communicating – and demonstrating – how they do business.”

Stora Enso’s Global Responsibility microsite is clearly a great example of companies really ‘walking the talk” and using the power of new media technologies to approach CSR communications with transparency and credibility by making corporate CSR practices accessible for the average person.

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Trends in CSR Reporting http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/08/25/trends-in-csr-reporting/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/08/25/trends-in-csr-reporting/#comments Wed, 25 Aug 2010 18:58:53 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=144 I had the opportunity recently to do a bit of digging into best practices and trends for corporate responsibility reporting – and it was a fascinating journey. CSR (or ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance) concerns and reporting are clearly moving to the forefront of corporate agendas.

There are a few more obvious trends – corporate responsibility reporting formats are clearly headed away from large volume hard print copies and towards digital solutions such as websites and online formats as reports get more detailed. Finding easy-to-manage ways to organize large volumes of information is especially true for organizations using integrated reporting frameworks to incorporate financial and non-financial indicators into a single report. (A couple of excellent resources in this area are: Corporate Register’s CR Reporting Awards  and CSR Trends 3)

In the wake of a number of corporate actions which have publically (and dramatically) not met their CSR reputations, there is a lively debate about evaluating the breadth and credibility of corporate CSR reporting. With a more skeptical audience, there is a significant appetite for more transparency, independent verification of CSR reporting, and engaging stakeholder participation to validate key aspects of corporate CSR reports.

The Chartered Accountants of Canada recently released a report, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Issues in Institutional Investor Decision Making, which provides another window into why these trends have become more prevalent. As investors are increasingly concerned with the environmental management aspects of CSR as a risk mitigation strategy, especially long-term investments, CSR (or ESG) reporting is also becoming critical data in making investment decisions. In fact, their report identifies that reporting on environmental, social and governance elements of the business are now being seen by some investors as a proxy for evaluating the quality of management of a company. Jennifer Hicks wrote about this growing interest in Triple Pundit.

Of course, this trend is frustrated by the lack of truly comparable metrics to evaluate CSR or ESG reporting between companies. Although the Global Reporting Initiative seems to be emerging as a favored standard, Corporate Register’s 2010 CR Reporting Awards report indicates the second most popular option is a completely customized reporting framework.   

For companies looking to initiate or improve their CSR (and ESG) reporting, making the choice between a global standard or custom framework will be difficult. A global reporting standard might enable their investors and stakeholders to perform better comparable analysis on their CSR performance relative to the market, where a custom reporting system could be a better fit to the company’s needs. In the meantime, companies should be conscious that reporting their CSR activity is critical not just for their corporate reputation – but potentially their financial success as well.

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CSR & The Stomach for Risk http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/07/06/csr-the-stomach-for-risk/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/07/06/csr-the-stomach-for-risk/#comments Tue, 06 Jul 2010 15:39:10 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=137 I was recently at a business networking event focused on arts and culture here in Vancouver. One of the speakers was the director of a theater company, and she told us a story of the perfect sponsorship – and her story struck me. I recently read a post from the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) blog about how corporate citizenship was viewed by the public/business community (Katie Loovis: The Top Ten “Misperceptions” About CSR) and from my perspective, Katie was right on the money about the biggest misperceptions about CSR:

10. Can’t be trusted

9. A legal risk management tool

8. The ONLY job in the company where someone can make a difference

7. How the company supports the CEO’s favorite charity

6. A fad

5. Soft

4. One word – Greenwashing

3. Employee volunteerism, right?

2. PR

1. Philanthropy

The story of “the perfect donor” the theater company told at the event was interesting to me, because the donation of a local mining company would often be simply considered item #1 “philanthropy.” In this case, each year, a local mining company sponsors the development and production of new piece of theater.

For the theater company, the relationship was incredible – it was a stable source of funding that enabled their artists to freely create and explore, and its consistency supported their ability to plan and the financial freedom to develop (potentially) great theater.

Although my company represents a number of mining firms (though not this one), this partnership really caught my attention. What made this relationship interesting to me was why this mining company committed to donate every year – it was not primarily for philanthropy. They value the sponsorship for what it communicates about their core values as a company – the stomach to tackle risk.

The assumption and management of risk is an integral and unavoidable component of the mining business. In this case, it is a core value of their company. Each year they expose their business to significant risk exploring new resources, in business ventures, and pricing in the markets. It is fundamental to the culture of the organization that their employees and clients understand that some risks pay off, and some do not, but retaining the stomach to tackle risks is what continues to drive the company forward. It was the primary value they communicated to their team and their clients and suppliers every year by supporting bold and independent theater.

The theater company spoke quite passionately about how each year the company did not place any restrictions on what the theater piece would be, and hosted an opening night gala for their employees, VIP’s and clients. The theater company openly spoke about how some years the production was awful – and some years it was brilliant. For the artists, the donor’s willingness to support the creation of new theater, great or not great, enabled far greater freedom to explore and challenge new conceptions of their art.

As I listened to the story I thought of how many companies haven’t considered their community contributions this way – not just as being “good businesses” in the community (#1 philanthropy, but also arguably #’s 2, 5, & 7) – but taking the extra step of being a good business in the community and reinforcing their organization’s values though their community investments. For me, this is what CSR can mean – a relationship that realizes deeper benefits for everyone involved.

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Dilbert Always Gets It Right http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2009/07/14/dilbert-always-gets-it-right/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2009/07/14/dilbert-always-gets-it-right/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2009 14:23:11 +0000 Boyd Neil http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=27 Todays’ Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams captures the zeitgeist of how some still view corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Dilbert.com

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