Posts Tagged ‘CSR’

In addition to CSR, what about “PSR?”

posted by Tara Knight

Guest post by: Jennifer Hamilton
Account Executive, Hill & Knowlton, Tampa, Fla.

Over the past 10 years, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has grown from an admirable goal for a few companies to an almost certain requirement for many businesses and corporations. Consumers care about what companies are doing to improve society and many use a company’s CSR efforts (or lack of) to help inform buying decisions.

Many view CSR as an important and necessary part of business. In a society where people care more and more about what businesses are doing outside of their own bottom line, CSR offers a moral and ethical compass by which companies can gauge their corporate conscience against, and one that citizens can use to monitor the level of responsibility companies are taking for the environment, economy and society. People may differ on what constitutes good CSR, but most believe in its overall importance.

Mashable, an online news source on web culture, social media and technology, recently posted an article about a personal version of CSR. In the article, they discuss “PSR” and argue that commitments to sustainability are not just for brands anymore. The author poses an intriguing question about whether the same sustainability lens that’s been held to companies will soon be held up to the individual … and if it should be.

Imagine if you were defined by a score, or evaluated on a scale for what you did or didn’t do for your community or for the broader environment. As a society, we are often quick to cast judgments about others (whether they are spoken or unspoken) on their philanthropic or altruistic actions. We naturally want to surround ourselves with those who we admire and who motivate us to become better ourselves. So, is PSR just a natural extension of this? Especially given the dominance of social media and the seemingly never ending desire to broadcast ones every move?

In some ways, there are already systems in place that measure a person’s worth or credibility, such as a credit score. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we want them on display. In fact, most are quite protective of this information, and rightly so, even when they’re admirably high.

With “PSR” comes the next question of “How will it be conveyed?” Is it internalized by the person and kept private or is it shared or broadcast in some way? And if so, how? And how is the accuracy determined? Is it based on self reporting or another form that can be more measured? How would you feel about not only having a “PSR” score or evaluation, but also having it open for anyone to see, including clients and/or prospective bosses? What about future in-laws? What are the implications on our society to have those “scores” standardized and searchable for anyone to find?

Maybe the question isn’t if people should be held to the same standards as businesses, but rather, should it be publicized for all to know? After all, people already differ on how CSR is defined. I imagine that “PSR” could also create similar debate. To some, having a “PSR” commitment would mean dedicating time and money to charitable causes or being environmentally friendly. Others may define their commitment to simply being a person with high moral and ethical standards. Should your social worth be conveyed to everyone and anyone?

The concept of “PSR” may seem like a wild idea, but keep in mind that at one time, even as early as twenty years ago, CSR did not really exist and certainly wasn’t the standard business practice it is today. What if, in ten years time, “PSR” is just as widespread? Imagine where that could take us as individuals… and even more importantly, as a society…

What do you think? In addition to CSR, should we have personal social responsibility?

A CSR tale of two mines: when the path chosen makes all the difference

posted by Tara Knight

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.

New “standard” for CSR? ISO 26000 gets official November 2010

posted by Tara Knight

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

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Do plantations cause violence and death?

posted by Tara Knight

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.

CSR & The Stomach for Risk

posted by Tara Knight

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.

Far Beyond Sustainability

posted by Chad Tragakis

By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Washington, D.C. Office

It’s great that the word sustainability is in such common usage today. It suggests that people, organizations and institutions have accepted that environmental responsibility matters, and that we all play a role in achieving and ensuring it.

Still, I know plenty of people (both within the broader community of CSR thinkers and doers as well as outside of it) who find the word problematic. Few would argue that the term is overused, and much has been raised and written about the limitations of sustainability as both a word and a concept. Despite these limitations and challenges, though, usage of the term persists.

There is great diversity even among the most often quoted and widely used definitions of sustainability, among them, those developed, adopted or advanced by the United Nations, the World Business Council for Sustainable DevelopmentBusiness for Social Responsibility, and the World Resources Institute. Looking at these and at other definitions of sustainability collectively, a common theme emerges. There is a strong focus on maintaining, preserving, and ensuring the continued viability of a process, product, resource, system or state. Many would argue that, in terms of the environment and natural resource management, achieving this level of performance by business would be incredible. It would certainly be a good start.

The notion of becoming truly sustainable and having no impact on the environment is becoming an increasingly popular mantra for business. It could even be considered de rigueur for today’s CSR reports and global citizenship communications. But what if a company were able and willing to go beyond simply sustaining, beyond having a neutral or zero impact? What if, instead of just maintaining the status quo, they could have a net positive impact? What if business could actually restore the damaged and broken elements of our environment?

Household and personal care products company Seventh Generation prominently lists “restore our environment” among its global imperatives. And in its code of basic working conditions, Ford states that it seeks to become “an environmentally restorative and truly sustainable company in the long term.” I love the fact that both Seventh Generation and Ford use the notion of restoring. They are among the only companies I have seen who are using that term.

Many companies are in strong positions to add to and enhance the world around us – to rebuild, refresh, replenish, and repair. This is the thrust of Ray Anderson’s concept of the Restorative Enterprise. Anderson is the founder and chairman of Interface, an Atlanta, Georgia-based carpet and flooring company. As their Web site explains:

Interface committed to become the first name in industrial ecology worldwide. Ray set before his global team the challenge to convert Interface to a restorative enterprise. As a first step, this means reaching sustainability in our own business practices. To become truly restorative, however, will require Interface to ultimately return more than it takes. We will meet that higher goal by helping other organizations achieve sustainability.

The key line to me is “return more than it takes.” Anderson and Interface recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of the launch of Mission Zero, a promise to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by 2020, and the first part of their commitment to becoming truly restorative. Since that time, the company hasreduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30%, reduced total energy intensity by 45%, powered seven of Interface’s facilities with 100% renewable electricity, reduced water consumption in modular carpet facilities by 74%, and diverted over 100 million pounds of materials from landfills.

I am firmly in the camp that subscribes to Anderson’s ideology. But the best part is that regardless of your opinions or beliefs about environmental responsibility, you can’t argue with Interface’s cold hard business numbers. Since launching Mission Zero, Interface has enjoyed a 60% increase in sales and a doubling of its profits. By eliminating waste, the company has also avoided more than $400 million in expense, more than enough to cover the costs of all of the other parts of the initiative. And product quality, overall efficiency, and employee morale have all increased.

I continue to be fascinated and encouraged by the Interface story, and by the charismatic and pioneering Anderson. Interface is the first and arguably only real poster child for the notion of the restorative company. I hope this won’t be the case for too long.

On outdoor hikes and fishing trips when I was young, I remember my father instilling in me an ethic that has been popular with outdoors enthusiasts since time immemorial – that is to leave the natural places we visit better than we found them. Clearly, this was instilled in Ray Anderson somewhere along the way. And if he has his way, he will instill this approach in an entire generation of business leaders, so that other companies can follow down the restorative trail that Interface is so successfully blazing.