Eight Steps to a Better CSR Plan

My children are back to school this month. As parents know, this time of year is both a relief and a challenge. On the one hand, we’ve exhausted the list of summertime activities and can hardly wait for the first day of school. On the other hand, we’re back to helping with homework, consoling those who aren’t happy with their teachers, and preparing lunches.

What does going back to school have to do with corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

It would be worth exploring how corporations such as Staples and Walmart that support education could go further to more meaningfully engage parents and their children at this time of year. But that’s for another assignment. Today, I’m thinking about back-to-school lists. What to bring to school, what not to wear, and the school rules (Yesterday I noticed that at my daughter’s school, one of the Toronto District School Board’s more perplexing rules specifies: “Hats are not permitted in the building.”)

It occurred to me that those of us in the CSR space could use a list of what to keep in mind as we get back to business this fall. With that in mind, here is an eight-point CSR checklist with some new ideas to help take your program to the next level this fall.

Leadership:

1. Get your CEO and other key executives to describe the social purpose of your company and how this contributes to its value as a business. Use this as the foundation for writing a social purpose “manifesto.”

2. Help move your company beyond “CSR lite” by assessing the ways in which social investments are supporting your business goals and fostering meaningful social change. (Our mantra at Impakt: Business is good for social change and social change is good for business!)

Integration:

3. Ensure CSR considerations are incorporated into every significant planning process and conversation in your company by creating a CSR toolkit for executives and managers in each functional area.

4. Plan to eliminate your next CSR report and incorporate environmental, social, and governance priorities and performance into your company’s 2012 annual report.

Capacity:

5. Identify a small group of people in your organization who are particularly skeptical regarding the business value of CSR. Then engage them in creating a new system/approach to measuring ROI in this area. (I recommend finding people in areas such as finance, IT, and engineering – these folks are trained to trust only what can be quantified.)

6. Implement an annual “CSR Exchange” where you or one of your team members works for a week at your most important non-profit partner organization and someone from this organization works with you – you’ll learn more than you can possibly imagine.

Education:

7. Increasing your team’s knowledge of CSR by attending great events this fall such as the BSR Conference and the Net Impact Conference.

8. Document 4-6 best CSR practices among your competitors and outside of your industry, and then implement one new idea before the end of this year.

My fall CSR checklist spells out an easy-to-remember acronym: “LICE.” (Believe it or not, I didn’t do this on purpose!) As you’re considering the points above, remember that LICE is about more than just scratching your head. It’s about taking action, maximizing the limited resources you have and remembering how fortunate you are to be at the leading edge of an area that has become so important in such a short period of time.

PS: Last monthy, in response to the news that Apple was ranked as the most valuable company ever, I wrote an article called Apple: Performance without Purpose. Not surprisingly, this prompted many negative and a few supportive comments. Here are two that particularly stood out for me:

“I cannot believe you even wrote this twaddle. Let’s forget the millions of jobs and the billions in profits and the billions of people who have enjoyed their lives just a little bit more via the use of Apple’s products and services.”

“Apple fans will hate your article and yet this will be just additional evidence for the state of denial this company and its fans are in with regards to social and environmental responsibility. This is the more appalling as this company is regarded by so many around the world as a great success story (which it is) worth emulating – but not in this particular area.”

One reader suggested that I draft a social purpose statement for Apple. I may just do that – stay tuned and follow me on Twitter!

This article was originally posted on Forbes
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Paul Klein founded Impakt in 2001 to help corporations become social purpose leaders and is considered a pioneer in the areas of corporate social responsibility.  Paul is regularly featured in the media as a corporate social responsibility source, was included in the Globe and Mail’s 2011 Leading Thinkers Series, and was recognized as one of America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behaviour.  You can follow Paul on twitter at paulatimpakt