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Corporations can do it…if they have the will.

Since this is Sunday and a slow newsday, I haven’t the usual selection of current events about which which to wax indignant. For that reason and to fill the archives of this still new blog, I’m going to upload a few articles on one of the areas about which I’m passionate and in which I work…CSR and sustainability.

If the following article from a while back sparks any interest in the issues raised, either comment, or, if you want a more personal discussion, please contact me at: p.write@gmail.com

PG


The Jakarta Post
CSR Partnerships: The future of CSR
Patrick Guntensperger,

Jakarta Thu, 09/18/2008 10:34 AM Supplement

Corporations have come to accept that they have a responsibility to behave as citizens of the planet and not merely as exploiters of its resources; they have also come to realize that they can’t address the problems of the planet without help.
They need to form strategic partnerships with non-corporate groups if their environmental, social and educational efforts are going to have maximum impact. This creation of alliances among former adversaries has been described as “the second wave” of CSR.

As the era of globalization sees power consolidated in the hands of corporations rather than nations, the new world powers recognize both that they need to give back to the planet and its inhabitants, and that they are sometimes lacking in the skills and human resources to do that effectively. The “second wave” is the period in which corporations are approaching their former harshest critics, the NGOs, and creating partnerships designed to accomplish what the corporations can’t do on their own. For their part, the more responsible NGOs have toned down their hostile rhetoric, assumed a less confrontational stance, and have sought d*tente with the more enlightened corporations.

The result is that both sides are being taken more seriously, and the middle-of-the-road majority of people on the planet are able to reconcile their ambivalence. That, in turn, has permitted governments to assume a more productive role than formerly. As people get off the fence, governments are able to create legislation with less fear of alienating large numbers of voters. The “second wave” is just building; it has a long way to go before it crests, but when it does, the result will be synergy among the planet’s stakeholders and a shared commitment to fix the damage we’ve done.

To contribute to the momentum that is building, corporations are looking around for the right partners. While some big corporations have some suitable knowledge and some appropriate human resources to deploy, many companies simply aren’t equipped to manage a CSR program; these companies are the ones who need to reach out right now.

A corporation must ask itself how much it is willing to commit to CSR efforts. A budget must then be allocated, and a responsible executive, at the highest possible decision-making level, should be tasked with overseeing those efforts. And then it is time to start deciding what form the program will take.

Each CSR executive must decide what area to focus on. Most companies — wisely — choose to focus on some area in which they either have significant expertise or in which they can be accused of having done damage. Cellular phone service providers, for example, often assist in the provision of cellular network coverage in outlying, impoverished areas. Food producers provide research grants or facilities to groups working on the development of higher yielding food crop seeds. Forestry companies support animal habitat rehabilitation and sustainable forestry development.

Mining companies, well, they have lots of choices. Social programs, water rehabilitation, land restoration … all are potential areas to which mining companies can contribute.

But smaller or less resource-based corporations might need to find programs that are either in the developmental stages, in need of sponsorship, or are already up and running but need ongoing financial support. There are countless programs out there and there are many more being developed. Responsible companies that want to do something but are at a loss as to how to proceed need only do a little research to find the right program to team up with.

Such a partnership might take any form. It could be simply an annual grant made to a foundation, NGO, charity or citizens’ group; it might include the executive joining a board of directors to provide input on a regular basis. On the other hand, it might be a full, hands-on cooperative effort between a non-corporate group and a company, with the corporation providing the management skills and financial resources and the partner providing the expertise and grassroots support.

The proliferation of not-for-profit groups and environmental and social programs makes it necessary that good research be done to determine whether there will be genuine synergy between the company and its new partner. Not all corporations will mesh well with all potential partners, and there may be ideological clashes between the two parties, or personality conflicts between the individuals involved. This is where a good CSR consultant comes in.

If a corporation is not big enough to assign an employee the full-time task of researching and then monitoring the company’s CSR activities, a consultant in that field can carry much of the workload. A CSR consultant can also provide a wide variety of services. The consultant’s level of participation can range from simply “matchmaking” that is, providing a corporation with a short list of recommended suitable programs and groups in need of support, to taking on the role of acting as the corporate representative in all dealings with the new CSR partner.

At this stage in the development of corporate social responsibility, there is very little justification for any corporation to avoid committing to the improvement of our environment and our society. There are limitless options for the types of programs, the size of programs, the character and approach of each dedicated group and potential partner. There is know-how, there is expertise, there is commitment, and there is passion to be tapped into. Not knowing how to get started is no longer an excuse.

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