Developing Strategic CSR

This post was written by Nicolette Zalesky - Research Fellow at Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Outreach Contractor at Net Impact.

A corporation’s strategy may be their most essential document in our ever changing environment. It outlines their vision, mission, and values as well as how they anticipate achieving their goals. Even more important than their strategy is a corporation's ability to adapt. Corporations who do not obtain the capabilities will quickly find themselves floundering in our dynamic market. One market shift currently taking place is the transition from a traditional (fiscal) bottom line to the triple (environmental, social and economic) bottom line. It is no longer enough for corporations to only be profitable in the eyes of stakeholders - we want to see their contribution back to society, the environment and our economy!

In order to achieve long-term sustainability, corporation’s should put more effort into integrating CSR as a core aspect for their business - known as the Stewardship approach. There are certain capabilities that aid an organization in developing a Stewardship approach and higher sustainability performance, the most impactful being knowledge creation (learning), openness to working with other organizations, corporate collectivity and a bottom-up infrastructure.  

Stewardship organizations are habitually generating information for sustainability and socially responsible related matters. One example is programs that Stewardship organizations have developed to educate their employees on CSR and sustainability topics. Employees at Stewardship organizations align with the CSR initiatives  and productively work towards them, creating collective knowledge and cultural infrastructure for sustainability. CSR not only is a core business strategy initiative for Stewardship organizations but it’s relatable to employees everyday goals.

Additionally an infrastructure where corporate social responsibility decision are distributed throughout the organization allows each divisions to decide how they will contribute to the sustainability goals - where it makes the most sense and where they’ll make the greatest impact. Lastly, when an organization is receptive to  influence and collaboration with outside organizations, they open  themselves to working with experts, constructive criticism and opportunities that can help them progress their CSR initiatives.

A few indicators that an organization is more Stewardship oriented: The company's leaders, particularly the CEO, is actively pursuing CSR initiatives internally but more importantly externally -  examples are partnering with NGO’s or working with governments on progressive legislation. Another is employee education and training on CSR/ Sustainability topics - company “care days” may be a good start but do not promote continuation of CSR initiatives past one day .Finally the delegation of CSR and Sustainability decision being made is throughout the organization's – product managers and regional directors are responsible for deciding how their team can best contribute to the organization's sustainability goals.

The path to achieving stewardship is a strategic change - we cannot anticipate seeing results overnight. Rooting CSR in an organization’s foundation is a movement towards long-term performance and sustaining the corporate life span of your operations.

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Nicolette Zalesky - Net Impact Outreach Intern