In the Boardroom
Date: Friday, June 15, 2012, 6:00am EST
Taking Small Steps to Help Your Firm Show ResponsibilityPremium content from The Business Journal - by Ruth Kinzey, Contributing writer
Few would argue that adopting a “responsible citizenship” approach to business is the right thing to do. There are white papers and case studies substantiating the advantages. And, there are ethical and moral discussions emphasizing its importance. Yet, some firms seem reluctant to begin this work and others seem hesitant to expand the scope of their existing initiatives.
Attitudinal barriers such as, “it costs too much” or “we don’t have time,” can prevent a company from moving forward. Yet, the corporate responsibility journey begins with a single step.
Because there are many elements in a corporate responsibility platform, consider where you want to start:
For example, do you recycle batteries or ink or toner cartridges? Do you reuse paper or cardboard?
Do you use energy-efficient lighting or motion detectors to help limit electric consumption?
Do you make environmentally-friendly choices, such as using “green” cleaning products or soy- based ink on your marketing materials?
Do you have vending machines with healthy options in your facility?
Do you make monetary contributions, in-kind donations, or volunteer time?
Do you support the community by buying goods or services locally?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve taken the first step.
If you have a corporate responsibility platform, answered affirmatively to some of the questions but hadn’t added the activity to your formal plan, it’s time to update.
The reality is that “doing good” is easy. The challenge is developing a business strategy that leverages this work, creating a measurement process to record performance, designing an audit to validate results and demonstrating an ongoing commitment.
To help with this, there are many resources - in books, on line and through consultants - providing guidance for designing a strategy, plan, measurement process and auditing procedures.
But most importantly, remember this is a journey. Not even large corporations immediately have sophisticated programs fully integrated into their operations. It takes time to identify the tactics that will provide a return on investment, the sustainability elements that reflect the company’s culture, the attributes that will support the brand, and the projects that will engage employees and customers.
And even when goals are determined and tactics identified, it takes time to design proper recordkeeping techniques.
While this may sound like too much trouble, consider the big picture. Socially responsible behavior is the “new norm” for business. Customers, the community, and investors notice when socially and environmentally responsible behavior isn’t practiced. In fact, they may be vocal about an incident, with complaints going viral.
One finding in Boston College’s 2011 CSR Index substantiated the correlation between an organization’s long-term commitment to corporate responsibility and how positively the company was perceived. And, the 2012 Global Corporate Reputation Index showed that when companies underinvest in citizenship activity, corporate reputation suffers.
In addition to being a business imperative for reputational reasons, commercial enterprises have discovered a formal commitment to socially and eco-friendly practices produce other benefits, such as cost savings, employee engagement and retention, recruiting advantages and marketing opportunities.
With growing demands for transparency, increasing calls for accountability, decreasing natural resources, growing societal expectations and countless benefits derived from corporate responsibility practices, the question for any business – large or small – is: Why aren’t you moving forward on your sustainable citizenship expedition?
Ruth Kinzey is a corporate reputation strategist, consultant, and professional speaker. Want to hear more about a specific topic? She can be reached at (704) 763-0754.
To read some of her blogs, go to the Resource page