Recently, Carol Sanford, chief executive officer of InterOctave and author of The Responsible Business, discussed the three-fold responsibilities of CSR professionals on Vault. She wrote:
You sweat the CSR report. You work to stay on top of best practices across the globe. And since Elaine Cohen published CSR for HR, you’re getting it integrated into the HR function. You may be an officer, a manager, or an individual contributor carrying out these programs and projects.
It’s not enough.
Or maybe more accurately, there are changes to be made in what you’re doing now, including just stopping a lot of what you are doing.
Your business leaders likely believe there are global opportunities at the societal and planetary levels. Yet they are often not working in the best way to produce results—or, in many cases, there is no way to determine if they are. The work CSR professionals are now called to take on is, in fact, threefold.
Now, in what promises to be a highly interactive session, Vault is teaming up with Carol to discuss how this constantly evolving role of corporate social responsibility is changing the way businesses and professionals think about H.R., business growth, talent management, and operational efficiency.
Carol and her distinguished panelists will not only offer insights on how a contextual understanding of CSR can help redefine corporate culture, but also debate the role of responsibility in today’s workplace and why race-sensitivity programs don’t work.
Also on the agenda:
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Panel Discussion/Q&A: 8:30 to 10:00am
160 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013, 12th Floor
Senior management, CSR/sustainability executives, H.R. professionals, recruitment and talent management, organizational development, college career services, and nonprofit executives.
I hope you can join us!
Remember a recent post that began with the words “I’m peeved“? I was peeved by an executive’s failure to understand that diversity is part of social responsibility.
Well, it set off quite a chain reaction in the blogosphere, with many publications and bloggers offering their own take on the issues. What caught most everyone’s attention, however, was its argument over terminology. What is CSR?
Soon after my post, Alberto Andreau, Managing Director of Corporate Reputation & Sustainability at Telefonica, wrote “Why Shifting from CSR to CSV Isn’t the Solution.” He was followed by Henk Campher, senior vice president with Edelman’s CSR and Sustainability practice, who wrote a detailed, two-part series on “The End of CSR.”
But this raging debate continued over e-mail and on Twitter for several days after these blogs went live.
So, I invited Andreau and Campher to settle their arguments on Vault’s CSR blog. Now in Part 1, Campher offers his argument on why CSR is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary cause.
And don’t forget to add your perspective by leaving a comment or connecting with us on Twitter!
I am afraid Alberto and I violently agree with each other on the most important aspects of CSR: Where it comes from and where we are today. Where we might not agree as much is whether this is still CSR.
In my view, CSR is not a revolutionary process but one that continues to go through many changes—an evolutionary process. Here is my first attempt to describe this evolutionary process:
In its initial phase back in the 1970s, CSR was all about philanthropy and what a business should do with some of its profits. Small shifts in thinking pushed this early form of CSR forward. Companies became more strategic with philanthropic initiatives and tended to focus on projects in their local communities. This eventually grew into “corporate social investment” that brought a business sense to philanthropy, focusing on results and outcomes.
Slowly, globalization started shaping our world more, and the impact of business in this globalized world became an increasing focus for activists. From a narrow focus on philanthropy we moved into an era of citizenship. Companies became business players in a globalized world, or, as it became known, “corporate citizenship.”
They started developing standards to manage their risks. This led to the need for global standards for everything from extractive companies and human rights to how we report on CSR today.
When the term “cause marketing” was initially floated, CSR became something business could benefit from for the first time. It was a huge shift in how we perceived CSR, as more than just risk management. This benefit-based approach brought operations back on the table leading to the development of CSR as a business strategy.
Now, CSR was suddenly not about cutting costs but about increasing profits.
Continue reading the final phase of CSR according to Campher and why he believes that calling CSR, well, CSR, is the best way forward on Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company.
A recent Smartbrief poll asked whether companies measure employee engagement on CSR. More than 70% of the respondents said they don’t and of the small percentage that do, only a little more than half seem to be doing so effectively, i.e., either by including a specific section in annual performance reviews or offering monetary incentives.
The others—more than 11%—continue to bucket CSR into cause-related volunteering.
I’ve spoken about this several times in the past: A company’s best brand ambassadors are its employees. Tapping into them is an easy win for the brand, and, unfortunately, also the one most often overlooked in any strategy discussion. Three plausible reasons that could be contributing to this continued ambivalence:
One oft-heard plea is that “We’re already measuring our employees on pretty much every metric possible under the sun. Will we really gain from yet more measurement?”
Argument: First, what isn’t measured isn’t efficient. Second, do you have enough employee engagement opportunities in place to begin with? Because if you do (think affinity group/Employee Resource Groups, regular forums, speed mentoring, etc.) then measuring wouldn’t be an issue.
Every company contextualizes CSR a little differently, depending on its own set of stakeholders and business needs. My recent post on why executives don’t understand CSR directly tackled this sense of vagueness. Even 3 Challenges for CSR Executives identifies why this lack of clarity continues to devalue all the progress being made by many companies.
This creates significant roadblocks in laying out standards and guidelines that can be universally applied.
Argument: Why not spin the question on its head as CROA’s Richard Crespin recently suggested, and instead of trying to lead sustainability from the top, use it as a reason to engage your workforce? Whether that’s through the power of social media, ERGs, informal settings, team building exercises, or open brainstorming sessions. There are many leaders in the field that can offer different approaches to embedding CSR in your work culture. (EMC’s Kathrin Winkler, Campbell Soup’s Dave Stangis and PwC’s Shannon Schuyler)
These executives have made significant inroads by directly applying CSR to their business models and needs, and they’ve all started by actively involving their workforce in the process.
Continue reading at Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company.
“All my life I wanted to avoid a job title with ’social’ or ‘relations’ in it. I’ve always been in finance, I enjoy it, and I’m good at it!”
That was Northern Trust’s EVP for CSR Connie Lindsey talking on a panel at Financial Times‘ annual conference, Investing in a Sustainable Future, on how CSR executives can leverage their work internally and externally.
Accompanying her were Paula Luff, director of CSR with Hess Corporation; Michael McHale, director of corporate communications with Subaru; and Corporate Responsibility Officers’ Association (CROA) President Richard Crespin. Playing moderator was Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Director of Marketing Communications and Corporate Partnerships, Melanie Janin.
[These titles right at the outset are an indicator of how widespread the scope and focus remains for most executives who work in/on CSR—dependent on a number of factors and differentiated by every company.]
Lindsey spoke candidly about her love for finance, and frequent misinterpretations of CSR. Emphasizing that “philanthropy is great in itself but that isn’t what CSR means or ends at,” she said that in fact, this traditional stereotype has been the biggest objection, and challenge, in her new role.
“When I took the role it wasn’t to create something new. CSR isn’t new,” she said. What’s new for many like Lindsey, is the need to communicate their commitment to CSR.
This is where the panelists found the most conflicts. Key takeaways:
Discussing the CROA’s latest 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking, Crespin emphasized that the companies who consistently ranked high were the ones that understood the holistic concept of CSR versus siloing it to define volunteering, philanthropy or environmental work.
For Hess, which placed at No. 43 in this year’s ranking, “our CEO and management team decided a long time ago that CSR and sustainability was going to be a competitive advantage,” said Luff, adding that having a company founder as the head executive ensures there is enough vested interest for him to actively lead issues like CSR.
However, Crespin delivered the final punch line: “Companies’ willingness to disclose and be measured makes them more effective managers of business risks.”
For Leff, return on investment in CSR can be measured in many ways, and finding what fits best is key, “whether that’s employee engagement or where it sits within an organization.” She also stressed that because younger generations were increasingly using sustainability to make their career decisions, its importance had risen dramatically.
But several challenges emerged as well.
Lack of Data: For Lindsey, the biggest roadblock is data. “How do we have specific data to say it impacts shareholder value and investor decisions?”
Lack of demand for CSR data: For Leff this was a bigger issue. “Our management team is not being asked the sustainability question. The focus, whether it’s the Annual Report, or the quarterly call, or any other forum, is always on the financials,” she said. Besides more training and education, what can we do to increase this awareness? Crespin suggests that “it’s time to turn the question on its head.”
He used a debatable analogy to explain.
Continue reading on Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company.
Making business decisions isn’t easy. Those decisions can be even more difficult when looking through the lens of sustainability. You have to balance the needs of consumers, the environment, shareholders, employees, just to name a few. Keeping all of these stakeholders happy is quite the challenge for our increasingly interconnected world.
But what happens when one of your stakeholders winds up being a comedian? It’s not every day that the Daily Show With Jon Stewart brings up a sustainability issue. But on last Monday’s show, the comedian and faux newscaster brought to light a product offering of Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc..
Del Monte Fresh Produce released an individually wrapped banana. As Stewart pointed out, “What problem… what function does the bag serve that the peel does not currently serve? A product for people who love bananas but hate their biodegradability?”
You might be asking yourself the same thing. So I reached out to Del Monte Fresh Produce to get some more background on the story and the company representative’s answers might surprise you. It appears that what comes off as a strange concept – wrapping an individual banana in plastic – isn’t such an open and shut case of poor corporate decision-making.
As an aside, don’t make the same mistake I did. Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc is based out of Florida and Del Monte Foods is based out of California and they are two entirely different companies. How to know the difference? If the product is in a can or if it’s pet food, it’s Del Monte Foods. While the two companies were once related, they’re now separate.
To tell their side of the story, here’s my interview with Dionysios Christou, Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Vice President of Marketing.
In general, does Del Monte Fresh Produce see sustainability as a strategic advantage? How would you summarize your approach? What are some of your company’s key programs and accomplishments?
At Del Monte Fresh Produce, our sustainability efforts are not driven by the desire to gain a strategic advantage in the market place. As a company involved in the produce, produce-based foods and beverage industry and as a responsible corporate citizen, we recognize our responsibility to ensure that our business activities are guided by the careful balance of the interests of all our stakeholders.
For Del Monte Fresh Produce, sustainability is a management practice that guides our daily business activities wherever we operate. For this reason, the company has established environmental and social policies and procedures as well as numerous programs that protect and sustain the environment, and promote the well being of our employees and the communities where we operate. Our environmental and employee programs are regularly audited by internal and external auditors against internationally accepted environmental standards such as GlobalGAP, ISO 14001 and SA 8000
There are several examples where our sustainability programs have yielded tangible results in our overall efforts to minimize resource use (i.e. our pallet program from sustainable forests, rainwater harvesting and water recycling, installation of energy efficient equipment, etc.). We invite you to read more about our Sustainability program accomplishments at: www.freshdelmonte.com/sustainability-intro.aspx
The company was recently featured on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which – to put it lightly – wasn’t too kind to the idea behind the individually wrapped banana. What was the reaction internally to the Daily Show’s piece?
Jon Stewart uses comedy to address important social issues and we applaud him for that. While his commentary about the Del Monte single wrapped bananas achieved its goal to raise awareness about the proliferation of packaging, it failed to note that the product serves another important role, namely the ability to now offer healthy alternative snacks to consumers in locations when they were previously not available due to the highly perishable nature of bananas.
Everyone knows that there is an obesity epidemic and healthy eating could be an important step forward to address the health and economic consequences on society. A great example of the positive contribution that the Del Monte[“Controlled Ripening Technology”] single finger bananas is the fact that now school children, when they go to their school vending machine, can choose a banana instead of, let’s say, a chocolate bar or potato chips (which coincidentally also use plastic wrappers).
In which markets will the individually wrapped banana be offered? Why did the company think it was necessary to wrap a banana in a bag?
There are currently limited market tests of the Del Monte CRT single finger wrapped bananas taking place inand convenience store in the US and .
The recyclableused for single finger CRT bananas replaces the need for the large master bag used with all conventional bananas. Most consumers do not realize that all bananas they purchase, including Fair-trade and organic, are placed in large bags and then in the carton boxes they are familiar with. Once the bananas reach the supermarket then they are removed from the bag and placed on the shelf without any packaging. The purpose of the plastic bag is to protect the bananas from dehydration and avoid premature ripening during the long voyage from the producing countries. Del Monte is currently researching bio-degradable alternatives to the existing plastics used and plans to introduce them as soon as their feasibility is validated.
The primary purpose of the CRT banana technology is to extend the shelf life of the product without using any artificial preservatives or other chemicals or gasses but rather by regulating the product’s natural respiration rate. By achieving this, bananas can now be sold in venues, such as convenience stores, cafeterias and school vending machines, offering consumers a fresh and healthy alternative to the typical snacks linked to the growing obesity epidemic in many western societies. In the past, this alternative was not possible due to the highly perishable nature of bananas and the unwillingness of the retailer or vending operator to absorb high losses due to overripe product.
Also since the product stays fresh longer, it is now possible to reduce the number of deliveries without negatively affecting the quality of the product. This would result in reduced fuel consumption per delivery and minimized greenhouse gasses as a byproduct of waste from overripe product going to the municipal dumps.
For example, at present, in the UK (where the product is being tested) up to 1.6 million bananas are thrown away every day. This is the equivalent of 12 commercial trucks full every 24 hours. Unlike other fruit, banana life cannot be easily extended through refrigeration but Del Monte CRT may prove to be part of the answer
How have consumers responded? Is it selling the way you expected?
While it is still early to draw definitive conclusions, initial results show that consumers are pleased to find in their vending machines and convenience stores the Del Monte CRT bananas as a healthy alternative to traditional snacks
Can you offer more background on the wrapping itself? What material is it made of? How long does it take to decompose?
The material used for the wrapper Del Monte CRT single finger bananas is a coextruded polypropylene structure. The material is recyclable and also has very high calorific value, which can be captured if it is incinerated (a common practice around the world). Del Monte is currently researching bio-degradable alternatives to the existing plastics used and plans to introduce them as soon as their feasibility is validated.
Do you see any conflict between this effort and the overall thrust of sustainability which aims to reduce packaging? What is your response to those who disagree with the company’s decision to market this product?
We do not see any conflict between this effort and the overall thrust of our sustainability strategy. On the contrary we see tremendous alignment.
As mentioned above the material used for the wrapper is recyclable. At this time this is just a limited test targeted to those channels that typically do not carry bananas due to their highly perishable nature (for example, in school vending machines) and would like to offer consumers a healthy snack alternative or to those channels where retailers wish to reduce the cost of spoilage and delivery frequency.
The CRT single finger wrapped bananas will not replace conventional bananas found in traditional channels or where there is no problem of high spoilage. Also, when consumers choose to purchase a CRT single finger banana instead of other less healthy snack alternatives, there should be a corresponding decrease of deliveries and packaging of less healthy snacks that the CRT single finger bananas would be replacing. Lastly, one should consider the positive impact that the CRT single finger bananas would have by substituting less healthy snacks and their corresponding social as well as environmental cost as a result of obesity and related health care repercussions.