Archive for the ‘Martin Neureiter’ Category
In short, what it says in the article below is a strong manifestation that CSR is becoming more and more the centre of attention, and politics, at least in some countries, have realised it. Chancelor Merkel of Germany is saying that she wants to change the brand “made in Germany” to “CSR – made in Germany” as a quality label for German products in the world. In addition, and that is for me the most interesting fact, she wants to bring CSR to schools and universities, so it becomes common knowledge for customers of the future to look for products produced socially responsible. Wednesday this should be presented to Parliament.
What a change of attitude, and what a way to move ahead… and where are we?
Die Kanzlerin will die Marke „Made in Germany“ reformieren und plant ein neues Gütesiegel für deutsche Unternehmen.
Anteil der öffentlichen Aufträge, bei denen die Behörden ökologische Aspekte berücksichtigt haben (Klicken Sie auf die Grafik, um eine leicht vergrößerte Ansicht zu erhalten)
Amerikanische und britische Manager übertreiben gern, wenn sie erzählen, wie vorbildlich sich ihre Unternehmen gegenüber Mitarbeitern, Umwelt und Gesellschaft verhalten – heißt es aus der Bundesregierung. “Die werben in Saudi-Arabien und anderswo mit Leistungen, die noch weit unter unseren gesetzlichen und tariflichen Normen liegen“, ärgert sich ein deutscher Regierungsbeamter. Tatsächlich stehen deutsche Unternehmen in der Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), wie der Fachbegriff dafür heißt, weltweit an der Spitze. Um das bekannt zu machen, will Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel jetzt ein sichtbares Zeichen setzen.
Die Bundesregierung will die altbewährte Herkunftsmarke „Made in Germany“ reformieren. Den schon 1887 eingeführten Herkunftsnachweis möchte sie mit dem Kürzel CSR zu einem neuen Gütesiegel kombinieren: „CSR – Made in Germany“. Das geht aus der Nationalen Strategie zur gesellschaftlichen Verantwortung von Unternehmen hervor, die die Bundesregierung an diesem Mittwoch zusammen mit der Nationalen Engagementstrategie für eine Bürgergesellschaft beschließen will und die der WirtschaftsWoche vorliegt.
Der Schritt ist dem Entwurf zufolge ein „Beitrag zur Bewältigung der zentralen Herausforderungen in einer globalisierten Welt des 21. Jahrhunderts“. Um den neuen Slogan bekannt zu machen, will Merkel die deutschen Botschaften und andere Institutionen im Ausland „gezielt einbeziehen“, heißt es in dem Papier.
Öffentliche Aufträge ohne Makel
Gleichzeitig will die Regierung deutsche Unternehmen drängen, noch mehr in Sachen soziale Verantwortung zu tun. Ein wichtiges Instrument dafür sind laut Entwurf öffentliche Aufträge und Beschaffungen. Wer sich darum bewirbt, sollte hierbei keinen Makel aufweisen. So ließen sich staatliche Aufträge von 360 Milliarden Euro jährlich”„im Sinne der Nachhaltigkeit nutzen“, heißt es. Diese Ausgaben könnten helfen, „innovativen Technologien den Marktdurchbruch zu erleichtern“. Zudem ist ein zentrales Informationsportal im Internet geplant. Dort sollen “verlässliche, transparente und vergleichbare Angaben über CSR-Aktivitäten von Unternehmen“ abrufbar sein.
Mit einem “Aktionsplan CSR“ möchte Merkel das Thema zudem in Schulen, Universitäten und bei Verbrauchern stärker ins Bewusstsein rücken. Auch seien Beratungsprogramme für mittelständische Unternehmen und runde Tische zum regionalen Erfahrungsaustausch geplant. Und wer sich besonders engagiert, den will die Bundesregierung künftig auszeichnen: mit dem neuen CSR-Preis.
Our CSR Software “The Complete CSR Toolkit” – www.csr-toolkit.com was covered this week by CNBC and then a day later by Reuters in a US press release. See links below! We are getting global, and that is where we should be!
Have fun reading!
Last week took me to Iran to talk about CSR. Maybe not the first address that would jump to your mind when thinking of CSR, but there I was, 3 in the morning at Ayatollah Khomeini International Airport in Teheran and my friends from CSR Iran, Alireza and Tahereh waiting for me. Yes, there is such an organisation in Iran, and boy are they busy and professional. Customs was easy and no different than at any other place in countries were you need a visa to enter. Only difference were the women, who in the plane looked very European, but in the airport methamorphosed into Iranien ladies wearing a head scarf. Well, we drove all night to reach Esfahan, because the flight that should have brought us there for some reason had been canceled. It is a 4 hours drive on an astonishingly well developed motorway through rough and dry landscapes, past the holy city of Ghom. The workshop was in the office of the largest steel company in Iran, a semi state company called Mubareek Steel Company. To my surprise, the CEO came by, a number of directors and approx. 30 middle management people sitting there awaiting me, and what I had to tell them about CSR. I would wish sometimes in our western companies for such great interest in CSR. So I talked all day about CSR as the business concept, about making money by doing good, about ISO 26000 and its human rights chapter, about the respect for the laws of the country and the respect for international norms of behaviour and we had an open and engaged dialogue and discussion. Nobody took any offence in touching issues that we in the West associate with Iran in a negative way and I learned a lot about their thinking just as I hope they listened carefully to what I had to say.
CSR in Iran is still in most cases about charity and donations, it is not yet in the stage of becoming a strategical tool, but it is on the way and we found some elements in Mubareek that were not named CSR but cleary related to it. internally and externally. Still there are a lot of open issues, also in this company, but we planted the seed and we will see how big the tree will become one day. My hope is that my friends from CSR Iran will be able to pick up on this kick off meeting and work with the company in the future and maybe also have me coming back again as consultant. Not only for business reasons but Esfahan is a beautiful city, as I found out at a late evening walk through the historical city centre and across the ancient bridges of the city. As they say, you see Esfahan and you have seen half of the world.
Late at night the flights were operating again and I flew with Tahereh back to Teheran having a most enlightning discussion with a young, smart, well educated Iranian girl that does not fit in any of our clichees of surpressed, rightless women in this country. Of course I am not naiv, I know of the case of the woman sentenced to be stoned and many other such cases, but Iran is not black and white, it is, as in just so many issues in different countries all over the planet, different shades of grey. And with a strong light at the horizon with these smart and eloquent girls that will find their place in society.
This impression got even stronger the next day when I held a second workshop in Teheran with participants from different sectors of society, businesses, NGOs, academics and others. The questions I got from them put them in the top league of interested, smart particpants that I have witnessed during my many travels around the globe. We had planned the workshop till 1pm, at 2pm they were still sitting there discussing with me and nobody had left. Being openly critical to some of the government policies put me in strange situation of not really knowing how to answer, so I resorted to my usual tactics, being honest and transparent and saying what I think, and I guess that was appreciated by the people.
The evening then completed this picture with a stroll through some of the shopping malls of Teheran where the young girls were showing more hair than not and holding hands with their boy friends and just having fun. Maybe I only saw one picture of Iran, but that there is such a picture is something worth to be told about and gives hope for this beautiful and great country.
Sorry, this one is in German – published also in “Profil” Magazine July 2010
CSR in Österreich – der Zukunft entfliehen
Wir schreiben das Jahr 2004. Österreich setzt sich ins Spitzenfeld der Europäischen Länder die sich mit CSR beschäftigen. Ein erlauchter Kreis. Da ist England, da ist Schweden, da sind die Niederlande, aber dann lange niemand. Die Industriellenvereinigung hat ein Leitbild der Verantwortung für Österreichische Unternehmen entwickelt. Und nicht einmal nur seine eigenen Wünsche reingeschrieben, nein, es war ein Multistakeholder Dialog, man hat auch anderen zugehört und deren Anregungen aufgenommen. Gleichzeitig wurde am Österreichischen Normungsinstitut ein Leitfaden entwickelt. Wie können Österreichische Unternehmen nun die Verantwortung auch gleich umsetzen. Dies war gleich so fortschrittlich, dass der Leitfaden in 5 weitere Sprachen übersetzt wurde, darunter auch ins Schwedische, Englische, Dänische und andere. Man schaute nach Österreich wenn es darum ging über CSR zu diskutieren. Ein Österreicher, Martin Neureiter, wurde in die Führung der ISO Arbeitsgruppe gewählt, zuständig für die Entwicklung eines internationalen Standards für Gesellschaftliche Verantwortung von Unternehmen – der ISO 26000.
Machen wir einen Sprung in die Gegenwart. Wo ist Österreich heute im Vergleich mit anderen Ländern? Es werden wohl alle zustimmen, unter ferner liefen. Was ist passiert? Die Antwort ist für einen gelernten Österreicher wenig überraschend, trotzdem international immer wieder schwer zu erklären. CSR wurde auf österreichisch institutionalisiert, und damit in die Bedeutungslosigkeit versenkt. Die Kammern, die Ministerien haben das Thema in seiner Tragweite durchaus erkannt, und als gefährlich eingestuft. Gefährlich wenn das Dogma „Freiwilligkeit“ fallen würde und plötzlich eine Verpflichtung draus werden würde. Freiwilligkeit aber im Verständnis von Willkürlichkeit. Alles ist CSR, solange wir es so nennen. Und nur keine Verpflichtung daraus ableiten. Das CSR etwas mit Verantwortung zu tun hat, ja mei, die übernehmen wir auch freiwillig, und wenn es uns nicht passt, dann gilt das Floriani Prinzip. The polluter pays ist ein Prinzip aus der Rio Declaration im Bereich Umwelt, der Verursacher zahlt. Leider ein hehrer Wunsch, in vielen Fällen eine Frage der politischen Zugehörigkeit oder der Drohung mit dem Verlust von Arbeitsplätzen. Verantwortung als willkürliches Ding dass dann gut ist, wenn man es im Marketing brauchen kann, aber ganz schlecht, wenn es was kostet.
Was heißt nun institutionalisiert? In Österreich hat man eine durchaus gute Sache gemacht, man hat eine Plattform gegründet, Respact, getragen von den Kammern, der Industriellenvereinigung, und dreier Ministerien (Lebens, Sozial und Wirtschaft). So weit so gut. Die Folge ist allerdings, dass jetzt von den genannten Institutionen keiner mehr CSR macht, sondern nur auf Respact verweißt. Wenn man mit einem Projekt an eine dieser Institutionen herantritt bietet Respact die ideale Ausrede nichts tun zu müssen. Dänemark hat CSR auf seine Fahnen geheftet. Nicht weil die Regierung meint, dass ist eine schöne Modeerscheinung und da machen wir mal mit, sondern mit knallharten ökonomischen Interessen. Dänemark feilt an seinem Markenimage, Produkte Made in Denmark sollen ökologisch sauber, ökonomisch profitabel und gesellschaftlich verantwortlich erzeugt werden. Der Käufer wird dann höhere Preise akzeptieren, weil er mehr einkauft als nur den Legostein, er kauft ein gutes Gewissen. Und dass tun immer mehr Konsumenten weltweit. Nur Österreich verschläft diesen Zug. Bio alleine reicht nicht mehr, es geht um Image, um Reputation, um die Frage WIE wurde das Produkt erzeugt. Vom Anfang bis zum Ende. Schweden hat einen CSR Botschafter, genauso wie Frankreich, der Unternehmen aus dem Lande dabei unterstützt ihre Produkte weltweit abzusetzen mit dem Image des sauberen, gesellschaftlich Verantwortlichen Herstellungsprozess. Und damit ein Gegengewicht gegen Billigproduzenten zu setzen. Selbst Deutschland, dass anfänglich den CSR Zug eher aufhalten wollte als aufspringen, hat inzwischen eine Lokomotivfunktion übernommen. Die Bundesregierung hat als Folge der „Heuschreckendebatte“ klare Vorgaben entwickelt, wie Ministerien Förderungen zu vergeben haben unter Einbeziehung von Umwelt- und Sozialaspekten. Selbst die G9 Staaten haben in ihrer Erklärung von Heiligendam 2008 CSR als das Instrument zur Steuerung der Wirtschaftsentwicklung gesehen und entsprechende Aufträge zur Weiterentwicklung gegeben. In Österreich hat das niemanden gekratzt.
Es gibt zwar einen CSR Verantwortlichen in der Wirtschaftskammer. halbtags wohlgemerkt, die Vorgabe aber scheint zu sein, alles so weit wie möglich zu verhindern. Im Normungsinstitut wurde eine Initiative gestartet, einen nationalen Standard basierend auf der internationalen Norm ISO 26000 zu entwickeln. Die Diskussion ist stecken geblieben. Dabei ist gar nicht die Wirtschaftskammer alleine daran schuld, keines Wegs. Auch die Arbeitnehmervertreter verwechseln das Normungsinstitut und das Thema CSR mit einem Gesetzgebungsorgan und würden am liebsten alles gesetzlich verankern, inklusive Monopol der Gewerkschaften auf das Thema.
Unter diesen Rahmenbedingungen verwundert es auch nicht weiter, dass die Österreichischen Unternehmen nicht wirklich sich um das Thema kümmern. Es gibt zwar immer mehr CSR Verantwortliche, mit und ohne Budget, und die eine macht mehr oder weniger als der andere, aber ohne großen Drive, ohne große Vision. Und bei Umfragen von Studenten oder von Respact kommt dann raus, sie tun eh alle so viel und sind eigentlich alles CSR Vorzeigebetriebe mit gelebter Verantwortung für die Mitarbeiter und die Umwelt.
Das Versäumnis seit 2004 ist zu erkennen, dass das Thema CSR sowohl ein politisches als auch ein wirtschaftliches ist, dass CSR sinnvoll von Staaten und von Unternehmen genutzt werden kann die eigene Position im globalen Wettbewerb zu stärken und sich in diesem Umfeld in einem Markt mit neuen Prioritäten zu positionieren. Geiz ist geil ist zunehmend out, Hausverstand ist in. Und CSR ist sehr oft nur das einsetzen von Hausverstand, Verantwortung für das was ich tue zu übernehmen, gesundes zu sich zu nehmen, nett mit seinen Mitmenschen umzugehen, Mitarbeiter nicht als Ware zu betrachten und nur wenn ich mehr einnehme als ich ausgebe ich längerfristig am Markt überleben werde. Ist nicht so schwierig, aber in Österreich schaffen wir es, in einer Mischung aus Standesinteressen, Kleinkarriertheit, politischer Verschrobenheit und Inkompetenz diesen Weg in die Zukunft zu verbauen.
I had a deja vu experiance yesterday which I want to share with you. I was talking to a good friend of mine, she runs a big CSR project and asked her if she would buy our CSR software (www.csr-toolkit.com) for her project and her answer was that she is “shocked” because of my proposal, she expected me to give it to her for free. Of course I would give it to her for free, as she had also contributed with ideas etc. in the making of the software and I had sent her the link already several times. But what is the point I am aiming at? The point is, I gave her as a person the software for free, not to her project. But I had the distinct impression that person and project were the same thing in her mind. Does CSR make you go gaga or act like a drug addict, who only thinks about the drug? I my earlier life I had been working for the largest National Park in Europe, the National Park Hohe Tauern, which covers most of the Austrian Alps. That was a cool job, very rewarding and makes you feel good, as you are protecting nature, animals, plants from extinction and preserve it for the future. High identificaiton. I then went into politics and worked as the advisor to the head of a political party who aims and goals I shared, so high identification again, And I had a relativly powerful position, as I was whispering in the ear of the party head and so many of my thoughts were actually put into reality. I had contacts to all other political parties, the President of the Republik is a personal you friend, the head of the consititutional court and many others were close “friends”. In 1999 we dropped out of Parliament (hopefully not because of my advices and I suddenly lost my job and was Martin Neureiter again, not the advisor to the party head anymore. And all the people, very influencial people, still knew me, but did not have time for a meeting, did not have the possibility to find a job for me, did not write recommendation letters etc. because I was not “important” anymore. The lesson I learned from this was, I only had power given to me by somebody, it was not based on my me as a person. This is a hard lesson to learn. Now what does that have to do with CSR and my good friend. Well, we tend to identify ourselves with our work in CSR in a very high degree, because we like what we do, it is doing good, it is cool, it is reckognized etc. But it is not us as a person, it is the project we are doing. Our partners accept and respect us because we give them money or we are in other ways important for them to make THEIR thing working, not ours. Once we do not work for this CSR project anymore, do not have the power anymore to give them money or other benefits, very fast we fall down on the ground and realize, it is not us, it is the project. It is power given to us and it is power taken from us.
That is why I chose to open my own company, to earn my own credits and be respected for what I am not for something somebody else gave me. I know so many examples were people hired somebody, because he was working for example for the chamber of commerce and they thought if he would work for them it would open them many doors to many companies and get them new contracts. Nothing of that happened, because as soon as the person left the Chamber of Commerce, the companies did not take him serious anymore, he was not important anymore, it was not him, it was the position he had that was interesting for them. Look at Tony Blair, he might earn loads of money for holding speaches – about the past, but nobody gave him a new job, never mind all his contacts etc. well, he is not Primeminster anymore. That is why I guess politicians try to hang on to power as long as they can, because afterwards the fall is deep and the landing very often very hard.
So, my conclusion from all of this is: keep yourself seperated from your CSR project, you are you and project is project. It will allow you to think in alternatives and to think further than just the next event within your project. And the disappointment after the project ends is much much smaller, especially in the people you have been working with.
A few days ago I was doing some exams for Master Degrees in integrated Communication and a quarter of the students had chosen CSR as second subject. All six of them were female. Thinking about it, when I did the interviews for my post graduate class at the University for Applied Science in Vienna to become an “Academic CSR Manager”, we had interviews all day long, one of them being a man. That mirrors the experiance we had the year before, when from 13 participants, 12 were women.
On the other hand, when visiting one of the many CSR award ceremonies, in very rare cases when the winner is announced, a woman comes up to the stage. Funny enough, awards seem to be in male hands.
At the Master Degree exams I asked several of the students, why they had chosen CSR as subject for the exams, and why they thought this was such a female issue. The answers might not be very surprising, but the long term meaning should be thought of. Their answers went in the direction of “it is so interesting”, “I felt imediatly attracted by the subject”, “it is the chance to do something good” on the subjective side to the more objective sphere, “the word social in CSR attracts women more than men”, “it is a soft issue, men only want the financial stuff” to “CSR is like communication – female orientated and we need our domains”.
If that is true, then we have to think of CSR differently. In my approach, that I preach on all continents, day and night, CSR is a business connept, it is about making money, it has nothing to do with being good, it is about being good to your financial bottom line. It is business strategy, it is how we do our core business, not an add on, something that we let “women” do, as they have no idea about the “hard business”. Are we males really that stupid? Many studies show that women are the better bosses, they run companies better and more successfully, they should be where the money is made, not where the money is spent. But we live in a male dominated business environment, were networks are more important than qualification, knowing whom more relevant than knowing how.
What does that mean for CSR? Is CSR doomed to be not let into the holy grale of business strategy board room meetings? Well, dear managers, male or female, if that is the case in your business, then you are missing the point, and not only that, you are missing the benefits of CSR on your financial output. Your shareholders, who increasingly are also female, will punish you for leaving out business opportunities and by that increasing the financial sustainability of your enterprise. CSR is core business! CSR is strategic business management! CSR makes money. CSR prevents risks and increases opportunities! Guys, open your eyes, if you want to make a career in any business, go for a well founded, all enclosing CSR education, it will open the doors to the board room meetings you are now only hearing about.
But to achieve that, we CSR practioneers, CSR educators, CSR managers, CSR promoters, CSR communicators have to continue preaching the message and base it on evidence that CSR really makes the difference. This evidence we find, when we go around with open eyes, because not every company calls its activities CSR but they do it just the same. Take these examples and make CSR mainstream, then we will have also men sitting in the CSR exams, CSR courses etc. but maybe it will be to late then, because women have taken the top positions already!
Some days ago I’ve been invited by the serbian business magazin “Leader” to write about one of the most common prejudices: CSR is just for big companies! Read here:
„The current economic crisis is all about confidence and reliability.” How often did we hear this statement over the last months? How often high level bankers preached that their business was perfect until the “market” lost it’s confidence? How often experts tried to explain the current situation in an ineffective way? But how often did you hear “We are taking on the responsibility …”? Never.
Economy is not business between computers. All kinds of business still remain being human interaction – regardless the size of an enterprise. Considering this fact it shall be obvious that beside economic values to include social and environmental impacts has to be part of modern globally as well as locally thinking. And that’s exactly what’s behind the ideas of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Unfortunately CSR suffers two main prejudices: It’s mainly about “green” ideas and it is just applicable to big companies.
Acting in an responsible way includes consideration of the environmental impacts a company’s decision generates. Even the first step of identifying these impacts will help to improve awareness and performance. Knowing the problems and the risks will open new ways for the future as well as these considerations will show that ecologic responsibility is intrinsically tied to a sustainable business success. Being “green” is not a fashion trend it is an economic necessity a company will be held responsible for.
Concerning the prejudice of “CSR is just for the big ones”: Finally no human activity can escape the three basic pillars of CSR (economy, environment and society) – there always will be impacts on all of them. And – that’s the issue – the smaller a company is, the more locally it acts the more immediate it will be held responsible for it’s actions. So there is no way to say that SMEs (small and medium enterprises) should not care about CSR. It is just the other way around! And for most of these companies CSR is not an obligation or a threat it is a great opportunity!
So which are these opportunities?
After the first CSR survey the company will get as an immediate result an overview of all it’s activities and the related impacts which mostly already discovers risks and opportunities. These results can lead to e.g. more efficient energy consumption, better quality, higher motivated and loyal employees or simply will show new business opportunities. Getting deeper in the CSR process an active stakeholder engagement will significantly help to improve the company’s image and perception.
After knowing all the basic data and identifying areas to improve a strategy will be developed as well as an implementation plan. So especially for smaller enterprises this is the opportunity to settle up their first management system. Having a management system means nothing more or less than having a system of continuous improvement based on the simple PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act). So finally working with CSR will help also SMEs improving their economic performance in the only sustainable way known.
The CSR Company started at March 17th 09 a project in collaboration with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, CEI and the Austria Development Agency to “CSR to the people!”
An obstacle for SMEs which often occurs is the leak of knowledge and a missing network. Doing things together would be much easier and learning from each other would allow faster improvement. In the case of Serbia the National Chamber of Commerce will offer this platform in the near future for all companies.
A platform for education, best practice, know-how exchange and finally awarding. We are right now on the way to set up a national CSR competence centre which is aiming especially to the majority of Serbian companies – small and medium enterprises. So keep in touch with your local office of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce to benefit from these opportunities. … and there is no company to small for the challenges and benefits of CSR!
News on this topic will be available soon!
As CSR has a lot to do with human thinking, behavior and weaknesses just have a look at this awardwinning short – and you’ll keep smiling for the rest of the day.
image cc by Tristam Sparks
Media and Social Responsibility do not go together well. At least that is the picture we get when looking at the CSR performance of Media enterprises all over the world. Of course these companies are in a difficult position, only bad news is good news and sadly enough not every day a new scandal happens, that would fill the tabloid.
But what here is the real challenge of corporate social responsibility for media companies? Mind you, there is a real debate going on. Companies take a defensive approach to media relations precisely because there are so many examples of journalists with an actively antagonistic viewpoint – editorial comment masquerading as impartial reporting. But then that’s part of the point.
Of course media also does good things. The delivering of news from around the world, without fear, without favour, has an immeasurable positive impact. Reporting environmental emissions of a service-intensive industry rather pales in comparison.
Media is one of the most diverse industries in the world, and it is full of contradictions. On the one hand, you have the for example the BBC, which is generally viewed as having upheld pretty high standards of impartiality throughout its history, and is imbued with a public service ethos that has influenced many other followers across the world. On the other, you have the real shark pool. The tabloid newspapers that will quite cheerfully destroy anyone that gets in their way, and apparently likes nothing better than to chalk up the scalp of a government minister or celebrity following some vitriolic campaign. These are the companies that employ the paparazzi who hound celebrities without mercy. Such newspapers recently took to publishing front page photographs of ‘upskirt’ shots of female celebrities – that’s about as low as it gets.
Interestingly, most of the public all over the world would still trust the public broadcasting company more than they would the government. But the question remains – how does one approach the issue of social responsibility with the media? Here we have an industry sector that is hugely powerful – exactly why tyrants and despots have always tried to control it. In most countries, politicians have been shy of facing the fact that this is the one powerful industry that remains largely unregulated, mostly because whenever they look as though they might be about to try, the big guns come out and whichever hapless politician it is gets blown out of the water. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the media companies are right. When they are at their best, they can have a hugely positive impact on society. The benefits of a free press are there for all to see. Tyrants ultimately fail to control information and it can shape revolutions and change worlds. It is hugely positive. Done well.
But where is the pressure to do well? Public Broadcasters have done better than most, because they are under constant pressure both to justify their publicly-paid licence fee and also to show that they are independent of the government of the day. Many other media outlets are so nakedly the tool of their proprietor as to beggar belief. They get away with it only because nobody dares to take them on.
Most companies have to perform well to survive. Competitive pressure means that they produce higher quality products for cheaper prices. But there is no evidence that journalistic integrity is a key competitive feature. People choose their news source on the basis of the interesting scoops. And currently, the papers that feature the barely bikini-clad photos of celebrities in the jungle outsell those that analyse with seriousness the implications of, for instance, the current issue on environmental pollution.
So where is the business case here for social responsibility? What is the social responsibility of a media company? Surely, to tell the truth. To accord people a general expectation of privacy and dignity. To expose wrongs, but equally to allow that no-one is perfect. To entertain, for sure, but also to inform. And also to avoid conflicts of interest.
We promote to companies generally the value of measuring and reporting performance – so it should be here. Solid measurement would include number of complaints, and prosecutions, as well as standard measures such as environmental performance (yes, still relevant here!), employee satisfaction and impact on local communities. Oh, and some information about how the organisation has dealt with conflicts of interest.
There are many who feel that many are getting away with flagrant disregard for the former. If politicians cannot say this, because the industry assumes that they are angling to cover up their own misdemeanors – then who can? Most companies have to establish clear values, show leadership in embedding those values, and establish policies and processes for ensuring they don’t fall short of them. The media industry currently believes it is so noble by inherent virtue of its calling that it needs to do few of these things. They are wrong. Nobody is immune and who rises high can fall down deep. The media in general is in danger of a steep fall if does not take its own CSR serious.
One growing issue is that of government involvement in CSR. Actually one could argue, what do governments actually care about CSR, as the name already suggests, Corporate Social Responsibility is about Companies and their role in society, their approach to responsibility and their stakeholders. So – no role for governments! Well, that would be very shortsighted and actually not the way the current trend is going. Let me just give two examples: Within the ISO 26 000 process we have six stakeholdergroups – Industry, Governments, Trade Unions, Consumers, NGOs and Service-Support and others. When we started off, the Industry group was the strongest represented, and Governments where only at the very end in the number of participants, but since Salvadore/Bahia, the 1. of the ISO 26 000 working group meetings this picture has changed dramatically. At the last meeting in Santiago de Chile the government stakeholder group emerged as the second largest group, so interest of the governments has grown over the last 3 years dramatically.
The second indicator might be the fact, that in our CSR Company Consultancy we register a dramatic increase of governments seeking support in developing and implementing CSR strategies on federal or regional levels. Since last week I can call myself officially technical advisor to the Ministry of Social Affairs of the United Arab Emirates for CSR, we have worked for the Lithuanian government in a benchmark study identifying the best CSR practices in Europe of governments and I have also been involved in advising the Nigerian Presidential Office in developing a CSR strategy for this huge and divers country.
Why is this so? Well governments are not living in a vacuum, they are also part of society, they are key players in CSR. First, they are employers as every other organisation is also, they have working places, they have working hours, they pay their employees, they buy goods and services, they sometimes even sell goods and services, they deal with customers, even if they call them differently, they handle large amounts of money and they have definitly an impact on environment through the use or resources. So, governments have all key elements of CSR to cover, from coruption to social issues, from good governance to environmental concerns.
But secondly they are also policy makers, they set the framework within which the society actors can move. Companies most important stakeholders besides their employees is government. Government can change laws that determine the success or the failure of an economic enterprise. Through this policy they can further or stopp activities. In the area of CSR this has become a major tool to promote CSR. There are many different appoaches, Indonesia has a CSR law, Britain a CSR undersecretary, Sweden a CSR ambassador, many other countries national CSR strategies, and even more individual ministries that develop CSR strategies for themselves and their area of influence. In one of my favorite countries, the UAE, the Ministry for Social Affairs has just set up a Social Responsibility Fund that is set up by government decree and has the job to not only promote CSR amongst UAE based companies, but also to put the UAE on the global map of CSR, leading the way into the future. I have the honour to be on the technical management board of this fund, the first of its kind in the world to my knowledge in this set up. I will talk more on this fund at a later blog, so keep tuned.
So, why do governments get involved in CSR, when we have learned from earlier definitions that CSR is something voluntary and companies do good things and then like to talk about it? Just a little hint, the new ISO 26 000 standard has a definition on SR, the word “voluntary” does not appear. Yes, the development is going in a different direction, voluntary approaches have proven not sufficient. If we look at the UN Global Compact, as laudable this initiative is, it is also developing tools to become more comprehensive, as it has been misused in the past for PR purposes without incorporating the content into the practices of the company. Or even a much worse example, the EU promoted Alliance for CSR, a totally “say nothing” tool without any substance and just something large corporations join because they have to for political reasons, again not incorporating the sense of CSR into their practices. The list could be continued, but the direction societies are going is different. We need more comprehensive documents, more standards, more guidance, more concrete tools, more incentives, more push – and governments are destined by definition to deliver these things. They set the frame in which companies work, they define what is acceptable, what not, they can encourage and discourage by using incentives and sanctions. So they uniquely have a large tool kit at hands with which they can operate and make things happen in certain directions.
But the overall goal is competitivness. Denmark is developing a national CSR standard for one single reason, to promote Danish trade, creating a brand for Danish products, based on CSR, so that consumers all over the world when buying a product “Made in Denmark” can expect that this product is produced according to hightest standarda including social and environmental issues. Something that the market is increasingly searching for.
So it is the economy again, stupid, but sometimes the economy needs the clear guidance of governments to find out that it is about making business, and CSR is an ideal tool to achieve that goal.