(Part 2 of 2 on “Should foundation program officers be more like venture capitalists?” is coming soon)
A press release on CSR just came over the transom today, and I read it as validation of the Corporate Responsibility 2×2 post I wrote last week. Better yet, the release is from the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, run by Brad Googins (whose blog post was the inspiration for my original post).
The headline of the press release is “New Report Examines How Corporate Citizenship is Organized Inside Global Companies,” and it announces the findings of a survey of 330 global corporations on their corporate citizenship practices.
The release begins, “A new report released by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship confirms that managing a company’s role in society is becoming a formal part of corporate structure and management practice, with many companies internalizing the function into corporate departments and cross functional teams.”
Wow, OK, that sounds impressive. Keep reading….
In examining the management systems associated with corporate citizenship, the Boston College researchers contend the field is in an early stage…:
- Corporate citizenship is not strongly linked to strategy or business plans in most companies
- Top management identifies corporate citizenship as important but in most companies does not exercise significant leadership on the issue
- Employees are seen as the most influential stakeholders for citizenship but inside the company are seen as the least informed
- Boards of directors are just beginning to focus on corporate citizenship issues
- Measurement and use of measures of corporate citizenship are weak
- Minimal training is being done at every level on the relevance of citizenship to the success of the business
I don’t get it.
How can the headline be that “managing a company’s role in society is becoming a formal part of corporate structure and management practice” if a main finding of the report is that “corporate citizenship is not strongly linked to strategy or business plans in most companies” and that “top management…does not exercise significant leadership on the issue”??
While I recognize that in every evolving field rhetoric and messaging often run a few steps ahead of practice (hence the term “vaporware” in the technology space). But the CSR space too often feels mired in wishful thinking about practice. This runs the risk either of letting companies off too easily or, worse, having the CSR expert community play a supporting role communicating that CSR is front and center on the agenda when in most cases its at the bottom of a “nice to have” list.
Brad Googins’ comment on my blog was that he prefers to “see the glass half full,” and I absolutely agree that companies have made lots of progress in the last 15 years; that making progress is very, very hard; and that continuing on the current trajectory would be a very good thing. But if we don’t do a better job distinguishing aspiration from reality, the field as a whole will lose credibility and will miss the opportunity to be taken seriously as a management approach for long-term corporate sustainability.