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First Steps to CSR Journey

Written by Minju Kim.

Strategic CSR enhances the company’s corporate values, helps to fulfill its corporate vision and strengthen its core business.  It requires commitment to go beyond social and environmental responsibilities that are often inbuilt in industry norms and legislations.  For CSR to add competitiveness to the business, companies first need to identify ‘material’ issues and key stakeholders.

Understanding the key issues

When starting the CSR formally, many organisations focus on standards.  Standards can certainly help companies to define their goals and at the same time align their existing practices with international frameworks.  Often, standards and frameworks help companies understand what needs to be addressed in their CSR journey.

What is frequently overlooked, however, is the ultimate key to a sustained and strategic journey: understanding issues that are critical to the core business and stakeholders.  

Some of the priorities remain permanent.  For instance, the quality and safety of the company’s products and services are non-negotiable priorities.  Other issues have varying levels of importance based on evolving sets of stakeholder expectations.  For example, responsible supply chain management gains greater significance when a company’s production process becomes more complex and globalised.  

In order to identify a comprehensive set of the current and upcoming “material” issues, companies can adopt various platforms such as inter-departmental meetings, employee surveys, media and external feedbacks.

Going beyond compliance

Although compliance with industry norms and regulatory requirements typically implies an intrinsic degree  of social responsibility, companies need to set its goals beyond compliance if they wish to be ahead of the competition.  

Going beyond compliance entails having a long-term strategy in which CSR considerations are integrated with the competitiveness of the core business.  Through this process, companies can determine what to be tracked and measured.  It also helps them set milestones and key performance indicators that are unique to the particular industry and business.  More importantly, it creates a mechanism in which CSR can improve innovation, productivity and competitiveness of the business.

These steps are some prerequisites to demonstrating the business case for responsible business practices.  They can also help tackle a vicious cycle in which the lack of business case for CSR weakens internal buy-in and reduces the scope of CSR to ad hoc charity events.

 

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