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Beyond branding: CSR as a tool for competitiveness and productivity

Corporate social responsibility provides competitive advantage in an evolving business environment.

By Tatjana de Kerros

The current economic and social climate in the UAE has put competitiveness, sustainability and responsible business at the top of the agenda. Whilst corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices have been controversially associated with improving brand recognition and enhancing a company’s reputation, this has neglected CSR’s potential of improving efficiency, productivity and market orientation. Rather, having a CSR strategy embedded within a business model not only serves in gaining a competitive advantage by increasing reputational appeal; but responds to changing stakeholder demands in an evolving environment.

The Dubai Chamber and PepsiCo launched the first comprehensive study of CSR and corporate governance in the UAE, finding 42% of respondents believe CSR increases productivity. However, 66% of companies in Dubai cited that a lack of awareness and financial resources prevented them from taking part in CSR initiatives.

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04:33 pm by csrwiretalkback[65 notes]

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Sustainable Value Creation

CSR is no longer about risk mitigation and “doing no harm;” it’s about shared value creation.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Elaine Cohen

CSR is not what it used to be. Long gone are the days when managing your carbon emissions and contributing to the community were good enough. Today, the talk is about sustainable value creation. But is this a realistic objective for most companies?

CSR is no longer about risk mitigation and “doing no harm.” It’s no longer about being a responsible corporate citizen, paying taxes, developing employees or reducing carbon emissions. This kind of CSR activity may be a necessary stepping stone to sustainability but its return is limited. There is only so much money you can save by reducing your water consumption and only so many stakeholders you can appease by expanding your community outreach. The real prize is when the corporation moves beyond CSR.

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05:31 pm by csrwiretalkback[46 notes]

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We Need A Fruit-Seller On Wall Street

Job satisfaction is plummeting, along with workers’ fortunes.

By John Nirenberg

The Conference Board, a business sector research organization, reported in January 2010, that job satisfaction of Americans reached its lowest level in 20 years. Based on a survey of 5,000 households, it found only 45 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their jobs. In 1987, that figure was 61.1 percent.

According to a spokesperson, “The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to job security (down 17.5 percentage points) and crosses all four of the key drivers of employee engagement: job design, organizational health, managerial quality and extrinsic rewards.” This doesn’t speak well for either the state of work or the individuals who must spend an ever-lengthening workday on the job.

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07:41 pm by csrwiretalkback[9 notes]

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Women Boost the Bottom Line

Gender diversity in the boardroom is good for companies.

By David Wilcox

Criterion Ventures’ managing director Jackie Vanderbrug made an excellent argument for how to celebrate International Women’s day—in the corporate boardroom. Citing research conducted by Catalyst, Vanderbrug reiterated boards with three or more women outperform those without by 83% (measured by return on equity). Diversity brings power.

At the UN Investing in Women & Entrepreneurship: Solutions to MDG 3conference held March 8, many supporting arguments were made for increased inclusion of women at all levels of management. Among the highlights: Geena Davis (of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media) advocating for appropriate representation of women in the media and Dermalogica founder Jane Wurmand speaking on the concept of the “power of touch” and job creation for women globally, the foundation to Dermalogica’s success.

We were also reminded of the coming positive wave of social advocacy and enterprises led by millennials in general and young women in particular. The Girl Up campaign leverages this powerful generational good.

Obviously you can’t run out, add a couple of female directors, and expect corporate performance to improve. There is a lot of basic work needed to open any business to increased innovation and diversity. The bestselling book, The Game-Changer, by P&G’s former CEO A. G. Lafley, is an excellent example. Leaders are doing this work and they are discovering significant sources of innovation.

So how do you act on all of this?

  • First, expand your network to include innovative movements and organizations lead by women.
  • Second, invest in social movements and enterprises lead by women.
  • Third, build and invest in businesses (and sustainable social enterprises) that employ women.
  • Fourth, support movements and organizations that solve critical problems faced by women.

These four recommendations are not typically on the radar screen for most organizations, and many respond to these challenges with “our corporate foundation takes care of issues like that.” What may have been a decent answer a decade ago is no longer adequate especially since innovation is coming from new places like the Global South. Corporations who are actively scaling innovative social enterprises that have transformative impact and business models can actually achieve progress on several fronts simultaneously.

For example the Every Woman Every Child campaign is a massive set of commitments from countries, NGOs, corporations and others. Headlines for the September 22 announcement at the UN Summit read: “UN Summit launches drive to save the lives of more than 16 million woman and children – Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health Draws more than $40 Billion in Resources.”

Business leaders wanting to expand their presence among women leaders are presented here with an almost unparalleled opportunity to build relationships and bridges that can transform millions of lives. What the Every Woman Every Child campaign needs is impact and business models that integrate a number of features – telemedicine, clean water, ERM, mobile diagnostics. These highly innovative solutions will enable initial expenditures to garner outsized results so that investment continues and goals are reached while spending sustainable amounts (not $40 billion).

(For more on this, see this Reachscale post.)

Social enterprises on the ground are already delivering these services. Healthpoint, along with Lifespring Hospitals and the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, are examples of this. Corporate support could present these models to countries and the global health ecosystem, driving innovation and successful initial expenditures. Farther down the road, it will also seed the next generation of women leaders.

About David Wilcox

David Wilcox is the founder of ReachScale, an organization that aligns the social responsibility goals of corporations with high potential social entrepreneurs working in areas of common interest.

Talkback Readers: How gender diverse is your company’s board? What have you done (are planning to do) to increase the presence of women? Has it made a difference? Tell us on Talkback!

10:33 pm by csrwiretalkback[11 notes]

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Hershey Wins, Justice Loses

Market rewards Hershey’s bad behavior.

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By Joe Siblia

The Hershey Company, makers of the popular Hershey’s Kisses, ignored efforts of green activists from Green America and its allies in the “Raise the Bar, Hershey!” campaign. Global Exchange, International Labor Rights Forum and Oasis USA are urging a boycott and letter writing campaign to “raise awareness of the abysmal labor practices that Hershey relies on.”

During the campaign, we examined the stock price, distributed the news globally to all major news outlets and made an outreach for comment from Hershey.

We were amazed by the results. Unbelievably, Hershey’s stock price actually increased – from $47.14 on February 1 to $49.77 at the end of Valentine’s Day, February 14. Obviously there are more considerations related to the stock price increase than ignoring this campaign; but it’s very clear the financial community did not give any dignity to the green activists. It seems Hershey’s ‘abysmal labor practices’ reduced costs and increased profit – and the financial community continues to reward costs reductions, regardless of the human rights impact.

An executive close to the situation, who commented anonymously because of his relationship with the company, responded by saying, “Hershey put their head in the sand.  They’re not making a comment.” Hershey thought it better to ignore the campaign.

At the same time Hershey benefited from low labor costs, the largest supply of sustainably farmed, Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa and Bloomer Project Cocoa beans arrived on the shores of the United States, courtesy of Bloomer Chocolate, a privately owned company. 

In May of this past year, Bloomer Chocolate, Petra Foods Ltd. and the Cemoi Group created a joint venture whose mission is “to improve the supply of high quality fermented cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast while at the same time improving the livelihoods of the local cocoa farming community.”

We’ll be watching the ongoing relationship between Hershey, Bloomer Chocolate and labor. It would be an interesting joint venture if Hershey and Bloomer got together and converted all chocolate to sustainably farmed, certified cocoa. Then justice would prevail.

About Joe Sibilia

As a visionary of the socially responsible business movement, Joe Sibilia is founder and CEO of Meadowbrook Lane Capital (MBLC), described by the Wall Street Journal as a “socially responsible investment bank” specializing in turning values into valuation.

He is also the CEO of CSRwire, the social responsibility newswire service that distributes and archives corporate social responsibility/sustainability news to journalists, analysts, investors, activists, academics, public relations and investor relations professionals worldwide. His long-range plan for CSRwire is to establish a “platform for innovative revenue sharing applications advancing the ‘movement’ towards a more economically just and environmentally sustainable society and away from single bottom line capitalism.”

Joe also founded the Gasoline Alley Foundation, a 501(c) 3 corporation that has incubated 43 small businesses since 1985 and teaches inner city and/or underprivileged persons to be successful entrepreneurs using socially responsible/sustainable business practices while revitalizing inner city neighborhoods.

Through MLBC, Joe has worked with a number of Socially Responsible Companies and has been widely recognized for his work in attempting to take Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream private, while creating a private stock exchange for CSR companies. MBLC successfully preserved many of the founders’ social initiatives, and advancing the connection between good corporate citizenship and increased share value.

Joe and David Mager recently co-authored Street Smart Sustainability: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Profitably Greening Your Organization’s DNA as part of the Social Venture Network Series published by Berrett-Koehler.

Talkback Readers: Is the rise in Hershey’s stock value evidence of a market failure? Share your thoughts on Talkback!

06:34 pm by csrwiretalkback[14 notes]
Your query didn't return any results. [fair trade] [human rights] [business] [ethics] [Hershey] [cocoa]

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Life is Critical to a 2011 Business Sustainability Plan

Igniting eco-awareness in your business plan.

By Julie Urlaub

Life: a characteristic that distinguishes things that have self-sustaining process from those that do not.

Successful business leaders will likely tell you that one of the keys to unlocking potential is a combination of clear communication, active engagement and continuous learning. How a culture integrates and supports business’s intentions, plans and strategies can be as important as the actions themselves. Our professional consulting asks business planners: is there life in your business plan? 

With companies working diligently on jump-starting their 2011 business plans, many will fail to actively engage and expand the eco-awareness of their internal and external stakeholders. This critical misstep can affect the life and health of the business and its actions through the year.

However, that dusty old plan can have a new life with applied sustainability concepts and active involvement. Following are two areas to add spontaneity to your 2011 business sustainability plan.

Raise your organization’s eco-awareness through the propagation of business sustainability information.

While management may ultimately carry the responsibility of sustainable business results, sustainability requires leadership across the entire organization, and employees have a part to play in the definition and implementation of the company’s business sustainability programs. The key is to bridge the disconnect between a corporate sustainability plan and how that vision filters down and is exercised in the day-to-day processes of the individual employee.

  • Cascade business sustainability strategies down through organizational and individual performance goals.
  • Integrate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) into the business processes, corporate performance and employee recognition.
  • Actively engaged with key stakeholders on sustainability issues, including employees, to understand how sustainability issues are affecting the business from their perspective.
  • Perform transparent reporting on sustainability concepts and sensitive issues, with both positive and negative results.

Create an open culture to express and share ideas.

The ability to remain open to test new ideas and different strategies will often payoff in the long run and sometimes even create immediate value. Companies that take chances and experiment often respond to changes in the market easier and more efficiently. In fact, the Strategic Management Journal finds firms with high turnover significantly under-perform their rivals. Specifically, human capital selection (education requirements and screening), development through training and deployment significantly improves performance. 

Creating an open culture requires appreciation for a business’ Human Capital. The key to sustainable human capital management is to align business sustainability with the needs of the employee.

  • Employee Learning: Focus on facilitating sustainability learning from employee development.
  • Employee Engagement: Encourage employee discussion about business direction.
  • Work Balance: Stage the implementation of sustainability concepts into core business process at a rate that is manageable for your workforce.
  • Personal Performance: Engage workforce by incorporating sustainability targets as part of personal performance metrics and personal development plan.
  • Empowerment: Encourage employees to identify and address opportunities to make significant sustainable change in the current operation of the company.
  • Business Alignment: Provide guidance on ways to link business value and sustainability in all work activities and projects.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Facilitate and reward the sharing of sustainability knowledge and innovative ideas between groups, departments and business units.            

Driving to new levels of sustainable business performance requires more than a winning business plan. Executives need organizational engagement to continuously promote new ideas and innovative strategies. Tying corporate sustainability initiatives to day-to-day processes makes CSR more personable to employees and helps them to identify their role in corporate responsibility. The end result: happier employees and a successful business.

About Julie Urlaub, Taiga Company

As a catalyst for sustainability, a matchmaker for green business relationships and a promoter of green products and services, Julie Urlaub, Founder and Managing Partner of Taiga Company, consults, writes, speaks, blogs and tweets on how viewing your world through the lens of sustainability can refresh your business and deliver uncommon results.

Her effervescent attitude inspires others to eco-action. With superstar green blogging power and over 20,000 followers on Twitter, she works with companies to not only maximize sustainability strategies, but also leverage social media to communicate their story of how sustainability is making a difference in their business and our world.

Julie’s work is featured on several websites including CSRVault.com, SocialYell.com, GreenEconomyPost.com, BusinessExchange.com, VividLife.com, ModernHippieMag.com and many others. Not only does she walk the talk, she rides it too as an endurance mountain bike racer.

Web: www.TaigaCompany.com

Twitter: @TaigaCompany

Facebook: TaigaCompany

LinkedIn: JulieUrlaub

Talkback Readers: What are your strategies for including eco-awareness into your business plan? Do you have examples of an “open culture” to share with us? Tell us on Talkback!

06:09 pm by csrwiretalkback[9 notes]
Your query didn't return any results. [sustainability] [business] [business plan] [communication] [CSR]

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Beyond Optics: Why Board Diversity Really Matters

Why should non-diverse boards set off alarms?

By Lucy P. Marcus

Discussions around diversity in the board room often focus on gender, and indeed women are severely under-represented on boards. Importantly, though, the lack of women on boards is a reflection of a wider problem: it is one of color, age, international perspective and more.

A lack of diversity is not simply a problem of “optics.” It looks skewed not to have a diverse board; but just because in the modern world it looks odd, does it make a difference in real economic terms? Does it actually affect the bottom line? To my mind the answer is a resounding yes. We do not need diversity for diversity’s sake, but because board diversity contributes to the profitability of the business.

There is a fundamental economic reason why diversity is important: diversity of thought, experience, knowledge, understanding, perspective and age means that a board is more capable of seeing and understand risks and coming up with robust solutions to address them. Businesses led by diverse boards that reflect the whole breadth of their stakeholders and business environment will be more successful. They are more in touch with their customers’ demands, investors’ expectations, staff’s concerns and they have a forum inside the board room where these different perspectives come together and successful future proofing business strategies can be devised.

An argument I have heard against actively seeking diversity on the board is a fear that too much diversity and independence of thought can be damaging to the cohesion of the board. Yet, for healthy boards with capable chairs, the very opposite is true. Board cohesion is vital, and everyone needs to be moving in the same direction, but within that agreed direction, the modern board requires open, constructive and dynamic discussion, rooted in respect and regard for the people around the table.

To come to the most robust conclusions, there needs to be rigorous discussion and action drawing on a whole range of stakeholder perspectives, fueled by as much diversity of thought and experience as possible. If everyone on the board is the same, then discussion will be dull, decisions stagnant, and the business will suffer. In my experience the result of a diverse dynamic group is a more capable and better functioning board that can withstand the challenges of an ever-shifting landscape in which the organization it serves operates.

It is not sufficient to have “diversity policies” in place. If a business is not demonstrating in deed that it values diversity, diversity policies are worth less than the paper they are printed on. Diversity is a matter of organizational culture, and significantly this is set through example from the top. A diverse board demonstrates that diversity is a value that the company holds throughout its business—the resulting culture then is not one in which the mentality is one of the lowest common denominator (how little can we get away with?), but one in which diversity is valued as part of building a robust and sustainable business. Diversity then becomes part of very DNA that marks a business out as healthy and ready to face the future.

Diversity is not a static one-time goal boards need to achieve, but one that poses a constant challenge of renewal. Good corporate governance requires “turn over” in the board room so organizations are capable of dealing with the challenges of today and the tomorrow.

In an ever more global business environment, diversity also has an international dimension that extends beyond gender, culture, age, etc. Every board needs to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening around the world. International diversity broadens a board’s global knowledge and understanding, and how this affects the environment in which the organization it serves operates. International diversity means the best boards will be able to be proactive in instituting these changes, striving to live up to the highest standards of corporate governance from around the world, not simply waiting for the world to force them to do so.

When I see a business with a board that has a preponderance of people with similar, if not identical, profiles, it is a signal it is not a healthy business. It is a canary in a mine that says they are not looking after the fundamentals of the business. Non-diverse boards set my alarm bells ringing because it is good corporate governance and good business sense to have diversity of thought, experience, knowledge, understanding, perspective and age, as well as a reflection of the whole range of a business’ stakeholders: customers, employees, investors and the communities in which they operate. If a board is not diverse, it makes me wonder about the business as a whole.

(Note: This article was posted on The Huffington Post and an extended version of this was originally published on the Marcus Ventures website. Also, Lucy recently gave a TEDx talk on Boardroom Activism.)

About Lucy P. Marcus 

The founder and CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting, Lucy P. Marcus currently serves as the non-executive chair of the Mobius Life Sciences Fund and as a non-executive director and chair of the board audit committee of BioCity Nottingham. She is a fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and a member of the board of IE Business School. She is a prolific writer on global economic trends and best practices for corporate governance, venture capital, entrepreneurship, biotech, cleantech and women in business, and regularly speaks on these topics to diverse audiences around the globe.

Follow Lucy P. Marcus on Twitter: @lucymarcus

Talkback Readers: Why should non-diverse boards set off alarms? Tell us what you think on Talkback!

05:57 pm by csrwiretalkback[18 notes]

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State of the Movement: #5 - Innovative Activists

By Joe Sibilia, CEO, CSRwire

Innovative Activists: The Yes Men catapulted Coke in the chronicles of their shenanigans during the Copenhagen Conference, dramatizing their innovative impact as the new ‘activists’ group to watch. The United States Chamber of Commerce experienced the wrath of The Yes Men; exposing the Chamber’s own challenge to business leadership while alternatives to their network grew in popularity.

A look back at the top 25 “State of the Movement” events from 2009Today’s post is #5 of 25

08:42 pm by csrwiretalkback[2 notes]

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CSRwire is the leading source of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability news, reports, events and information.

CSRwire Talkback is hosted by Francesca Rheannon, Managing Editor, and Sarah Peyok, Director of Editorial.

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