CEOs slow to learn the CSR lesson

Feb 20 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Only three out of ten companies have a CSR strategy, according to new research, and more than ten per cent donít even know what CSR is.

Despite all the damage done the recent spate of corporate scandals, business leaders still appear not to have grasped that they are losing the confidence of their communities and customers.

A new report on corporate social responsibility (CSR) by the Work Foundation shows that, despite the advantages of CSR in generating public trust, almost six out of ten (58 per cent) of the 277 organisations surveyed have no strategy for social responsibility or corporate citizenship.

Of these, a third (32 per cent) say they have never thought of a CSR strategy; just under a third (27 per cent) say it is not a business priority, and 13 per cent have never even heard of CSR.

Moreover only three out of ten of responding companies currently have a CSR strategy, with a further 11 per cent planning one in the future.

Most organisations also seem to think that the value of strategic CSR mainly lies in PR. An overwhelming 82 per cent of those with or planning a CSR strategy saying that they see it as important for creating a positive public image. This reinforces the claims of NGOs who argue that CSR is predominantly corporate spin. However CSR strategies are also seen as important to building relationships with stakeholders (76 per cent) and giving something back to the community (68 per cent).

Theo Blackwell, policy specialist at The Work Foundation, says: "The number of organisations currently lacking a strategic approach to CSR indicates that social responsibility is often, or has often been, seen as an ad hoc activity rather than a strategic priority. A socially responsibly approach needs to be more than an 'add-on' if it is to deliver benefits to an organisation and its stakeholders."

Most respondents who did have some form of CSR policy don't know if their organisation uses or will use any recognized system or standard to manage its impact.

More encouragingly, director-level commitment is an overwhelming feature of respondents whose organisations are active in CSR in some way, whether strategically or not. In 88 per cent of these CSR activity was driven at director level in some way.

Within organisations, responsibility for CSR is more often linked with corporate governance or human resources, and is largely devolved through the management line. In 27 per cent of organisations that are active in CSR, prime responsibility for its implementation lies with the HR team. Only 17 per cent have a dedicated social responsibility team.