CSR in the DNA

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I gave my first presentation on “Corporate Social Responsibility” in 1995. I opened with the words “CSR is not something you have, it is something you are – or not.”

Disappointingly 22 years later I read and hear the same or similar things being said.

CSR, or SR or CSV, or any one of the many variations and extrapolations of it made over the decades is still treated by many corporations as a band-aid, something to plaster over a problem.

In the 1990s, and back into the 1970s when corporations first started to use these ideas as part of thriple bottom line reporting thinking, it was thought that CSR was a sort adjunct of public relations. As corporations saw PRing something as hiding, disguising or removing it from public gaze, so they saw “doing CSR” as a license to carry on doing other things that people did not like.

When I was presenting on CSR at a Wilton House FCO conference on CSR in 1999 I used that line – it’s what you are, not what you do or have, and a representative of a very well-known big braqnd corporation stopped me and said – you mean “we either are or are not socially responsible in what we do as a company, not what we say or do with CSR projects?” The fact that the question needed asking at all was bad enough, but yes this is what I meant!

This week I was chatting to a “CSR director” of a big corporation who told me that CSR was still seen as a departmental responsibility and not something “in the coprporate DNA.”

I wonder how long it will take corporations to appreciate that if they think it is valuable for them to be thought to be socially responsible, then (big reveal here) they have to be socially responsible. Or, and this is always an option, just don’t bother.

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