Please visit to see the new & improved site.
Please visit to see the new & improved site.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Encouraging Signs in the Marketplace

One of the most important stakeholders influencing corporate behavior is investors. Recent alignments between mainstream financial market organizations and corporate responsibility organizations are good reason to be encouraged. Of course, SRI’s have always been at the intersection of that space. For example, Calvert with their mission of ‘Integrating sustainability into capital markets for the health of the planet and its people.’ But I am referring here to financial organizations that are not mission driven in the same way.

Last year, Thomson Reuters acquired ASSET4 an investment research provider and offered an ESG/CSR information service.

In addition, last year, in August, Bloomberg launched a new ESG data service. I attended a compelling presentation about the service given by Curtis Ravenel at the annual members meeting of The Climate Group in New York last week. In the opportunity I had for a quick glance, BT seemed to fare well in the aggregate score.

NASDAQ has been running a CRD Analytics since June 2009 “a benchmark for stocks of companies that are taking a leadership role in sustainability performance reporting and are traded on a major US stock exchange”.

NYSE Euronext has partnered with the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association (of which in the interests of full disclosure I should say I am a governing board member) to accelerate professionalization of best practices in corporate responsibility. NYSE Euronext and CROA just released a joint CR practices survey across the member companies of NYSE Euronext.

Of course investors need to understand the data (Bloomberg’s analysis alone has 101 data sets) to be able to act on it. And as we know, good transparency doesn’t always correlate with good practices. But I think these initiatives (and others I have probably missed) are encouraging building blocks.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A North American’s Perspective on CR in the UK

I am often asked about how it is that Britain is more advanced than the USA on corporate responsibility. I don’t completely agree, but the question is so flattering so I tend to get drawn into coming up with reasons! Chris Coulter of Globescan has done a lot of research in the area over many years and so when we were together on a panel at BCCCC I took the opportunity to ask him afterwards to give me his view. One that I thought was perhaps less biased than mine. It was just after lunch so apologies for the clean up noise in the background!

Chris’s main points are:
• An engaged and competitive media
• A long standing and sophisticated NGO and Civil Society approach (eg. Business in the Community)
• Government engagement
• British companies having been exposed to international business for a long time
• A British culture of ‘doing the right thing’

Compare Chris’s views with Professor Jenn Griffin’s thoughts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recruitment Consultant Acre Resources Releases Corporate Responsibility Survey 2010

Recruitment Consultant Acre Resources today published their Corporate Responsibility Survey 2010. You can see the full survey and highlights here. They asked me to provide a commentary on the section addressing what we do…

The question in my mind is how much of the doing do we, the corporate responsibility practitioners do, and how much of the doing we try to get others to do. I consider the role of corporate responsibility practitioners is to engage with stakeholders to establish the CR strategy and policy, and then to set the groundwork that will enable, encourage and cajole stakeholders (mainly but not solely employees) to implement that strategy.

Our role should be as catalysts to embed corporate responsibility across the business. When a new issue arises we may have to do some of the doing ourselves in the first instance. However, this should only be as a means to proving the issue before we drive it to be addressed as a ‘business as usual’ operational responsibility thus freeing ourselves up to look over the horizon for the next unknown.

Over time, I would expect to see the functional components of the role, such as strategy, engagement and reporting, feature consistently in the top five activities. Themes such as climate change, ethical working conditions, or nutrition perhaps, will cycle through and feature only for so long as we are still determining the true impact of the issue prior to embedding it in the business.

It would be interesting to be able to look independently at the evolution of functional roles and themes and even examine where each theme is in its lifecycle; research, strategy, engagement, operationalization and hopefully, issue resolved!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guest Post - Manpower

I recently received a note from Charles Bartels telling me of the passing of the Manpower’s Founder Elmer Winter. Charles is Director of Global Social Responsibility focused on Manpower's Workforce Development and Diversity. Attached to Charles’ note was a memo written by Elmer Winter that I thought illustrated a true understanding of embedding corporate responsibility into a company’s values. I asked Charles if he would contribute a guest blog from his unique perspective of having known Mr. Winters personally.

In November of last year, Elmer Winter, 97-year-old co-founder of Manpower passed away.

From the day in 1948 that he opened a tiny Milwaukee staffing office with his brother-in-law, through his retirement in 1976 and beyond, Winter was passionately committed to Manpower’s values for the dignity of people and the meaningful role of work in their lives.

Since his retirement in 1976, Winter kept regular office hours at the Manpower World Headquarters and took tremendous pride in watching the small business he co-founded in 1948 grow to a $22 billion Fortune 120 employment services firm with offices in 82 countries.

I had the privilege of helping Elmer in the past 3 – 4 years with his move to our new world HQ, arranging some of his collections, organizing a part of his legacy, and more. He was quite unique, especially in his unwavering belief in the role of business to act in support of the liberating power of education and employment. Elmer had a deep-seated belief in the “socially responsible” role of business for the benefit of the world society (and Manpower’s in particular – connecting people to work, helping our customers’ enterprises succeed).

In a memo he wrote for all employees in October 1969, Elmer elaborated on what I think is still, 40 years on, an enlightened approach to corporate responsibility. In answering the question “Does the Company Have a Mission Beyond Making a Profit for Its Shareholders?” he brilliantly weaves together the role of Manpower to meet the needs of our customers with our role to respect and build the dignity of workers. And within this he addresses our obligations to the 4 million people to whom we didn’t give jobs as well as the four hundred thousand we did!

I would urge you to read the memo here.

I think we all still have much to learn from the approach he describes. In so doing I hope we can further the spirit and legacy of a great man who certainly touched my life and, I am sure, the lives of many others.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Partnership for Cross Generational Digital Inclusion

Last year BT decided to allocate some of its community investment to in-country partnerships outside of the UK. Not being one to miss an opportunity, I applied for a share of the funding and today we announced a two-year partnership with One Economy (OE) in the USA involving a grant, volunteering and collaboration.

In this video, Ken Eisner, Managing Director OE Ventures, talks about One Economy and about our partnership from his perspective.

Digital inclusion is a key CR focus area for BT. Access to the digital world is a critical component for social and economic wellbeing in the community. There are many digital divides; geographic, ethnic and wealth based are the most well known. The generational divide is less well known, but access to the internet for older people falls way behind access for the population as a whole. This creates additional hurdles for older generations to access social communications, news, government services, healthcare, financial services and many other necessary components of a modern day life. The FCC’s recently published National Broadband Plan includes reference to the generational divide.

Across the Atlantic in the UK, BT has been working on the generational divide through BT Internet Rangers. It provides young people with an internet based platform and a framework to help them teach their older family members how to use the internet. Our grant to One Economy (OE) is for them to build a US version of the Internet Rangers program, leveraging BT’s lessons from the UK and One Economy’s extensive experience in digital inclusion in the USA. I am sure there will be much learning in both directions.

We will need a new name though so people don’t think we are competing with the Ranger that rides with Tonto or with the National Park Service.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What is Our Role?

The Corporate Responsibility Officers Association posted this blog from me today. I thought it would be of interest to readers of CSRPerspective too.

I chair the professional development committee of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association (CROA). I am especially passionate about this component of the work of the Association. I have a directional aspiration for the CRO and the practice to be considered in a similar way to the CFO, or the Chief Legal Counsel. I say ‘directional’ aspiration because I don’t expect, nor do I wish for it to be exactly the same. Both the financial and legal roles have a significant component of compliance and I see the role of the CRO as distinctly ‘beyond compliance’.

That said, one of the things that gives the CFO and Chief Legal Counsel (CLC) their gravitas, is a recognized set of responsibilities, competencies and principles to work to. I think we need the same for the CRO and for CR practitioners. Some say that this is navel gazing and we need to be out there embedding the principles of CR in the business. Others have said to me that our practice is only temporary and that once the principles are embedded in the business the need for our role will be gone. I think both perspectives are valid, although I disagree.....

Navel gazing; I certainly agree that we should be out there embedding the principles in the business. But that is no different than the CFO and the CLC needing to be out there ensuring that the employees across the company are aware of and implementing the principles of cost and revenue and the respect for the law in their day to day business activities. None of that denies the need for the defined role of the CFO and CLC, In fact I think it strengthens it.

The temporary nature of our role; If you believe that corporate responsibility is addressing climate change, then sure, once the science is fully accepted and incorporated into the way we run our business, the need for the role is fulfilled. But if corporate responsibility is about business acting positively in regards to the broadest needs of society and the environment, there will always be a new issues around the corner that the CRO will identify before it causes the business serious pain.

So I remain enthusiastic about this work to develop the professional standing of the practice. Defining a consistent set of competencies, job description and a behavioral code for the role are some of the first things I would like to see happen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Guest Post CERES - Radical Transparency and Social Media Tools

Last week I wrote a post on highlights from CERES recently published ‘Roadmap for Sustainability’ regarding connectivity and communications. Andrea Moffat added an insightful response to the post, which follows below (with permission) as a guest post. Andrea is the Senior Director of Corporate Programs and oversees Ceres’ Corporate Accountability, Corporate Governance, and Corporate Outreach programs. She was also lead author of the report.

As Kevin draws out from the Ceres Roadmap—connectivity and communication are key elements of the new business reality for the 21st Century Corporation. As a telecommunications company, BT is working to leverage its own expertise to develop sustainability solutions. BT’s “work anywhere” tools have eliminated 1.5 million journeys per year, with an associated 58% reduction in carbon emissions. The environmental and social benefits of increased connectivity are clear—but as Kevin also points out, there are potential downfalls.

Kevin's comment regarding the risks that companies face from "radical transparency" is particularly ripe for further conversation. True enough, this era of social media lends itself to "short-termism," exactly the kind of thinking that has allowed companies to ignore risks from issues like climate change for far too long. Social media makes companies more vulnerable to criticism, and as Kevin notes, to “trial by public opinion.” Yet social media also presents companies with an extraordinary opportunity to actively engage with stakeholders in real time. Social media tools can be used by companies like BT to further engage stakeholders in constructive and candid dialogue. The short-termism that results from the "social networking news cycle" can and should be part of that discussion. For example, Timberland's "Voices of Challenge" forum offers stakeholders the opportunity to comment on controversial issues that affect the company. It takes boldness, yes, but those companies that embrace and leverage the opportunities offered by this era of "radical transparency" find that their efforts are rewarded through improved trust and credibility among stakeholders.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What Company Should I Join to be Fulfilled?

I spoke recently at the Social Enterprise Symposium at the Smith School of Business UMD. As always with student events, the audience was stimulating and the questions provided me with new frameworks and perspectives – including how fortunate I am to be in the job I am. There were many questions about working in the field: What is the most fulfilling role in a corporation? How can one make a difference? How should you be assessing a company that you are thinking of joining?

There was much discussion about ensuring that the company you join has a commitment to CR, demonstrated through volunteering programs, philanthropy, and green activities in the office. Implementing or participating in programs like is considered a way to help have a meaningful impact and be fulfilled.

However, I think it falls short. Similar to my view on the terminology ‘giving back to the community’, looking at voluntary work through the company, or at office green programs, as the way to get meaning from your work, suggests that working in a company is not in itself meaningful and societally fulfilling.

Such employee engagement programs are valuable and I have written much about them. They are especially valuable if they are seen as a means to an end through their ability to raise awareness and build momentum. But if you care about the impact of companies on society, you should not pick your employer just because they have a good volunteering program. I think you will be disappointed.

Instead, I recommend an approach of picking a sector about which you feel passionate. It might be healthcare, infrastructure, nutrition, or one of many other fields. Then, rather than ask the prospective employer in that sector if they have a green program in the office, ask a question that is core to the field and to your passion.

If the issue about which you are passionate is healthcare for the economically disadvantaged, ask the prospective healthcare employer what they are doing to profitably increase access to their healthcare services. If it is nutrition, ask the food company how they are rebalancing to increase the proportion of their portfolio that is of nutritional value. If it is a telco, ask them how they are tackling digital inclusion and if they see that as a threat or opportunity. If you really want to discriminate (and if the job market allows you to), this approach will be more likely to lead to a fulfilling job in a company that really wants to make a difference.