Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CSR needs value metrics to give it traction

Dear Colleagues

I am very much of the view that CSR needs value metrics in order for it to have traction. I listen in on different communities and dialogs including several that have CSR are their focus.

The following is a message from a graduate student working on an academic CSR thesis in which she asked readers to participate in a survey. We shall see in due course what was learned from the survey!
CSR Dissertation, help needed!!!
Given that Corporate Social Responsibility and the initiatives associated with it have become very popular, what’s really driving companies to embrace the CSR phenomenon?

I am a Masters student in Dublin Business school and I am conducting research for my dissertation on Corporate Social Responsibility.

I have now uploaded a survey that can get me even closer to answering my research question.

Please follow the link and fill out the new survey (it will only take a minute, I promise)

Thanks again for your help.

I completed the survey ... in large part because I was curious about what questions were going to be asked. I was not particularly surprised with the questions.

I also took the liberty of responding to the post with the following comment:
Dear Colleagues

How I hate surveys! I have filled in the survey, and now have some idea of how the data derived from the survey will serve to do more to support misinformation than to build meaningful knowledge.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is absolutely essential for the future of the corporation ... its profits ... and for the future of society. I would imagine that there will be some analysis of specific cases in the course work, and I would expect that there is a big disconnect between what the CEO/CFOs are saying to the markets and what the CSR people are saying to the general public. Certainly the organization charts suggest that there are some critical problems with making CSR mainstream and relevant to business decision making.

Until there are meaningful metrics about corporate performance than embrace social value as well as money profit, the whole business of CSR will be ignored by markets and therefore also by CEOs.

Peter Burgess
Every time I find myself listening to stories about CSR I am struck by the almost total disconnect between the modest but very sincere efforts of the CSR staff and the huge scale of the corporate organization as a whole. One of the strengths of good accounting is the concept of "materiality" where analysis is focused on things that really matter, and other aspects of performance are left alone. Using this idea, CSR is really "not material" in the overall corporate scheme of things, and sadly, is only really a part of the corporate organizations PR operation.

This is not a "put down" of CSR, CSR is, in my view very important, but it is a call to do things that make CSR really relevant for society ... and part of this will be, I believe, the adoption of meaningful metrics that will give CSR some serious traction.

Stay tuned

Peter Burgess

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