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Developing CSR Strategies That Command C-Suite Buy-In and Long-Term Value

Developing CSR Strategies That Command C-Suite Buy-In and Long-Term Value

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Published by John Friedman
A summary of how to build sustainability strategies that offer value to the c-suite as well as the overall enterprise.
A summary of how to build sustainability strategies that offer value to the c-suite as well as the overall enterprise.

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Published by: John Friedman on Aug 04, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Guide to Best Practices in Corporate Social Responsibility & Green PR  Vol. 3
eveloping CSR Strategies that CommandC-Suite Buy-In and Long-term Value
by John Friedman
orporate communications professionals usually play a key role in the roll out of corporatechange initiatives including mergers and acquisitions,restructurings, new visions and strategic imperativesand the like. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are key players in the roll out of sustainability programs. However, there are several ways in whichprofessional communicators can bring their skillsand internal and external networks to the process of developing as well as implementing CSR efforts.Following are five ¶keys· that are necessary tounlock the full potential of a sustainability/CSR program that is integrated into the business model:
Integration of the program within the overallstrategy.
Contrary to popular criticism of companies, most organizations do not only manage their operations on a quarterly or yearly basis. Successful companies adhere to long-termstrategy maps that divide into four or fivecategories such as financial, operational, salesand culture imperatives. Within each of thesecategories, imperatives are defined and assignedto operating units. In order to be an integral partof the company strategy, the corporate socialresponsibility program must be integrated intothe imperatives.Professional communicators who have played akey role in defining the language, presentation andthe communications around the vision are wellpositioned and qualified to play a key role. Theemphasis here is on appropriateness and the need toovercome the inclination to overpromise or justify the CSR program as the ¶magic bullet· that addressesevery strategy.
ompatibility with the day-to-day reality.
 Atthe same time, many employees face daily realities, such as customer expectations, thatsometimes appear to conflict with corporatedirectives. Failing to address and respond tothese real or perceived incompatibilities is a key reason why so many corporate initiatives fail.Communicators are in a key position to use theirskills, networks and established credibility at alllevels within the company to assist in thedevelopment of the CSR program itself, as wellas designing and implementing a successfulcommunications strategy that clearly andcompellingly communicates how the new program can and will work to internal audiences. The larger and more decentralized the company,the harder it may be develop a turnkey solutionthat works in all operating settings.
 A truly integrated CSR/green programrequires the individual buy-in andempowerment of everyone in the companyas well as changes in processes andprocedures.
mpowering and engaging employees at alllevels in the organization.
As with any culturedefining effort, a truly integrated CSR/greenprogram requires the individual buy-in andempowerment of everyone in the company as well as changes in processes and procedures; itcannot rely on the work of a central 'green team'to long-term carry the ball for the organization.Everyone has to participate if it is to becomepart of the corporate culture. Otherwiseemployees may, intentionally or unwittingly compromise the effort.Corporate communicators are in a position toplay a key role in identifying and addressing thoseconcerns that are real and offering ways to overcomethose that are based on resistance to change. Severalyears ago I watched in dismay as one company replaced several incompatible accounting systems with a single solution. In order to overcome initialresistance, management determined that rather thanexplain the benefits and need to employees, they  would instead customize the program so that thoseresponsible for keying in data would not have tolearn a new input screen. The result was a projectthat was over budget, took far longer to beimplemented.
easureable, credible results.
Whetherthrough independent third party certifications,awards, or reporting using trusted criteria; thepublic is skeptical of unsubstantiatedenvironmental claims, as are employees. In somecases it is easy to point to environmental impacts ² wildlife habitats set aside are visible examples within a community that a company and itsemployees can see for themselves. But in somecases it is harder because you are quantifying  what did not happen ² energy saved, trees that were not cut down, water that was not used.
 Engage stakeholders throughout the process.
Engaging people rather than speaking to them is afundamental change in how successfulcompanies must communicate with both internaland external audiences. Communicators muststand as staunch advocates for using new technologies and taking advantage of rather thanfearing the universal and free-flowing nature of the Internet and the various social media. The world of communications has changed, with therise of social media and citizen journalists who,despite the fact that they may or may not adhereto the same standards and practices (such asfact-checking) as professional journalists, havean increasing prevalence and influence.Companies that wish to build, maintain ordefend their reputations and brand equity haveno choice but to join the dialogue, bringing authenticity and transparency to theconversation.
ne of the key differences betweensustainability efforts today and theenvironmental efforts of the past is theemphasis on net (or multiple) gains.
Progressive companies have recognized the truepower of the stakeholder engagement and havemade the transition, revising their strategy fortraditional communications tools (includinmeetings, presentations, even media interviews and
Getting on the CSR Bandwagon:Strive for Real Integration
Communicators are in a key position to use their skills, networks and established credibility at alllevels within the company to assist in thedevelopment of the CSR program.
 At the same time, it is important to recognize thatmany of the goals traditionally assigned to corporatecommunicators ± including culture change,stakeholder engagement and external relations ±can be accomplished by enhancing sustainabilityand corporate responsibility management across acompany.
In order to be an integral part of the companystrategy, the CSR program must be integrated asappropriate into the strategic imperatives identifiedto achieve the long term vision as well ascompatible with the conditions and circumstancesthat employees face in day-to-day operations.
 A truly integrated CSR/green program requires theindividual buy-in and empowerment of everyone inthe company as well as changes in processes andprocedures. Communication is the key to bothsharing ideas and understanding and overcomingresistance to changes. Failure to communicate andlisten can result in passive (and sometime active)sabotage to your program.
In order to effectively engage stakeholders intoday¶s high-speed information world, corporatecommunications professionals must modify their strategies to effectively foster, encourage andfacilitate dialogue.
the Internet) not as vehicles to provide information,but as a forums for dialogue, seeing each as anunparalleled opportunity to tap into, and respond when appropriate, to what is being said about theirenterprise. To meet these challenges Corporatecommunications professionals can use their sametactical skills but must modify their strategiesrefining not only the content but also the structure

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