Why Boris Libois became the Ki Work category leader in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR
Ki-work webinar , 25th of November 2008
*** 1. Karl Goldfield, Ki-Work Vice-president for sales and marketing : OK, so Boris, what exactly is CSR ? Boris Libois : CSR is the acronym of “Corporate Social Responsibility”. In French, we speak of “Business and Society Responsibility”. How business may take in charge its non legal obligations towards society as a whole ? CSR helps companies to bridge the gap between their business interests and the society interests. CSR is a voluntary way of acting. It may be cumulative with legal constraints. But usually the companies are driven by a specific interest to achieve. In other words : CSR must be compliant both with legal obligations and competitive advantages. CSR covers a lot of topics related to the day-to-day business life. Some companies will have more affinities with corporate governance and human resources. Others with energy efficiency or community involvement. But both of them engage themselves in the direction of more CSR by conciliating business objectives and society objectives. 2. Ki-work : Why is it important ? Boris Libois : There is a general thinking that we have to take care of our global and local environment. An involvement in CSR can reinforce the emotional link between employees, customers and companies. I address CSR from a social entrepreneurial point of view. The challenge is : “Prospering with responsibility”. CSR is important to achieve the sustainable development of companies in respect of all their stakeholders interests. This means : workers, providers, clients, customers, neighbours, natural resources and shareholders. You never made any money without taking into account your environment, human, social or natural. The way you take it into consideration may evolve from a defensive point of view to a prospective way of thinking and acting. What kind of interactions do I want to build with my partners as to make it profitable for both of us, in a middle and long term ?
3. Ki-work : Why did you decide to start down this path ? Boris Libois : I want to bring my expertise to society. Ethics and business are deeply connected. How CSR may be a business opportunity to build a competitive advantage in a global world and not only a constrained cost to comply with moral obligations under social pressures ? I know enough from a theoretical point of view about the link between business and ethics. I spent about 7 years in scientific work. I have a Phd in philosophy and an executive master in management. I wrote two books (in French) on freedom of information and philosophical challenges of public communication. I also learned enough form a regulatory point of view. I spent 10 years in public affairs, especially in regional and local government administrations and independent agencies. These bodies are in charge of open governance and legal regulation of electronic media networks, services and applications. I feel me ready to bring an added value to enterprises, customers and providers of services, based on the way I will develop and implement a CSR concept. 4. Ki-work : What triggered you to become an open networker ? Boris Libois : I'm living and working in Brussels, the small capital city (1,5 million inhabitants) of a no man's land (Belgium, 10 millions inhabitants), somewhere in Europe, stuck between Germany, France, United Kingdom and The Netherlands. Living in a small but complex country helps being open to understand our global world. I always have been interested by social and political use and impact of media systems (press, broadcasting and telecommunications) and information and communication technologies. I'm now using the professional social networks, like Ki-work, LinkedIn, Xing or Viadeo, to build a community of sustainable development professionals providing me future collaborative resources to work within this business solution. I am convinced I can link the right expert to the right company, being a mediator in the middle connecting people that would never have thought to work together. A kind of “CSR broker”, facilitating the CSR professional market and promoting innovative partnerships, at B2B level, between stakeholders and companies.
5. Ki-work : So, you use Linkedin to network, do you find it limiting ? How so ? Boris Libois : LinkedIn is a useful utility but it is slowly becoming a commodity. I'm using LinkedIn to get new professional resources and to track them moving forward and growing up. But LinkedIn is still stuck in a combination of a broadcast model (one-to-all) and a telegraph model (one-to-one). It is not yet a community partnership built on cooperation processes. LinkedIn is a open marketplace following a loyalty and fidelity approach. It is important but not enough to build trusted projects. To be inclusive, you have to achieve the appropriate balance between openness and closeness. To be efficient, you have to launch a business solution grounded on trust. Mature network applications as LinkedIn are too open to really differentiate themselves from on-line marketing. Take a look at the LinkedIn groups : they are full of spammers ! It is killing social media. 6. Ki-work : How do you see the CSR community benefiting from Web 2.0 connections ? Boris Libois : The benefits of Web 2.0 for the independent experts are an easier access to large CSR projects posted by companies and lower commercial expenses to find new incomes. The second advantage is to make CSR experts brand, skills and services more visible and thus more valuable for them. With the Web 2.0, the stakeholders and civil society also have access to large and shared resources. But the problem remains for the companies implementing CSR projects : how to secure their “immaterial resources” supply chain ? (human capital, knowledge, intellectual property, information system, corporate governance, organisational patterns, etc.) How to access, at any time and place, to the best CSR experts available on a specific topic at an affordable price ? 7. Ki-work : So, what inspired you to join ki work as a category leader ? Boris Libois : Ki-work category experts and leaders (as I am for the CSR category) are the selfproduced energy of the sustainable development of this collaborative platform. If your are self-motivated to build your marketplace category and/or certified network, it will be your
own production, shared with your first rank partners (first with our category experts and, for them, with their own certified professionals). 8. Ki-work : Collaboration will play an important role in the growth of the CSR community, has it been challenging to get people connected ? Boris Libois : No, people are still curious about new professional network applications. They also are more critical about it. So people ask for more transparency and more liability, at the lowest cost. Here is the motivational challenge insufficiently addressed by many free-of-charge electronic platforms. How high and serious can be your involvement in a social application if and when you have no financial investment to recover and no other interest than having a ever larger number of connexions ? In Ki-work, each category leader selects and accredits his category experts, whatever the reasons and the way he does it. There are no Ki-work common standards for experts accreditation or professionals and projects certification (except to be interested and to have two favourable opinions of referees yourself provided to be approved). We are in an open learning process and there is no command and control administration to certify trust. There are two ways to describe this learning process : Bottom up : one will not become an expert because he paid a (access or regular) fee. But an expert paying a fee will involve effectively in this collaborative project. Top down : who will select the Ki-work certified experts, i.e. how to manage the “ethical guidelines” of the Ki-work CSR marketplace category ? It is a well-known “chicken and egg problem”. 9. Ki-work : Competition drives innovation, how do you see the CSR community changing in the next few years? Boris Libois : Usually there are two models : On one hand, the “compliance model” : companies involved in CSR want to comply with objective and external rules, standards and indicators (ISO, GRI, etc.). They are reported and controled by independent bodies. All of this work is published.
On the other hand, the “collaborative model” : the CSR-oriented companies are implementing strategic philanthropy programs and experimenting new business models, in partnership with some local stakeholders, inside or outside the companies. The goal here is to produce useful motivational resources and to empower functional skills.
So the challenge is not if and when companies will launch CSR programs. But, considering that CSR will be – sooner or later – integrated in companies DNA and will dissolve itself in organisational patterns, how to facilitate these emerging models of business sustainability ? In the “compliance model” the problem is how the human behaviour may fit with formal organisations (described like technical systems). In the “social experimentation approach”, the question is how living organisations (described like neurological systems) may be driven by human resources (for instance : “intrapreneurs” inside the companies).
10. Ki-work : In the chaos of the Web 2.0 explosion and the growth of your network, what has been the greatest challenge ? Boris Libois : Let's come back to the learning process. How to address this “chicken and egg problem” ? How to get the early adopters of a future CSR business application ? If you want to convince them to climb the ladder (= bottom up), you first have to show them how to be part of its value-building (= top down). Ki-work regulates how to share the future revenues of the CSR marketplace. Now, what is the heart of the added-value and the intellectual property of our future business ? It is the “CSR ethical label”. This standard would be implemented on a voluntary way to independent sustainable development professionals as to secure the CSR-oriented companies supply chains. The “CSRmarketplace ethical guidelines”, aggregated in this “CSR ethical label”, must be built with the first rank partners as part to a trusted process. 11. Ki-work : What does category leadership mean to you ? Boris Libois : My goal is to bring together companies that want to thrive with responsibility and CSR independent experts. My Ki-work network may also be described like a “CSR ethical
platform”, hosted by the Ki-work application. It is a two-sided market. The future suppliers of my CSR ethical platform are, in Ki-work words, the “professionals” candidate to be certified by the experts. The future clients of my CSR ethical platform are, in Ki-work words, the “project buyers”. My category leadership is to manage, through a cooperative and secured way, the “CSR ethical label”. This quality of service guarantee includes the pre-selection of the suppliers by the platform. It also implies a ruling-assessment of the professionals by their clients, through the platform. Finally, the service includes a professional coaching helping the suppliers to climb up the learning curve. This will be the added-value of the Ki-work CSR marketplace. A mix between a commercial brand and a open standard, intended to enhance corporate citizenship following a voluntary way and local communities sensitive approach. 12. Ki-work : How do you see this helping your community ? Boris Libois : Following a coregulation approach, both governmental organisations and business companies are concerned by this strategic transformation towards a effective ethical reliability. As described early, the experts, the CSR-oriented companies and the stakeholders are part of this “biosystemic” process.