Eric Bloem and I attended last week's Net Impact conference. One session left me with a provocative reframe of CSR reporting. Teri Trielle from Cisco Systems said that her team had always been focused on preparing the report, but now they think about it as stakeholder engagement with the report as the outcome.
It might seem like a subtle nuance, but reframing reporting to be about engagement rather than solely focused on the final product is helpful in two ways. The first is something all speakers acknowledged - there isn't a huge audience for any CSR report. It can be very disheartening for the team to calculate the amount of work necessary to complete a CSR report by the comparatively small audience who will read it.
While the audience isn't large in number, it is a important one. Steve Lippmann from Microsoft used the analogy of a Velvet Underground record that might not have had huge sales, but it seemed that everyone who bought it eventually started their own band. Despite meager sales, it influenced a generation of musicians.
The second reason is to avoid or limit reporting for reporting sake. Given the influential audience who consumes reports and increased demand by responsible investors for ESG data, reporting is now a mainstream practice. Approaching this as an exercise in engaging key internal and external stakeholders puts the emphasis back on using the data to influence or at least inform business decisions. It's not just about the PDF, but the impact on policies and practices.
On Wednesday, September 5, the DC Social Impact team participated in the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC) Webinar “Key Findings from current research,” led by BCCCC Executive Director Katherine Smith. Guest presenters Nic Covey, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Nielsen and Brendan LeBlanc, Executive Director of Climate Change and Sustainability Services for Ernst & Young also presented recent findings.
Here are our top takeaways from the webinar:
1.Make employees count. While BCCCC reports that 90% of respondents identify customers as the most important stakeholder group, Ernst & Young’s LeBlanc noted that more and more execs are finding that employees are driving CSR initiatives. Across the board, all presenters nodded to the impact that company employees have as key stakeholders in CSR commitments. LeBlanc added that employees now want a visible road map of CSR initiatives and where they fit in. BCCCC also noted that CSR programs that lasted up to 4-6 years had the most success. Case in point-- More employees want to work for socially responsible corporations and want to be involved in shaping their company’s program for the long haul. Make your employees count in CSR programming.
2.Consider tailoring your CSR program. According to BCCCC’s findings, there are vast regional differences in what top execs believe are priority issue areas for CSR programing. Like finger prints, no one region is alike in needs from CSR programming. Here’s a look at the breakdown:
i. Compared to other regions, the US has significantly less concern for environmental sustainability
ii. ME/Africa/Pakistan are primarily concerned with achieving universal primary education
iii. Latin American countries are significantly more concerned about increasing access to cultural institutions than all other regions.
Also consider tailoring your programs to your target demographics, Nielsen’s Covey suggested. While across all demographic breakdowns, environmental sustainability was the number one priority, choices for second most important priority varied widely by gender and age.
3. Good News: Not all consumers care about CSR, but half do! Here’s a great argument for cause marketing: 46% of online consumers 15+ are willing to pay more for products and services from companies who are “giving back.” These socially conscious consumers are more likely to trust advertising across the board. 95% of socially conscious consumers say they trust earned marketing in the form of recommendations from their friends and 56% trust paid marketing in the form of brand sponsorship.
4. Focus on the details. No surprise here, accurate program measurement and reporting is important to program success. LeBlanc noted that more company executives reported caring about CSR rankings and ratings, and with that comes a need accurately track and report the impact of CSR programs. Businesses have even seen a rise in the role the CFO plays by identifying and measuring cost reductions and impact delivered through CSR programming.
Stay tuned for more research updates and lookout for the release of the full BCCC 2012 ‘State of Corporate Citizenship Report’ in October. For more information, follow the links to access the current research:
Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR conference on Redefining Leadership. Our Social Impact team will be sharing some insights from the conference here on this blog.
We've written before about the power that lies in educating women and girls in the developing world. It's no secret that the Girl Effect is real, and Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women's World Banking, lives and breathes this theory every day. In her role leading the largest network of microfinance institutions focused on women, Iskenderian is working to build sustainable business partnerships that will help lift women and their families out of poverty.
What's interesting about the work of WWB is the ways they are innovating beyond the traditional lending model. Services offered now include savings accounts for girls aged 7-24 in the Dominican Republic and Mongolia, as well as microinsurance programs that allow for families to account for unexpected health emergencies. WWB even developed a telenovela, aired in the Dominican Republic, that builds in financial literacy plotlines and messages to engage with women in a new way. As Iskenderian points out, human rights are never fully achievable for women without economic rights, and innovative partnerships can provide an essential link between the two. In today's world where 2.7 billion people are unbanked, we have great opportunities to band together to create a world where women are empowered to build a sustainable lives.
At this point in the year, the conversation among our Social Impact colleagues is especially animated around two questions: (1) how the summer flew by so quickly, and (2) which topics we want to examine in our annual research project with KRC Research to illuminate key trends and notable developments in corporate social responsibility (CSR), or nonprofit and foundation communications.
In the past, we’ve interviewed top executives at Fortune 2000 companies to explore the impact of crowdsourcing in CSR and the drivers of corporate investment in CSR. We’ve also conducted research with nonprofit and foundation executives to explore how their organizations are using social media and the value they derive from these efforts.
In building our upcoming research plans, we want to consider how changes in the communications ecosystem are creating new opportunities (and challenges) for corporate and social sector organizations to drive awareness and engagement around their work. We want to shed light on the innovations, platforms, and strategies that are making the most significant impact in the work of companies and nonprofits to create social value.
This year, as we develop our plans, we’d love to hear from you. What questions would you like to see explored? How are companies integrating CSR strategies more directly with business strategies? How are corporate leaders communicating their CSR investment in today’s economic conditions? How are nonprofits bringing new creativity to driving advocacy in a saturated environment? What are the most meaningful forms of measurement for social engagement? Let us know what’s on your mind.
Corporations strongly encourage collaboration. Foundations do too. In the face of recession and pressure from multiple funding sources, will nonprofits learn to work together? Will they have a choice?
These tough questions arose during multiple sessions at the National Conference on Corporate Community Investment (CCI), most often in response to audience questions about how the recession has impacted corporate social responsibility initiatives. Representatives from corporations said that, increasingly, they want to see nonprofits work together to maximize their impact. Doing so makes them much more attractive to potential funders, they explained.
Foundations have similar expectations of their nonprofit partners. Just last week, the Lodestar Foundation awarded its 2011 Collaboration Prize to a nonprofit organization chosen from more than 800 applicants. The best practices gleaned from these applicants are memorialized in the Foundation Center’s Nonprofit Collaboration Database.
The Database organizes best practices into three categories of collaboration:
• Administrative Consolidation
• Joint Programming
Unsurprisingly, there are three or four times as many examples of Joint Programming as there are examples of Administrative Consolidation and Mergers. It’s easier for nonprofits to work together on a project or program basis than to become a new or integrated organization – but the latter is achievable. The winner of this year’s Collaboration Prize is a shining example. Five different child-serving agencies merged to form the Adoption Coalition of Texas, pooling their resources and more than doubling adoptions in the state.
While the challenges of collaboration are many, Jon Bennett of TXU Energy reassured CCI attendees that the benefits will outweigh them in time. “As a company that has been through multiple mergers and acquisitions, and that has been bought out, we understand the problems. But it needs to happen.”
Do you agree that nonprofit collaboration is the way of the future – and that participating organizations will be awarded more funding?