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CSR is Necessary, Like it or Not

Posted May 18, 2009 8:57 AM by Ted Jackson

I gave a presentation at the GSMI Corporate Social Responsibility Performance Conference last week in New York City. This clinic was fun and interesting. The topic was about aligning social responsibility with the Balanced Scorecard. If you have heard any of my presentations about the Balanced Scorecard in the past, you can imagine my approach.

When I talk about the Balanced Scorecard, I emphasize that the BSC is just a framework for managing strategy. I believe it is the best framework, but in the end, I also believe that an organization should be putting strategy at the center of the management process, not the Balanced Scorecard. I'll briefly repeat, the BSC is just a framework, strategy is the most important thing.

So, what made this CSR presentation so interesting? Well, it was a discussion on the role of CSR in an organization's strategy. We looked at the role that CSR could play in each of the perspectives, Financial, Customer, Internal, and Learning & Growth. The attendees came from all parts of the for-profit world as well as several nonprofits. Facilitating the discussion was easy because everyone was engaged and each organization currently had an approach to CSR and was able to think about their strategy. For me, there were three simple take-aways from the discussion.

First, some organizations were doing CSR because their customer's cared about it. They needed to demonstrate that they also cared. Second, organizations implemented CSR for their employees. It made them a "better place to work". Third, CSR played a different role in the organization based on the type of organization it was. An organization like Seventh Generation or Patagonia trades their reputation on CSR, and it needs to be an integral part of the strategy. But for a typical bank or electronics store, CSR plays a less integral role.

The most interesting learning that I had during the presentation was that CSR was becoming "table stakes" for organizations. It was no longer possible to completely ignore social responsibility. Organizations might be doing it as marketing or because they really care, but it was becoming less and less possible to not address it at all. Given that, and depending on the amount of change needed in your organization, CSR will play a prominent or less prominent role on your Balanced Scorecard. There is another blog about this presentation. Check it out if you want to learn more.

Let me know if you want to know how to fit it into your strategy.

Filed Under Balanced Scorecard