Thoughts from WEF for the CSR Director

The role of business has come under increased scrutiny and debate over the last few years. Increased focus on environmental degradation and inequality has led to re-evaluation of what defines value and business success. The new Indian Companies Bill now requires a 2% mandatory CSR spend for companies above a certain size. In addition, companies are required to have a CSR Director.

The World Economic Forum today convened a session on Doing Business the right way. The speakers for the session were: Indra Nooyi, Richard Goyder, Maria Bartiromo, Dennis Nally, Feike Sijbesma, Aron Cramer.

Here is a quick summary of conversations around the topic which seem very appropriate for a CSR Director who would be responsible for charting business strategy for a responsible business.

Business Strategy

CORE PURPOSE – The core purpose of business needs to shift from – Make money at all costs to How we make money. For this to happen we need to design socially responsible businesses

INTEGRATE CSR – Corporations have not done a good job framing business sustainability issues. Some seem to think that we can do business as usual and then give charity as part of CSR to hide the irresponsible activities. Social responsibility  and Sustainability needs to be integral to the business and not merely extraneous activities.

INVOLVE EMPLOYEES – Businesses cannot write a memo and simply shift an entire culture, to change from within employees need to form part of the conversation.

PARTNERSHIPS – We must accept that business can’t solve all societal problems. We can play a part, but not do it all. Forming partnerships with governments and other stakeholders is key. Government and business must learn to work together on issues from taxation to climate change

TAKE THE LONG TERM VIEW – Paying attention to the small, but vocal minority who wants immediate results can yield to short term decisions that can harm business and society. Companies must beware flexing for them.

We must rethink role of business. Too many people are taught only quarterly results matter

LOCALISE – All of our business is local, we source talent locally. MNCs can be engine of growth in every  country. (localise CSR too)

Leadership

LONG TERM CEO THINKING – If a CEO does not make the effort to transform a company for longer than her term, it will stumble. Changing the discourse from quarterly results to larger issues and impacts is necessary.
BOARDS – We need to retrain boards, make sure they understand the importance of long term thinking and sustainability.
EMPLOYEES – We must find people who are passionate about the need to address global challenges and social responsibility.

Training & Education

MBA CURRICULUM – Business schools need to retool business education – Whats the role of business? must be answered
MBA curriculum has to reflect responsible business principles
There is an ethical, responsible way to run companies. Business schools are too often stuck in silos.

The Doing Business the Right Way debate is available here.

Article coauthored with Utkarsh Majmudar and originally published in Economic Times.

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