With the sudden loss of public confidence in corporations around the world, Corporate Social Responsibility is coming to the fore. GE’s Jeff Immelt talks about the crisis being more than a cyclical downturn, instead “resetting” business to deliver a higher level of contribution to the world.
To do this, many businesses will need to rethink what CSR means to them. Too often, it is seen as a type of PR, with a separate department sprinkling funding on projects loosely correlated to the core business, which operates to financial goals without the “distraction” of CSR.
Supporting these activities is very worthy, but is it what the corporation is designed for? The corporation is not designed to deliver these sorts of project – there are NGOs out there whose organisations are designed to deliver these projects more efficiently and effectively.
The real opportunity is to reinterpret CSR as the purpose of the organisation beyond making money. This purpose defines the organisation’s unique contribution to the world. It not only shapes its strategy, the entire organisation is aligned to deliver it efficiently, measured by the organisation’s profits. It is embedded deeply, as it influences the decisions every employee makes, every day.
Having an inspiring purpose makes long term financial sense, but this is not the reason for having one.
Contribution to the world is not a means to an end for an organisation, it is the end, with profit the means.