Designed for senior executives who oversee CSR or related departments such as philanthropy, sustainability, community affairs and public affairs, the program will focus on three key areas: designing strategy, driving social responsibility throughout the organisation and managing risk and decision making. Professor V. Kasturi Rangan, who is the Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing at the Harvard Business School and co-chairman of the school's Social Enterprise Initiative, will be the program’s faculty chair.
Benojo spoke to Professor Rangan to learn more about his take on modern CSR and what the program will entail.
The CSR program being hosted by Harvard Business School (HBS) is designed to help executives refocus corporate social responsibility and sustainability efforts in ways that benefit society and the business. Why do you think this is a challenge for companies?
Companies all over the world are increasingly engaged in CSR as well as sustainability. These are often managed in separate departments. One is run as a company’s contribution to charity and the other as a way to mitigate risks. If only a company were to better coordinate both sets of activities, and bring them all under a common umbrella, it can be much more pro-active about its actions. Moreover we have seen time and again that the very process of coordination often leads to the construction of an overarching double bottom line strategy.
How important do you think alignment of CSR activities to a company’s business strategy and the ability to measure results effectively are to successful CSR?
What businesses all over the world do, and do very well is to set goals for their various disciplines. The better companies of course also deliver against those goals, and the company prospers as a result. A similar goal driven process is needed for CSR. Companies need to be able to measure the extent of societal value they deliver for their stakeholders, as well as the enhanced reputational and/or commercial benefits such activities deliver for their core business. Without such a disciplined approach, CSR management becomes a toothless set of activities without much alignment to the company’s main purpose.
Are there any companies you think are standout examples of modern CSR at work? Why?
It is very hard to pick out any one or a few companies as being outstanding in its execution of CSR/sustainability strategies, just as it is with other aspects of business. It is a journey and many top notch companies are trying to evolve and beat a path to success. Companies like Unilever, IKEA, IBM, Walmart and so on are all trying to get there in many different ways. Mining companies like Holcim have taken on an ambitious program of attempting to put an actual value on their sustainability activities. We can learn from them all.
Anything else you would like to add?
The CSR program at HBS is not about preaching to the converted. We know that companies want to get there. It is just that there seems to be no disciplined process to guide them through the process. During the course of four days, through cases, lectures, peer workshops and informal discussions, this program is aimed help executives develop a working plan that would lead to the development of CSR strategy. It is a hands-on, action oriented rather than a theory driven course.
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