Core 10: The Change Makers' Manual



Five reads to evaluate your CSR initiatives by Umar Boodoo

Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management

4 Reorient the business case for corporate sustainability. By Michael Barnett, Benjamin Cashore, Irene Henriques, Bryan Husted, Rajat Panwar, and Jonathan Pinske. Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2021. The authors argue that, while

1 The robustness of the corporate social and financial performance relation: A second-order meta-analysis.

2 The Executive's Guide to 21st Century Corporate Citizenship: How your Company Can Win the Battle for Reputation and Impact. By Dave Stangis and Katherine Valvoda Smith. Research suggests that Volume 25 Number 4 July–August 2018

there is a significant mass of investors interested in sustainable investment or investments that meet


corporate sustainability initiatives have worked in some cases and have benefited society in terms of reduced environmental degradation, focusing on the business case for CSR threatens the long-lasting impact of it on society. They argue that if firms are motivated by the business case – based on the ‘win-win’ idea for corporations and society – it reduces CSR to profitable investments or investments that outwit the competition. If firms narrow their focus on the ‘win-win’ idea, it will lead to fewer meaningful actions, such as protecting endangered species, which may be ignored because they do not generate a win for companies. To escape this narrow focus on ‘profitable’, environmentally friendly actions, the authors propose that firms should collaborate with other stakeholders to tackle excessive consumerism, or work with NGOs and regulators to adequately account for and reduce the environmental effects of business actions. This paper is a must-read for the avid 21st century Change Maker.

By Timo Busch and Gunnar Friede. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, March 2018. A good (or perhaps, as we will see later, a bad) place to start is to ask whether there is any strategic competitive advantage or financial gains to firms when they engage in CSR. This meta-analysis does that by synthesising the findings of more than 1,000 studies to give a broad picture of the relationship between CSR and corporate financial performance: an area of study that is overly saturated, yet still relevant. The meta-analysis finds that, in general, there is a positive relationship between CSR and financial performance. Companies that engage in CSR do well for their shareholders as well. The way this value creation is achieved is through higher corporate reputation, higher operational financial performance (such as productivity), better accounting results (such as return on assets) and increased market attainment (such as market value). This paper is relatively new, and provides an easy read summarising the research literature on the virtuous circle of CSR improving corporate financial performance. Its reference list includes the most highly cited academic articles on CSR.

certain ESG targets. Such sustainable investment generally comes from organisations that include CSR or corporate citizenship in their strategy. This book provides a step-by-step approach to integrating corporate citizenship behaviour into the organisation in a way that such behaviour ‘sticks’. The authors provide suggestions around building a team to deliver citizenship programmes, delivering business success alongside such programmes,

and eventually garnering stakeholder support and generating positive reputational impact. It is a good read for CSR leaders or executives who are keen on integrating corporate citizenship into corporate strategy.

3 More and more CEOs are taking their social responsibility seriously. By Rebecca Henderson. Harvard Business Review, February 2018. This article stresses that companies, and their CEOs in particular, understand the risks of climate

5 Stop talking about how CSR helps your bottom line. By Stephan Meier and Lea Cassar. Harvard Business Review, January 2018. As firms engage more in CSR, one of the benefits is that the productivity of workers goes up. Another benefit is that firms that are high on CSR attract better

The terms corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting have been ubiquitous among business and management researchers – and journalists – for the best part of two decades now. Most publicly listed companies have a CSR or ESG programme; some even have a separate department to deal with issues pertaining to sustainability. These initiatives can be costly and tend to be sold as a win-win for the company and the intended beneficiary (society as a whole). But is that always the case? Is CSR always a win-win, or is CSR synonymous with ‘greenwashing’, wherein companies use it as a publicity stunt to mask their otherwise socially damaging activities? Who is evaluating CSR initiatives? Employees, managers, (potential) investors, other stakeholders, activist groups, or other NGOs? These are complex questions to unpick, but below are five reads that will help managers and other interested readers find an answer.

change and growing socioeconomic injustice. In some ways, this article portrays the hope that CSR can help fix the grand challenges that we face today. Two reasons behind this hope are: first, millennials’ growing role in the workforce and their insistence that companies have a positive social mission; and, second, a declining confidence on the part of executives that government will effectively solve the biggest problems we have today, hence requiring corporations to step in. This positive observation is not without a caveat. The more socially active companies tend to be large and without much competition. However, this is still a good read to understand and critically evaluate how companies can contribute to the social good.

talent due to employees’ desire to self-identify with a more socially responsible company. But is that always the case? It turns out workers are smart and gauge the intention of the company that engages in CSR. If employees perceive that the company is using CSR instrumentally – ie, they are in it for their own sake only (read: they are not sincere in ameliorating society) – then, they will react negatively and actually put in less effort. Hence, overly publicising CSR can have unintended consequences if the perception by employees is sceptical at best. This article might interest HR and PR managers, and others alike.

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