Saturday, 20 August 2016

CSR & Shared Value Partnerships for the SDGs

Public Private Partnerships: CSR & Shared Value Partnerships for the SDGs

Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Shared Value are today’s most important issues for shareholders according to Harvard Business Review (July 2016).

The world has changed. Society expects business to create social value along with shareholder value and is prepared to punish those that don’t.

This expectation represents a risk and often an opportunity. Many firms are embracing them and turning them into a strategic advantage. Others are ignoring them at their peril and most will end up paying a price for doing so.

Public and private sector organizations of all types are discovering that SDG focused Public Private Partnerships can help meet society’s growing expectations AND produce significant organizational value as well.
Businesses, NGOs, governments and other private and public organizations are finding that the SDG framework can facilitate synergy and alignment between non-conventional partners, creating an orientation that serves the partner’s and society’s interest. A Win-Win-Win success

SDG partnerships can help business with social license, product marketing, employee retention and recruitment, regulatory friction, brand development and a host of other areas.
Similarly, SDG partnerships can support mission issues for NGOs and other non-business organizations. The partnerships can bring strategic capacity, financial and human resources, economies of scale, operational expertise, etc.

These value impacts are being discovered by businesses, NGOs and other organizations worldwide.
There is often so much room to add creativity and foster fun, alignment and impact. 

Here are a few examples – there are many, many more.

Goats, SDGs and Data Solutions 

Formation Data Solutions had a limited marketing budget so teamed with Oxfam on a See a Demo, Get a Goat promotion. Every customer that saw a demo of Formation’s service had a goat donated in their name to an impoverished African Family. 

It drove demos, sales and evolved into a corporate mission! And benefited families and communities and Oxfam. How Win, Win, Win is that!

SAB Millar: Integrating the SDGs

SAB Millar has gone a step beyond SDG partnerships and systematically aligns and reports on its core business values and corporate mission to the SDGs. 

This helps the business to more efficiently align shareholder and societal value across its operations and facilitates developing partnerships with impact.

Support the SDGs & Slash Recruiting, Retention and HR Costs

Cone Communications study found that 93% of employees want to work for a company that is socially and environmentally responsible with 70% saying they would be more loyal to the company. A strong majority of Millennials and Gen Xers put social and environmental responsibility as a core expectation

“When you implement CSR into your company’s core of operation, you’ll have happier and more excited employees, even at the management level. This will ultimately lead to greater productivity and talent retention, not to mention actively helping make the world a better place.”

With these (seemingly) obvious advantages you would expect to see an explosion of mutually beneficial, productive partnerships. We are seeing some, but it is really only scratching the surface.

Effective public-private development partnerships can drive organizational success. Yet many fail to start or fail to survive?

Natural Partnerships – Unnatural Partners. 

Business, NGOs and development agencies have natural partnership opportunities but organizational history, including historical mistrust between many businesses and NGOs and the often conflicting perspectives of each organization’s internal and external stakeholders can make these partnerships hard to realize.

The SDGs provide a framework that can facilitate effective public private partnerships for development, but much work needs to be done to help organizations to embrace the opportunities and develop durable partnerships that align societal and shareholder value.


If you are truly interested in development partnerships that align shareholder value and social value we can help.

The CSR Training Institute’s core mission is helping public and private sector organizations to be more efficient and effective at creating alignment between shareholder and societal value.
We believe that public private partnerships based on the SDG framework are an opportunity that must be embraced. We have developed a program to help organizations and leaders from all sectors to develop and implement public private SDG partnerships.

The first offering of the program is Oct 10-12, 2016 in Accra, Ghana. More information>>>

Click here for program website

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Fresh Eyes --> Fresh Insights Analysis

Fresh Eyes à Fresh Insights Analysis

Fresh eyes can often bring new perspectives and discover fresh insights, identifying previously unnoticed opportunities, risks and issues.  A Fresh Eyes à Fresh Insights analysis of your social responsibility and sustainability programs and projects can often identify opportunities and risks that may be unnoticeable by someone working closely with them every day.  The easiest way is to think of it as a quick CSR SWOT.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

This exercise isn’t about the effectiveness or efficiency of your team and their activities.  In fact, our fresh-eyes will see clearer and farther because of the effectiveness and efficiency of your team.  Their knowledge, experience and understanding of the issues and situation can help keep our fresh eyes on target at the same time as my fresh eyes help them to new insights and perspectives.

The Analysis
A Fresh Eyes à Fresh Insights Analysis will poke, prod and peek into your CSR projects and initiatives, getting into the field and visiting sites and operations, interviewing key internal and external stakeholders, meeting with current partners and identifying potential new ones.

Our experienced fresh eyes will undertake a rapid, 360-degree review of what you are doing and how you are managing social license, CSR, sustainability and other key issues.  We will systematically identify opportunities, risks, and other issues and provide a clear value-focused go forward workplan for you and your team to work with.

We will also undertake an identification and analysis of potential partners and collaborators with a focus on expanding resources, strengthening capacity and enhancing impact.  Go forward plans will be developed for the most promising partnership opportunities.

The Process
We normally spend 2-3 days at each field/project site meeting key internal and external stakeholders and leaders, visiting project operations and other relevant areas.  We look at all relevant aspects including operations, metrics, partnerships, reporting and communications and other areas as appropriate.

We then meet relevant leaders in your country office and will spend 2-3 days meeting with potential donor and implementation partners.

We will deliver a debriefing report and a final report that will contain our detailed findings, insights, recommendations and go forward strategies and plans, including a detailed partnership development strategy complete with contact names and development plans.

Partnerships often represent an opportunity to both deliver and receive additional value from CSR and sustainability projects.  They can range from full on execution and resource contributing partners through to communication and socialization partners.  Partners can add diversity, perspective, communications reach, stakeholder impact and credibility and, of course human, financial and organizational resources and capacity.

While they won’t fit in every situation we often find that a systematic review and assessment of partnership priorities, coupled with the development of a structured means of identifying, assessing and development partnerships going forward can make a significant impact on the success and impact of CSR and sustainability projects and budgets.

Reporting and Communications
There are many (often too many) options for reporting and communications and they are key, even critical drivers of success and value in CSR and sustainability programs.  Yet, they are seldom looked at strategically in terms of how they can support the societal, corporate and development impact objectives of the program.

There is no one size fits all.  Some programs are best run in stealth mode, others can be enhanced with strategic one-on-one direct communicati
ons with key stakeholders, or even peripheral observers.  Others are best to leave one of the partners lead communications. 

The point is, seldom is communications and reporting approached and managed strategically.  And yet, when it is, it can be a critical component of success for the project and for the company sponsoring it.

Metrics are another area that we often find where fresh eyes can spark a conversation leading project managers to identify additional or alternative metrics that can help them to better manage the project and maximize impacts.  We also spend time discussing the theory of metrics as it relates to CSR and sustainability projects, leaving them with tools for continuous improvement regarding metrics in
current and future projects.
Our presence on site, coupled with our extensive training experience can provide a valuable opportunity for training and team-building, even helping to resolve long-standing issues with external stakeholders and partners.

Some clients have us organize training sessions and workshops for corporate staff and some opt to include external partners from the community, government and other stakeholders.  There can be value in all of these.

First, the training helps to bring a common understanding and awareness of CSR and sustainability that may not be present. It helps everyone to see things from different perspectives and understand issues differently.

Almost as important, it can help to build team and common ground between the CSR team and participants from other areas of the corporation.  And, finally, spending a day learning and working together with the dynamics of an ongoing project sitting in front of them can help corporate, community and government stakeholders to enhance their relationships and better understand their respective perspectives.  Role-playing scenarios are especially effective for this.

When we set up a Fresh Eyes à Fresh Insights Analysis we provide the opportunity to deliver training on site if that is something the client wants.

The Team
The project will be led by Wayne Dunn, President & Founder of the CSR Training Institute and Professor of Practice in Corporate Social Responsibility at McGill University.  He is a Stanford University Sloan Fellow with a M.Sc. in Management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. 

He is a CSR and social license pioneer and a veteran of 25+ years and 70+ projects in the space where business meets society, including numerous Fresh Eyes à Fresh Insights analysis in the mining and extractive sector..  His experience encompasses award winning global CSR and sustainability work including industry projects, CSR strategy and CSR Policy. 

He has hands-on industrial experience including in mineral exploration (diamond drilling, seismic, prospecting), heavy equipment, logging and commercial fishing.  He has also worked directly for and with local communities, NGOs, Governments and international organizations.  Combined, these experiences and skills enable him to absorb and understand various perspectives and engage effectively with an incredibly broad cross-section of project stakeholders.

Getting Started

If a Fresh Eyes à Fresh Insights analysis is something your operation might be interested in please contact Wayne Dunn ( to begin discussing scope, timing, budget and logistics.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Seven Snippets on CSR and Shared Value Management

Seven snippets on CSR and shared value management and governance inside organizations.

These are clipped from some of my lectures and Executive events delivered recently in Asia, Africa and North America.

Feel free to share and apply if you find them useful.







If you want to stay up to date as more of these are published I suggested following the CSR Training Institute on LinkedIN

Or connecting with me directly on LinkedIn 

You can always sign up for our periodic newsletter here

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Middle East CSR: Zakat, Sadaqah and Ownership Structure

CSR is creating internal tensions in some Middle Eastern Businesses

Many traditional, family owned businesses in the Middle East are taking on external investors and partners and many are experiencing tension and conflict around Corporate Social Responsibility strategy and implementation.

External investors and partners are pushing for a more strategic, mutually beneficial approach to corporate social responsibility, societal and community engagement.

Islamic business has a long standing tradition of supporting people and communities that has evolved from the Islamic principles of Zakat and Sadaqah [while Zakat is obligatory, Sadaqah is voluntary]. 

CSR in the Middle East has traditionally taken more of a philanthropic or charitable approach; a transfer of money and resources from business to social needs and issues with limited attention to sustainable impact or business value. 

The philanthropic focus and recipients have generally been driven by the charitable interests of the families that own the business, rather than the strategic needs and opportunities of the business. 

For the ownership families there is often a close personal and family connection with the causes supported and the charities and organizations that are involved.  New partners and external investors seldom have the same connections with the charities and causes and look to see more strategic, mutually beneficial approaches to social responsibility and community engagement.

This is leading to internal tensions and putting managers and leaders in difficult positions.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to resolving these issues a systematic value-focused analysis [basically a CSR SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)] can provide a solid platform for developing effective go-forward strategies.

A CSR SWOT can help any company to be more effective at meeting societal obligations and expectations and, importantly, at integrating them with shareholder expectations and interests.  This applies to all businesses.

It isn’t just family owned Middle Eastern businesses that fall into a pattern of blindly supporting societal causes and issues without periodic review and assessment.  This happens to businesses of all sorts and from all over the world.

Executives and managers have elaborate systems in place to analyze business priorities, budgets and activities.  But, seldom does corporate social responsibility and sustainability get subjected to the same regular scrutiny and analysis.

A CSR SWOT can be a smart investment for most businesses, including Middle Eastern businesses where there is tension between founding families and external investors and partners over the focus and extent of CSR priorities, activities and budgets.

For more on CSR SWOTS see an earlier post CSR SWOT – discover risk, value and more or contact me directly (wayne at csrtraininginstitute dot com)

Friday, 13 May 2016

A secret door to sustainable competitive advantage

CSR and Business Innovation Strategy and Training

Society is demanding more of business.  So are shareholders.  And often governments too. These expectations will keep growing and businesses and organizations that don’t adapt will struggle to survive.  Those that figure it out can create a sustainable competitive advantage that can help drive profits and success.
Business innovation coupled with strategic corporate social responsibility can help find ways to align business and societal value, creating sustainable competitive advantage and game changing go-forward strategies.
Traditional thinking too often pits societal expectations against corporate profits creating a zero sum game that not only destroys value but also sucks energy and vitality from organizations.
The CSR Training Institute specializes in helping businesses and organizations to innovate and develop strategic approaches that can align societal and shareholder expectations.  Through customized training programs and strategic and advisory services the Institute can help organizations find that sweet spot where value is created for shareholders and stakeholders.
Bespoke training programs integrate theory and practice in ways immediately applicable to current business issues and opportunities.  Sessions are customized based on the needs and interests of the company and participants.  They are then re-calibrated on a daily basis to follow the energy and interests of the group, enabling the training to match real-world challenges and opportunities.
A valuable side-benefit is the team-building that naturally occurs during the session.  Programs include participants from across organizations; from departments that seldom have opportunities for engaging collaboration.  The focus on business innovation, strategy and social responsibility serves to bring together strategic and personal interests that would seldom meet in business as usual situations.  Participants leave with shared experiences and vision and a commitment to collaborating on innovation.
Participants and organizations consistently notice post-training outcomes like
  • Business wide strategy
  • New thinking and organization-wide energy to address key non-market business issues
  • Sustainable competitive advantage
  • Improved teamwork and organizational energy
  • Identification of new opportunities
  • Improved employee engagement and commitment
If you are interested in discussing how we can assist your business through training, strategy and advisory services and an integration of both please email Wayne Dunn at

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

CSR in the Middle East & North Africa

CSR in the Middle East & North Africa is dynamic and exciting.  It is built on centuries of Islamic tradition and principles and evolving rapidly to meet the business reality of the 21st century.
I was recently interviewed on CSR in the Middle East and North Africa and thought my responses might be interesting for some.  The transcribed interview is below.
For any that are interested in CSR in this region you will want to take in the ta’atheer MENA Social Impact and CSR Forum in Dubai (May 22-25, 2016).   I will be Chairing the Summit and delivering two post-summit bootcamps.

If you are interested there is a 20% discount available for my blog readers.  Contact me for details

Do you agree that the term CSR is outdated and the region is now moving towards sustainable social impact? 
CSR, Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Social Impact and other phrases are all attempts to put words and phrases around society’s increasing expectations on the role of business in society (and society’s increased ability to impose those expectations on business). 
None of the words and phrases are able to perfectly capture this phenomena, this evolving reality in the space where business meets society.
I’m not convinced that focusing on the language is terribly helpful (although it isn’t unhelpful).  To me, what is more important is focusing on how societal and shareholder value can be efficiently created in the space where business meets society.

In your opinion, what is Social Impact Investment and how would you explain it’s context in the Middle East?

Middle East CSR/Social Impact Investing is evolving from pure charity and philanthropy to more strategic approaches which include Social Impact Investing and increased consideration for linkages with business and shareholder value.
My understanding of the phrase and the drivers of the discussion is that it has more to do with the growing realization that simple charity and philanthropy doesn’t fully meet society’s evolving expectations of business, nor does it fulfil business’ responsibility to its shareholder to use business resources in the interests of the business.

For many Middle Eastern businesses CSR and Social Impact Investing are evolving from the more traditional Zakat and Sadaqah [while Zakat is obligatory, Sadaqah is voluntary]
Zakat, Sadaqah and other societal support has traditionally taken more of a philanthropic or charitable approach; a transfer of money and resources from business to social needs and issues with limited attention to sustainable impact or business value.  That is changing.
Middle Eastern businesses are feeling the financial pressures that are the reality of recent years.  They are dealing with margin and profit squeezes and reduced amounts of discretionary capital.  At the same time many now have global project and ownership partners that are questioning the traditional philanthropic and charitable spending.
Society expects business to be engaged with key societal issues.  Business has to learn to meet these expectations in ways that integrate business and societal value.   Social Impact Investing, as well as more strategic approaches to CSR are approaches that enable better alignment of societal and business interests.
But, this should not be taken to mean that philanthropy and charity are wrong.  Just that they need to be looked at in a broader, value-focused context that considers societal and shareholder value and impact as well as sustainability.

What are the latest 3 trends you are seeing in how organisations are adopting sustainability and social impact in the region?

  • Growing awareness of the need for more strategy and focus on results, rather than simply supporting projects and programs
  • Tensions between partners as family owned businesses engage with international partners and investors who have more focus on linking CSR and Social Impact investing to business interests
  • Increasing use of partners and collaborators including from civil society, governments and international interests

What is the role of social entrepreneurship in the social impact space? 

It’s all about social entrepreneurship.  It is about innovation and motivation to be more efficient at creating, delivering and capturing value.  In this case it is societal value.
Social entrepreneurship helps to identify and lead new opportunities and helps to make old opportunities more efficient.
For any that are interested in CSR in this region you will want to take in the ta’atheer MENA Social Impact and CSR Forum in Dubai (May 22-25, 2016).   I will be Chairing the Summit and delivering two post-summit bootcamps.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Canadian Oil Sands Energy: Time for Bold Action

A 50% reduction in carbon intensity and climate impact?  

Why not?

It is time to stop tinkering at the margins and let’s set bold goals to get Canadian Oil Sands energy to market AND make it palatable in our increasingly carbon and climate focused world.

Canadian Oil Sands are one of the world's largest petroleum reserves, and the only major reserve located in a politically stable region.  A major investment in improving the carbon/climate impact would pay dividends to Alberta, Canada and the world for decades.

We’ve seen that no matter how loud governments cheer for the project, or how friendly they make environmental rules, the pipelines just don’t seem to get approved.  Climate change and carbon are increasingly important to society.  Dirty energy, as the oil sands have been branded, can expect increasing opposition and challenges at every step, from inside Canada and globally

This won’t change anytime soon.  Unless the oil sands industry embraces carbon and climate issues and takes them head on.  And, with the economic malaise Canada and Alberta is in, and provincial and federal governments poised to make strategic interventions, this is a perfect time.

It is time for industry and both levels of government to come together and accept and finance the challenge of making oil sands energy acceptable to a carbon conscious public.

A good starting point is to determine the carbon, GHG and climate impact intensity of the industry today.  There seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation around this issue so let’s clear it up.  Whatever the number is, let’s know it and let’s accept that it has to improve.  A lot.  A real, real lot.

How can it be improved?  I don’t know, but I know it can’t be improved and won’t be improved unless industry and government come together, commit to improving it and invest heavily to achieve that commitment.

What would happen if they agreed to cut the carbon, GHG and climate impact intensity of oil sands industry by 50% in 5 years?   It would be a huge step forward in gaining (or regaining) a global social license for the industry.

Canadian scientists, engineers, universities and research facilities would be resourced and motivated to develop new technology and processes that would not only apply to the oil sands but would have impact across other industries and sectors struggling to reduce their impact. 

New technology and solutions would be developed by Canadians and could be applied in other industries and other sectors, supporting Canadian business and carbon management.  Canada would continue moving away from its former status as a climate change laggard.

What would it cost to cut impacts by 50%?  I don’t know.  Billions I guess.  But, what is the alternative.  The public and markets won’t get less interested in the environmental impact.  Pipeline permits won’t magically appear. 

I suspect that if Industry and government doesn’t take this issue head on with a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) that they all embrace, we will see much of the energy from oil sands remain untouched, costing the provincial and national economy far more than it would cost to take the challenge head on.

So, let’s just do it.  Embrace a 50% reduction in the climate impact of the oil sands industry by 2022.
Canadian Oil Sands are one of the world's largest petroleum reserves, and the only major reserve located in a politically stable region.  A major investment in improving the carbon/climate impact would pay dividends to Alberta, Canada and the world for decades.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Social Value Brand

Social Value Brand (SVB)

Businesses today are increasingly expected to deliver some sort of social value in addition to shareholder value, or, at the very least, to not create harm to society.

Whether they realize it or not, whether they actively manage it or not, pretty much all companies with market, financial or human resource connections to Europe and North America have a Social Value Brand or SVB

This is true whether they are a mining company operating in remote jungles, a high performing Consumer Goods Company, a globally recognized service sector brand or even a professional sports league.  It is also true for entire industries.

You might ask, what is a Social Value Brand?  It is simply how your company or industry is perceived in relation to creating value for society as well as value for shareholders.

You might also ask, how important is a Social Value Brand?  For some it is quite important actually.

For all it is more important today than it was ten years ago, and will be more important in five years than it is today.

If attracting top talent to your company is important, the fact that 73% of Americans want to work for a company that is doing social good should move SVB up your priority list.

If you are a mining company your SVB can be the difference between being able to operate and being shut down through loss of permits, or even by direct community activism.  Some jurisdictions actually require a community vote to support development of a mine.  Are you ready for that?

If you are a consumer goods company your global supply chain is likely fraught with labour force, human rights, environment, health and safety and other potential issues that you are working hard to manage. Complex issues in long and complex supply chains. 

Sudden events like fires, factory collapses, sub-contractor screw-ups, or something out of the blue can suddenly put negative pressure on your SVB and impact sales and relationships.  A carefully nurtured SVB can provide a reputational capital reserve that can give your market facing brand some resilience to these inevitable situations.

If you are a globally recognized service brand your Social Value Brand can give you a strategic edge in attracting and retaining talent.  And, SVB development activities can provide valuable professional development opportunities for your team.

And professional sports leagues?  Yes, social value brand is an emerging issue there too.  Look at the heat football has taken over how it managed domestic violence issues with players, or how concussions and other safety issues are becoming increasingly important, or violence in hockey, or environmental impact of sporting events.  SVB issues are increasing in importance, and catching the attention of key leaders and decision makers.

With the growing importance of social value brands you would think that management of them would also be of increasing importance.  You would be right, but you would likely be surprised at some low-hanging opportunities that are there for the taking.

Here are some examples that I think are ripe for action…

Nike’s SVB Opportunity
Take a company like Nike, a clear global leader in athletic apparel and athletic performance gear.  Nike actually creates a lot of social value every day.

Nike is a huge supporter of community sports and youth sports.  Nike also supports aspiring and accomplished athletes who themselves provide incredible amounts of volunteer support to youth and sports and charitable causes.

Together these actions create a lot of latent social brand value, but little seems to be invested in developing it so that Nike’s publics and constituencies recognize the social value that Nike helps foster.

You may ask, why is this important?  People buy Nike for athletic performance and the star power of its athletes.  True.  On the margins a strong SVB may help drive some sales, but likely not much.

But, what about when a supply chain issue develops and suddenly global attention is focused on labour, or safety or human rights practices of some obscure contractor in Nike’s supply chain (remember Nike and the child labour issues of the 90s). When the sh*t hits the fan a strong SVB can provide the reputational capital that will limit market impact and facilitate speedy recovery.

What is ironic is that with all the social good that Nike is creating already it would likely take little additional effort and cost to develop a robust SVB.

NHL’s SVB Opportunity
The National Hockey League has taken a global leadership position in sustainability management and reporting.  The league and its franchises are actively and progressively managing their environmental footprint.  The league recently produced a strong sustainability report. (see a short analysis of it here)

At the same time the league, its franchises and players are producing social value in many ways. 

Whether it is the league’s work with Cancer, LGT issues or a range of other important social causes and issues, or the individual franchises support to a range of community causes and charities, or the work of individual players and their support to youth, minor hockey, charity and development, there are many valuable social impacts emanating from the NHL and its teams and players.

Yet, despite the success of its sustainability report and the significant societal impacts, the League and its franchises are doing little to develop a strong social value brand from all the social value creation work it is doing.

Extractive sector SVB opportunities
The mining and petroleum industries were actually early achievers in social value creation! 

Yes, they do have a legacy of negative social value impacts (and some continue to this day).  But, today companies and major industry associations are making major progress on social value creation.

Examples abound of progressive community engagement and development, whether it is Uranium emining giant Cameco and it’s leadership to facilitate a half billion dollar annual business activity Indigenous Peoples in northern Saskatchewan, or Golden Star’s efforts to support family level palm oil businesses in Ghana, or Placer Dome’s leadership that ‘changed the social face of the South African mining industry’ (see Analysis and Stanford Case Study here).

For the most part the extractive sector is quite accomplished at maximizing local/project level social value brand impacts from its investments and operations.  On an industry level organizations like ICMM (website), CIM, PDAC and others are working to create industry wide SVB.

A closer examination though will reveal that few companies are proactively building their SVB at the corporate level where it could provide increasing value in financing, employee recruitment and retention and other key areas.

Similar stories can be told for other industries.  There are many social value brand opportunities where much of the work is already done and paid for.

As societal pressure for social value creation increases you can expect businesses and industries to pay increasing attention to their Social Value Brand. 

Some will use it as a differentiator in markets, others for employee recruitment and retention and others will use it more like an insurance against impacts of mistakes that are pretty much inevitable.

However it is used, Social Value Brand is something that tomorrow’s leaders will pay more attention to than today’s, and today’s leaders that do pay attention and get their SVB right will have improved paths to success, today and tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

CSR Skills: What you need and why

CSR Skills: What you need and why

What skills and attributes are most helpful for someone working in (or wanting to work in) the growing field of corporate social responsibility?

I’m asked this question often so thought I would share some thoughts in a post. 

As always, these are my thoughts.  Don’t expect them to be comprehensive and do expect some to be surprising and maybe even controversial.   

Some might suggest that there is another set of more traditional skills that are important.  I wouldn’t disagree, but would argue vehemently that the skills below are as or more important.

For all my writings, teachings and doings the whole idea (always) is to facilitate change by conveying information and stimulating thinking and doing.  

You have more answers inside you than you realize.  And you won’t find them if you just read, nod and agree.  Think.  If you agree, why?  If you disagree, why?  And, most importantly, what will you do differently?

Most of the skills below are not just good for CSR. They apply across business and in life generally.

1.       Value-think
CSR is all about value (so is business!).  Always.  Knowing how to think about value in all its dimensions is key.  Understanding and differentiating value will help you to create value-alignment across interests.

Click here for slides and video on stakeholder engagement from a recent CSR Masterclass

2.       Stakeholder-think
CSR is all about stakeholders (so is business!).  Always.  Knowing how to identify stakeholders and think about their interests (value) in all its dimensions is key.  Understanding and differentiating stakeholders and their value will help you to create value-alignment across interests.

Click here for slides and video on stakeholder engagement from a recent CSR Masterclass

3.       Alignment-think
CSR is all about meeting the interests (value) of others, in a way that also meets the interests of your business and/or project.   This skill is sort of like strategic empathy, knowing how to understand the position and interests of key stakeholders (the what’s in it for them part) and being creative in looking at ways that your business/project can help them and serve your own interests at the same time.

4.       Communication
Communication is a critical skill for CSR (and so many other areas).  Clear, concise, other-interest focused (and interesting!) communications can be invaluable in developing, implementing and managing CSR projects.  This applies to speaking, writing, social media and all other forms of communications.

*other-interest focused – make sure to practice communication that connects with the interests of those you are communicating with.  Communicate about the self-interest of others and their ears will perk up and their minds will engage.  Communicate about your interests and their minds will likely wander to their own interests.

Ask yourself, ‘why would they listen/read/engage your communication’.  If you don’t have a clear answer your communication is likely ineffective.

5.       Know business
CSR is all business, so you need to Know Business to be effective.  Too often CSR is done as no-business and all philanthropy.  Not good.

In the same way as you need to be able to understand and meet the needs of stakeholders, you also need to know how to understand and meet the needs of your business or project.

And, while you are at it

6.       Know business-speak
Know how to communicate to your internal colleagues and stakeholders (and then do it!).  If you can’t make a strong internal business case for your CSR plan and project how do you expect to develop a strong internal support base.

And, if you don’t have a strong internal support base be prepared to be isolated, marginalized and the first funding to be cut when things get tough.

Build your business case and learn how to communicate it to key internal stakeholders and constituents.  You must be able to clearly define and communicate the internal business case (often by department – e.g., what’s in it for Human Resources?  For Finance?  For operations?, etc.).

If you can’t, then you either haven’t thought about it hard enough, or you are pursuing sub-optimal projects and priorities.  In either case you are not effectively optimizing value.

7.       Zero-sum Be Gone
CSR is about creating and increasing value, not simply redistributing value.  One of the most valuable skills you can develop is to learn to systematically think beyond zero-sum.

Learn how to win by helping others to win too.

8.       Innovation
Innovation is critical.  Put on a value lens and learn to think inside, outside and around the box.  Ask yourself questions that start with; What if? Would this? What about? Could we?

Better than asking yourself, surround yourself with colleagues and stakeholders who can ask you those questions, and be open enough to hear them and know that these questions may help to unlock new value.

Creative alignment and value creation is often found through innovation.

9.       Think Pain Points
What are the pain points?  What does that have to do with CSR?  Pain points are just that.  It is what keeps your CEO awake at night.  Threats, weaknesses, obstacles, challenges, the sorts of things that business has to address to survive and thrive.

CSR should be one of your business’s strategic tools for addressing pain points.  Not that CSR will solve all pain points, but that it may solve some.

A key skill for a successful CSR practitioner is to know and understand the pain points that are keeping your C-Suite team awake at nights, and to think strategically about how CSR may help address some of them.

And then have the communication and know-business skills to be able to use CSR to address key pain points.

I did a keynote at the CSR Saudi Arabia Summit recently that discusses CSR and Pain Points as part of integrating societal value in your core business.  You can see the slides here


There are many other skills that will help you to break into CSR work or to be better at it.  You can find many lists (much more traditional than my nine-point list).

But, I think you will do well to think about and try and master these nine.  They will help to make you more effective and more valuable, at CSR and in other areas.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

What makes a CSR Strategy Strong?

I recently did a short interview on What makes a CSR Strategy strong and thought the transcript below might be interesting.   It has a few thoughts and comments along with links to other articles and posts that I have authored.
CSR is all about value.  Value for shareholders and society.  The closer a CSR Strategy sticks to that principle the stronger the strategy is.  And, the more value it produces for both

  1. What makes a CSR strategy strong?
Alignment of interests.  Sharing of value created and responsibility for creating it. 
The real key to a successful strategy is that it drives a process that will consistently and systematically identify, nurture and develop those areas where shareholder and stakeholder interests can align.  It must also do it in a way that doesn’t put all the responsibility on the company.  If there is to be shared value there must be shared responsibility for it to be sustainable
For more on this see:
  1. What do most companies consider business-wise and customer-wise when creating a CSR strategy?
I’m hesitant to comment on what most consider.  I’d rather comment on what I think they should consider.
Unfortunately, companies often take a paternalistic approach and execute CSR in a way that suggests it is about giving and transferring value from the company to other stakeholders rather than finding the spaces where collective self-interest can create aligned interests and giving shareholders and stakeholders direct and personal motivation
CSR = creating, capturing & sharing value in the space where business meets society. Here is a link to a blog post that expands on this a bit  
  1. What are main challenges to creating a strong CSR strategy?