Thursday, July 13, 2006

CSR Canada

In recent years I have been delighted (and surprised) to see growing support among Canadian entrepreneurs for the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Business owners are eager to “give back” to the community that nourished their businesses, and they are proud of the initiatives they have taken -- whether it’s recycling programs, outreach hiring or charitable giving – that make the world a slightly better place.

I think Canada’s entrepreneurs are ahead of big business on this one. My impression is they are giving back out of a sincere sense of gratitude and duty, not for sake of appearances, or because it’s a CEO’s pet project.

While CSR awareness is growing, it’s still a pretty amorphous concept. But now there’s a how-to guide from the federal government that tries to distill what we know about CSR, including benefits and best practices.

Corporate Social Responsibility: An Implementation Guide for Canadian Business” is available free on the Web by clicking here. It has a useful background on what CSR is, lots of implantation steps and tips, and tactical information geared to small biz.

(FYI, here’s how the guide defines CSR: “Generally, CSR is understood to be the way firms integrate social, environmental and economic concerns into their values, culture, decision making, strategy and operations in a transparent and accountable manner and thereby establish better practices within the firm, create wealth and improve society.”)

(OK. That’s the most boring part of the post. It gets better now.)

The guide even suggests there are 10 financial benefits to adopting CSR:

* Better anticipation and management of an ever-expanding
spectrum of risk
* Improved reputation management
* Enhanced ability to recruit, develop and retain staff
* Improved competitiveness and market positioning
* Enhanced operational efficiencies and cost savings
* Improved ability to attract and build effective and efficient supply
chain relationships
* Enhanced ability to address change
* More robust “social licence” to operate in the community
* Access to capital (Financial institutions are increasingly incorporating
social and environmental criteria into their assessment of projects.)
* Improved relations with regulators

But in the end, as the guide admits, non-financial criteria must be the key drivers of a CSR program.

“It is important to acknowledge that while positive or neutral correlations between social and environmental responsibility and superior financial performance have generally been supported by the evidence, conclusive causal links have not. Many studies are being undertaken, with varying conclusions. Suffice it to say that research is continuing on this issue.”

Click here for the full report

More on CSR:
Ethics in Action Awards: (a great Vancouver organization that I hope will return to Toronto sometime; I think we’re ready now)

Canadian Business for Social Responsibility
Their motto: Better business, better world

Questions for CSR Practitioners
or those considering starting out.

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