Entradas agregadas ‘CSR’
Los consumidores se han sentido normalmente impotentes ante la actuación de las grandes empresas. No tenían poder para enfrentarse a sus actividades ni tenían la capacidad necesaria para que sus protestas tuvieran el eco suficiente. Pero eso está cambiando con las redes sociales y los nuevos canales de comunicación entre empresas y sus grupos de interés*.
Incluso me atrevería a decir que estamos asistiendo al nacimiento de la “stakeholdercracy”, o un incremento muy importante de la capacidad de influencia de los grupos de interés sobre las decisiones de las empresas.
Antes, cualquier conflicto podía mantenerse dentro de unos ciertos límites geográficos, lo que permitía ejercer cierto “control de daños”, ahora esa posibilidad ya no existe debido a que internet hace que la información esté disponible y accesible para todas las personas, no importa en qué lugar se encuentren. Las empresas están más expuestas que nunca a las reacciones y las opiniones de los grupos de interés, y estos tienen más medios que nunca para poder ejercer presión e “imponer” sus demandas a las empresas.
La nueva situación es buena para empresas y grupos de interés. Es buena para estos porque el poder de va a desplazarse de las grandes corporaciones hacia los grupos de interés, equilibrando una balanza que hasta ahora ha estado demasiado inclinada hacia los intereses de las empresas, sin tener en cuenta los intereses de las otras partes afectadas. Igualmente, es beneficiosa para las empresas porque estas se van a ver obligadas a prestar más atención a las demandas y expectativas de los stakeholders, con lo que las empresas van a tener un análisis más certero de su entorno y van a descubrir nuevas oportunidades de negocio que antes habían pasado desapercibidas.
Veamos el ejemplo de tres empresas que han debido cambiar sus actividades debido a que los impactos producidos han sido denunciados por los grupos de interés:
- ZARA, del grupo español Inditex, se ha comprometido a eliminar el uso de sustancias químicas peligrosas de todos sus productos después de una campaña de Greenpeace en los medios sociales. Ello ha sido posible gracias a las firmas y el apoyo de miles de personas a través de los medios sociales, algo que hubiera sido mucho más difícil hace unos años.
- La empresa bananera Dole Food Company ha sido denunciada por un bufete de abogados de Seattle declarar que lleva a cabo políticas de responsabilidad social corporativa mientras al mismo tiempo le compra plátanos a un proveedor guatemalteco acusado de destruir el medio ambiente. Tanto si se demuestra que esta denuncia es cierta o no, Dole tendrá que defenderse frente a una demanda realizada muy lejos de donde el supuesto impacto ha tenido lugar. Este tipo de casos no serían posibles si la información no estuviera tan disponible como lo está ahora gracias a internet.
- La cadena española de televisión Telecinco se ha visto obligada a retirar una demanda recientemente. Esta demanda se había planteado contra el impulsor de un boicot a uno de sus programas de televisión en el que se habían hecho entrevistas de dudoso gusto y ética profesional. La cadena tuvo que retirar la demanda después de una campaña lanzada a través de change.org. Este es un ejemplo claro de cómo los consumidores pueden canalizar sus protestas, no a través de grandes ONG como Greenpeace, sino a través de peticiones individuales impulsadas gracias a los medios sociales como Facebook o Twitter.
Esta situación de “democracia de los grupos interés” no va a cambiar y va a seguir inclinando la balanza hacia los stakeholders. ¿Qué es lo que pueden hacer las empresas? Básicamente solo tienen una alternativa: Integrar las demandas de los grupos de interés en sus estrategias, anticipando estas demandas y adoptando una posición más proactiva.
Esto solo puede hacerse aprovechando los nuevos canales de comunicación con los stakeholders y realizando un análisis exhaustivo de la cadena de valor de la empresa. Eso les ayudará tanto a minimizar riesgos como a detectar oportunidades de negocio a través de la escucha activa de las expectativas y demandas de los grupos de interés.
¡Cuidado empresas, el pueblo tiene el poder!
*Un grupo de interés es todo aquel que se ve afectado directa o indirectamente por las actividades de una empresa.
June 12th and 13th in Berlin. Block your diaries these days for the first international conference called “Networking for Better Corporate Social Responsibility Advice for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises”, to which I have the honor to be invited, along with other 99 CSR consultants. This conference, funded by the European Commission, will be a forum for experts from all over Europe, specialized in sustainability in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). There will be discussions about how to provide better advice to European SME’s, and how we can contribute to better sustainability strategies in European SMEs.
CSR consultants are already sharing views via social media more and more often. However, it’s what SMEs do in terms of sustainability what is missed. Most often it’s big corporation language.
Consultants can act as a bridge between SMEs, exchanging experiences, know-how and points of view. This is the only way that”small” CSR best practices will be known not only in small, local circles, but also in wider platforms where they can be used by other organizations. A networking event like this has many challenges to face:
- Spread the news about CSR best practices in SMEs. Usually it is bigger corporations’ programs the only ones that get in the picture, leaving aside useful learnings and experiences made by smaller companies. The path towards sustainability for a SME can have completely different challenges and motivations. Very often what is good for a MNC is not necessarily good for a SME.
- Create a “best practices database” where both SMEs and consultants can contribute and profit from. Unfortunately, very often brilliant initiatives with great benefits have a limited audience. They should be accessible through this platform.
- European CSR needs to happen at smaller scale, or it won’t happen at all. According to the European Commission, “SMEs provide two out of three of the private sector jobs and contribute to more than half of the total value-added created by businesses in the EU”. European CSR programs have to take this into account if they really want to succeed. SMEs need an environment where they feel comfortable and free to discuss how they manage their CSR and sustainability strategies. This conference should be this ideal environment.
- Share, optimize, improve existing initiatives. For instance, there are dozens of self-diagnose tools that remain known only to few people and companies, mainly because they are local initiatives, or because they don’t have the proper forum where they can be analyzed and discussed. These initiatives should be shared, compared and complemented in order to avoid duplicities and create synergies.
- Find the best ways to help smaller companies become part of a sustainable supply chain. In some cases sustainability comes top-down: First, multinational companies decide to adopt a sustainable strategy and, later on, they demand the same from their suppliers (often SMEs). Small and medium businesses need to be prepared for that.
- Simplify things for SMEs: Speak their language, use their scale, be one of them.
- Turn CSR benefits into real value. Explain CSR to SMEs by using examples that bring added value to their activities. Don’t be abstract, get specific, talk about value creation.
- The conference should definitely go beyond consultant networking and facilitate networking between SMEs as well.
- Help companies find new businesses opportunities that are hidden behind the curtain. Tear this curtain down and help SMEs discover a whole new world of green, sustainable activities.
- The conference should prepare the shift from an economy based of the production of stuff to a new model based on added value and more services.This applies as well on SMEs.
Stay in tune, I will keep you posted!
With 20% votes, this is the main result from the poll that I published some weeks ago, and also my humble personal opinion. The rest of participants voted for options that could actually be considered as benefits that lead to the main one, namely:
- 18% think that CSR make smaller businesses more suitable to be part of the supply chain of conscious clients. As Jill Poet states, supply chain issues are becoming more and more important, and it is the way how sustainability can spread top-down, from bigger clients to smaller suppliers. CSR even opens the door to public contracts, especially now that the EU is emphasizing on sustainable criteria for public procurement.
- 14% voted that a sustainable strategy allows to optimise the use of resources, such as energy, etc. Here I would not only include energy costs but also transportation costs, logistics or office material.
- Also 14% think that CSR is a way to differentiate from competitors, and in uncertain times like these, where competition is rough and SMEs have to struggle every day, CSR can be the added value that is required to excel.
Intentionally, I didn’t include philanthropy, donations or any kind of sponsoring so maybe the poll was a little biased. Now I am curious about what would have been the result if I had included these options, which personally I do not consider a proper sustainability strategy.
However, I am surprised to see that the option connected with CSR as a self-knowledge tool (CSR to manage risks) was not picked by more participants, only 10% voted for it. Maybe because CSR as introspective analysis is more useful for complex structures, such as bigger corporations?
Last but not least, it was a little discouraging to see that CSR as gate to new products and services only got 6% of the votes. Are we really aware of the fact that sustainability can actually allow a company to reshape its portofolio? All kind of companies, not only SMEs, can develop sustainable goods addressed to certain market niches unexplored before. This is something we need to stress since I think it is an important benefit from CSR for SMEs.
I have to agree that CSR is the best strategy to survive in today’s changing world. and maybe it is so because of all the reasons stated above.
Thanks everyone for participating!
These are some of the questions that most companies, especially small and medium ones, pose themselves when they consider implementing a sustainability strategy. Of course, other questions will arise as well, especially related with costs and payback. However, doubts about how to start the process and which are the first steps that need be taken are some kind of existential doubt that always come up.
The guide ISO 26000 is a very useful tool for small and medium entreprises (SME) willing to commit themselves to corporate sustainability and responsibility. It offers a variety of hints on how to deploy the process.
One good piece of advice from the ISO 26000 is that a company should know who its stakeholders* are, as a first step prior to identifying relevant matters that need be addressed by the company.
*Basically, a stakeholder is everyone affected by the activities of our company: suppliers, employees, customers, shareholders, NGOs, the local community etc.
What is our reach? Which stakeholders are within this reach?
Identifying its stakeholders becomes the first milestone of a company’s way tos sustainability. Knowing who is affected by our impacts will let us know which issues need our special attention.
It requires a certain exercise of introspection by which we will analyse our internal and external relationships, as well as the impacts of our activities on others. This is a great self-knowledge tool that will not only help us set priorities, but also detect new business opportunities that might have been ignored so far.
How can we identify our stakeholders?
- We can check our activities by department, identifying each departemt’s stakeholders. For example, our purcahsing department has relationsips with suppliers, our sales department with customers and so on.
- We could also analyse our products life cycle, from product design to market launching and waste management, and considering as well those stakeholders affected at any point along the supply chain (maybe hidden in some remote place far away).
- You can also check how the company dealt with this issue in the past and build on that.
The advantage of stakeholder mapping as a step prior to implementing our sustainability strategy are the following:
- It is the best way to know where we are and whom we are playing with in our organisation.
- Identifying our stakeholders and being ready for their demands will open the gates to new business opportunities.
- Stakeholder mapping helps prioritise and focus on those groups of particular relevance for our organisation. After all, our resources are limited, especially if we are a SME, and we need to focus on the essential.
- Stakeholder analysis is the best way to avoid ignoring groups such as NGOs or communities that, even though they are not formal part of our organisation’s circles of action, are nevertheless affected by our activities.
Definitely, stakeholder mapping is one of the most valuable tips from the guide ISO 26000. It is probably the first step every company has to take on its roadmap towards corporate responsibility, right after having defined its strategy, and probably overlapping with other important steps, such as finding which issues are relevant to our company.
Greenwashing! How often have I heard this word every time I speak about corporate social reponsibility (CSR)? The only reason for this reproach is that too many companies have used CSR initiatives in order to improve their image, as a smoke curtain to hide unsustainable activities.
There are a lot of examples where marketing is a way to make goods and services look greener. Charitable activities are designed by marketeers with the sole purpose of washing the image of a company. Or maybe suddenly the packaging of some article gets greener (the colour) without actually getting greener (the article itself).
Of course, we all agree that good CSR is everything but just a marketing tool. CSR is a business strategy with a holistic view that does not only concentrate on donations, sponsoring or cause marketing. It goes well beyond that, and the marketing department should be an ally, not an enemy.
Whereas sustainability* should not be considered as a marketing tool, marketing can (and has to) play a very important role when developing and communicating our CSR strategy. Why and how?
- CSR is a task of all departments, including the marketing department. Fortunately, those companies where CSR depends from the maketing department are becoming rare. More and more often, CSR orginates from the board of directors and is spread throughout the company via the rest of departments, including marketing.
- External marketing: If you are good, why not tell it to the rest? Maybe other companies can learn from your sustainable strategy. Marketing tools can help you spread the word. If you don’t show off you might be missing the opportunity to find new investors or the possibility to enter new markets. Market your CSR strategy, but don’t let it look like publicity.
- Internal marketing: When it comes to developing a CSR strategy, getting the involvement of employees is probably one the most important things. Without employee involvement, nothing will work. Here is where the marketing department becomes especially relevant, supporting other departments to “sell” the idea internally.
- Furthermore, the marketig department, deeply involved in product development (and product responsibility), has to be part of the CSR strategy from the very beginning.
Are you aware of other initiatives, activities where the marketing department could do a lot for our CSR strategy? Please share!
*The terms sustainability and CSR are used interchangeably in this post