I was recently so honored to have a piece published in CSRwire. I answered their question, \”Is having an international CSR presence necessary?\” and discussed some key tips for getting a global corporate social responsibility program started. You can view my article on their site. I\’ve also put it below, including some additional thoughts that had to be cut due to space limitations. I hope you enjoy the article. Thank you to CSRwire for this opportunity!
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An Effective Global CSR Vision
So you are a global company, but don\’t quite yet have a handle on global CSR? Maybe you have a domestic program in place, or even give to a crisis here and there. But expanding to the international realm is quite another level.
You\’re not alone. Many internationally minded companies don\’t yet have an international CSR presence. Yet there is an effective way to increase your bottom line, your brand and your local presence through CSR, while also serving our communities. Here are some starter ideas on how to achieve an Effective Global CSR Vision: Include the right planning, listen to headquarter and local objectives, and establish a local license to operate.
Have a Plan Based on Your Company\’s Objectives
It sounds simple. But you can\’t just react to a crisis, or have your foundation give money and expect that to build your CSR brand. It\’s not that easy. Any good CSR program develops from starting with your company\’s objectives and goals.
Ideally, the plan starts from the CEO\’s office. You determine what the company\’s bottom line objectives are, which could include brand, employee retention and/or product adoption. Equally important you\’d then listen to your company\’s foundation, community relations department, and your employees. Here you would determine a plan based on both forprofit and community-based objectives. And if you\’re really advanced, you\’d consider roping in Corporate Communications and the Marketing Department for their input.
A balanced, thoughtful global CSR plan is a company-wide effort which takes into account forprofit and community-minded objectives.
Headquarters v. Local
It\’s important to have the company\’s executive leadership from the start, if possible. Often someone in the U.S. decides what the goals are from a headquarter perspective. It\’s important to start from this position, but to not end there.
Your first two objectives should be to: 1) help meet the profit-minded goals of your company; 2) translate that into value for the community both domestically and internationally. Try to ensure you have a good plan that is accepted by headquarters, by the CEO, and by your foundation, community relations, corporate communications and marketing departments. That synergy is very important to achieve when you’re first starting out.
The second, equally important, part of the planning process is to make sure that you include your local offices, all over the world. This includes local employees, local governments, local NGOs, and sometimes even local tribe people. The key here is listening.
What are their needs?
What are they experiencing in this country?
What are they seeing in their local community?
For example, your company may have decided technology and education are important headquarter objectives which will help your company\’s bottom line. But what are your local employees, in different international communities, experiencing?
Perhaps one of your employees in India walks by the slums everyday on the way to work. She might like to support a soup kitchen. When you listen to a team of employees in Norway, they might be concerned about the increasing pollution or global warming. This group might like to support an environmental initiative which helps the world and improves the local community in which they live and work. Your employee in Cambodia or Guatemala may see that conservation of important monuments and past civilizations is being neglected. Will you be open to responding to the concerns they face on a daily basis? Will you commit to creatively finding a way to tie this into your CSR objectives?
It is most certainly challenging to balance corporate headquarter objectives with what local employees know and feel on the ground. But this brings us to our next point. By enfranchising your employees to make a difference, you absolutely will affect your bottom line. Your company employees are your presence. Your company employees are the face of your company. They represent you in their daily actions, conversations and being. Sincerely help them to be their best example of a respectful, caring community member, and it will naturally help you.
Local License to Operate
So now you\’re gaining the confidence and enthusiasm of your employees who see that you are responding and listening to them. It\’s your first step towards attaining a Local License to Operate.
This is not a paper. It is not an official license, and you cannot get it \’issued\’ from an entity, institution, the government or a third party company. You can only get this type of license by having your company build relationships, on multiple levels, in an ethical manner.
Your employees are an important first part of these relationships. Now you extend these \”listening\” relationships to other important parts of the community. It would most likely include important NGO partners on the ground. Which NGOs have a significant presence on the ground? Have you spent the time listening to them, working with them, hearing their concerns and goals?
Who are the important government officials? How do they view investments of any kind, donations, volunteering, product donations, cause-related marketing in the community? What is important to them and their local constituents? How will you approach them? We\’ll discuss this last point more in a future article on cultural sensitivities and considerations. However, even making the outreach will show you care to include them in how your company establishes both through its profit making center, and its community-minded investments.
One other extremely relevant consideration might be tribespeople. That\’s probably not what comes to most of your minds. Does it really matter? It most certainly does, as local tribespeople often know the ins and outs of the environment, important cultural considerations, rituals and appropriate approaches to getting both forprofit and nonprofit projects completed. If we ignore their wisdom, you could potentially face thousands if not millions of dollars in backlash. We\’ll cover this area in the future through some good lessons learned regarding the Aschuar Tribe in Ecuador, and how they ended up working with companies.
Having an effective global CSR program takes into account numerous considerations. It starts with planning and then entails much listening to constituents. In order to optimize both forprofit and nonprofit incentives, it incorporates many business units at headquarters, and many viewpoints abroad. By taking the time to engage with your global CSR vision, you will effectively serve your company\’s bottom line — as well as the bottom line of the strength and health of our global communities.
Founder and CEO
Living and Giving