David E. Hawkins: Corporate Social Responsibility – Balancing Tomorrow’s Sustainability and Today’s Profitability Review by Mirela Teodorescu

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„O carte despre responsabilitatea socială corporatistă. Mă gândesc să o traduc!” (Mirela Teodorescu)

“Business have choices and CSR is about making a judgement as to what is the right choice. A failing business helps no one and the benefits of a business thriving through the exploitation of nature or people are short-lived. Sustainable development is sustainable business. This book stimulate to debate. The challenges will only become more complex. We live in a world where most of population still live in poverty.

Ending poverty is a genuine and important goal but we are already living in a world using too much stuff. We only have one planet, but if everyone in the world had the same lifestyle as we do in the UK we would need three planets. The ultimate challenge for CSR is to produce stuff that consumers want and make great profits but in a way that does make the poor even poorer and enjoy the resources of one planet, not three, four or however many it will take when India, China and Africa come to enjoy our western lifestyle. CSR or SD – it does not matter what you call them – they are both the same thing. They are good business, good citizenship and common sense”. (Alan KnightHead of Corporate Accountability for SABMiller)

DAVID E. HAWKINS is Director of Operations for PSL. He has an extensive career in projects and procurement, particularly in the construction industry, working in many parts of the world. He has developed training programs and has been a leading speaker in the field of exploiting relationship management through effective leadership and strategy development. He is a regular contributor to professional magazines and journals, is the joint author, with Shan Rajogopal of Sun Tzu and the Project Battleground, and is the author of The Bending Moment: Energizing Corporate Business Strategy, both published by Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Many companies recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility, but seek to understand how this can be harmonized with current profitability. This new approach, drawing upon many contemporary examples, demonstrates the importance of balancing short term profitability with long term sustainability and shows how this relates to many business issues and aspects including environmental change, ethical trading, corporate governance, risk management, sustainable development and competitive balance.

„Drawing upon many contemporary examples, this book demonstrates the importance of balancing short term profitability with long term sustainability. It shows how this relates to many business issues and aspects, including environmental change, ethical trading, corporate governance, risk management, sustainable development and competitive balance.”

The major challenge for any writer in addressing the wide-ranging spectre of sustainability is that there is so much written and so many interest groups that one can only try to capture the essence of the issues involved. The trigger came from a discussion that centred on the subject of sustainability and CSR. Sustainability originally meant “capable of being borne or endured” but in more recent times it became “capable of being upheld or defended”. We are, of course, all part of a community and whilst it is easy to accept that the drivers for the business are focused on the impacts on their commercial dealings it must also be accepted that interaction with the wider social community is part of the trading environment. It should also be clear that the community provides both the customers and the resources to fulfill business objectives. As such this community, whether local or global, is influenced by benefits gleaned from the trading world, and so it shares a degree of responsibility for how business performs and contributes. In essence the three major groups in the market place are, first, the organizations that provide the trading, manufacturing and service operations; this group includes those that seek to invest and benefit from successful operations. Then there are the customer and consumer communities that they serve. The third group is the governments that represent the people and framework within which all exist and operate. It does not take a rocket scientist to Appreciate that as individuals we sit in at least two of groups and influence the third.

We hear lots of talk about corporate responsibility but what do we really expect it to be? It is generally assumed to be the ways we behave outside the regulatory controls. However, bear in mind that the global trading environment there is a considerable disparity so which law companies are contravening can be difficult to assess. It is frequently these paradoxes that get exploiting by those that see only short-term investment as the goal. Shifting operations to exploit low-cost labour, transferring pollution to other countries or even building firebreaks in the facilitation chains can all be legitimated actions. Multi-nationals can switch between friendly or more tolerant regimes, and all within the local legislation. Responsibility is about commitment not compliance, and it is the challenge of this that becomes a dilemma for many business leaders.

Concerning environmental change, the key of embedding environmental ethos into organizations will not come from external pressure, which would probably switch the focus to compliance. There is a need to explore and exploit the relationships between customers, investors and business partners and supply networks. The more responsible NGOs have recognized that business cannot trade on environmentally bankrupt planet and that sustainability must come from success business.

The biggest challenge from globalization has been the impact of cultural diversity. Not only do we trade across the globe, but communication have bridged the cultural divides that historically played much less of an influencing role. At the same time transfers of production have meant the break-down of traditional communities built around manufacturing centres. The result in developed countries is that individuals and families have in the past two decades become even more transient. This in turn has in many cases contributed to reducing the commitment to community responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility was originally established with a focus to ensure that companies have effective management of people and processes and that these are aligned to measure the impact on society. Since we are all players as individuals the sustainability agenda needs to recognize the wide and diverse impacts of the individual in the multiple roles of employee, investor, customer, special interest group, family, cultural or ethnic participant.

Technology is only part of the equation and it should always be balanced against the community it is designed to serve. The development and adoption of technology has to progress from knowledge to practical processes for delivery but it frequently clashes with the culture of the community. The relationship between people and technology is governed by two key aspects, the first being the benefit and the second being the impact.

Technology has the potential to change the face of the global community over the next 50 years. One hopes that not only will it find new benefits but it will also find solutions to some of the key challenges we face. Industrial development and economic growth demands more energy of which currently the only major source remains fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal), which have already had a major impact on the environment. Nuclear power or renewable energy creates a major cause for debate.

When organizations are challenged to define value they gravitate towards cash impacts on the bottom line and fail to recognize that value is a wider issue than profit and share dividends. Value can be defined in a multiplicity of ways, dependent on the motivation of that organization and broader aspects of social responsibility. To harness the operational focus, these must be defined and targeted.

Sustainability core issues generally come down to the operation processes; some may not have changed for years. The change check-list that can be applied to most situations starts with process validation, followed by planning, re-engineer, train, implement, monitor and then revalidate.

 

David E. Hawkins, asserted: “at the outset of this book the objective was to take an important but commercial view of the sustainability battlefield and to test my perception both CSR public relations and the conflicting words of business, government and society. I use the term “battlefield” because was my perception of the high-profile missiles being hurled between the various participants.   … For NGOs the observation is that they have undoubted commitment and a wealth of knowledge. They should first outlaw who will not follow protest legally and who prohibit business going about its legitimate purpose. Second, they should examine their motivation regarding attacks on companies because of the media value of the name. Third, perhaps they could consider contributing their knowledge to business to help innovative ideas, recognizing a joint need to manage the future  and the progress that has been made by many corporations”.

“In the end we must all take a balanced, sustainable view of today and tomorrow” – David E. Hawkins.

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