In the course of building a Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility (CSR) consultancy practice in Nigeria, I have realized that there are two kinds of organizations – those who can be said to be CSR-compliant and those who are not. Of those who are not CSR-compliant;, there are also two kinds of organizations – those who are CSR-forward and those who are not. Of those who are not CSR-forward, there are two kinds of organizations – those who really don’t care and those who are tied to supporting initiatives, interests and/or charities that the CEO is inclined to, a sport he/she participates in or a family charity.
Please follow this maze, of those who are CSR-forward, there are two similarities – those who do a lot of corporate philanthropy and those who engage in brand-building initiatives in the name of CSR because such initiatives do not tie directly to their core business areas.
I would describe being CSR-forward as being perceived as a CSR-compliant organisation. Whilst the indices for measuring CSR compliance are varied and diverse across many different schools of thought, compliance at the minimal levels of observing and taking into consideration all the aspects of CSR is what I refer to. On the flip side, many organisations should be referred to only as being CSR-forward because in public perception, they are CSR-sensitive or engage in CSR but a critical look would reveal that they only engage in corporate philanthropy.
And so, many organisations in Nigeria and beyond (especially within the African business environment) are still comfortable with philanthropy which means that they miss out on opportunities to scale or deduce return on investment derived from integrating CSR as a business strategy. To the undiscerning public, they are CSR-compliant; in my opinion, they are just CSR-forward.
The distinct differences between being CSR-compliant and being CSR-forward are some of the key issues that were discussed at 2011 Edition of the Africa CEO Roundtable & Conference on CSR and in the first edition of a journal, CSR Files.
Five years after, this remains a concern for every business leader and all other professionals currently assigned to manage this function in organisations (Public Affairs, Corporate Affairs, Government relations, CSR, HR etc.). CSR is very relevant and Sustainability has emerged an inevitable modus operandi every organisation must consider.
Senior Consultant, Strategy and External Relations,