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What Does CSR Mean To You? - Anne-Maree Huxley

21 September 2006 at 1:09 pm
Staff Reporter
What’s your organisations definition of corporate social responsibility? Do you have one? Do you think it’s how your organisation spends its money? Is it about philanthropy?

Staff Reporter | 21 September 2006 at 1:09 pm


What Does CSR Mean To You? - Anne-Maree Huxley
21 September 2006 at 1:09 pm

It’s time that Australian companies start to play ‘catch-up’ in terms of CSR! So what does CSR mean to you? Guest writer Anne-Maree Huxley is the Director CSR Summit and Founder of MOSS (Models of Success & Sustainability) Australia’s new industry body for CSR and Corporate Sustainability in Australia.

She writes:

What’s your organisations definition of corporate social responsibility? Do you have one? Do you think it’s how your organisation spends its money? Is it about philanthropy? Is it about meeting and exceeding the values of your collective stakeholders? Is it about ethics and good governance? Is it about making the hard decisions based on long term sustainability as opposed to short term profitability or is it about looking after your staff and the environment – or perhaps it’s about all of the above.

Could CSR however be about how a company makes its money as opposed to how it spends its money? The collective omissions from company cars, flights, transportation of your goods and the generation of electricity all add up. And if you are a manufacturer, what other toxins have been released into the atmosphere? And what’s the real cost of the health and wellbeing of your staff – are they stressed, do you ever have injuries in the workplace – how do they treat your customers?

Regardless of whether you are a for-profit or a Not for Profit organisation, it’s worth adding up the environmental and social impacts of your organisation since its inception to know the true cost of doing business.

Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairman of the world largest carpet manufacturer Interface Inc was so appalled when he realised the true cost of doing business that he started a sustainability revolution and resolved to be the first company in the industrial world to have a zero footprint by the year 2020.

It’s not an easy journey – but it is rewarding. Over the last 10 years, Interface had to completely rethink its business philosophy and redesign its entire production systems and processes globally. This bold leadership has not only saved them in excess of US$289m, it has also made them more robust and profitable, as well as a highly sought after organization to work.

Possibly one of the most significant benefits however has been the development of new innovative environmentally friendly and omissions neutral products which has opened up new markets and helped them flourish when the rest of the carpet industry has been shrinking.

There is no question the topic of CSR is an emotive one – one that is occupying a great deal of time in board rooms, recruitment interviews, the investor market, consumer focus groups – even around the office coffee machine. And with the September release of the former US Vice President Al Gore’s new documentary on climate change – “An Inconvenient Truth” and Australia’s 2nd CSR Summit in November, the debate will hot up even more.

We are fortunate that Australia leads the banking and the mining sectors in terms of sustainability and corporate social responsibility on a global basis, however I would suggest that most Australian companies, NGO’s and manufacturers and their suppliers are still coming to terms with what CSR is and how to apply it to their organisations.

And as I see it, the time has come for Australian businesses to play catch up if they are to retain local market share and grow their business by competing in emerging markets.

If more Australian companies do not embrace CSR as a philosophy and embed CSR into business strategy, they risk losing valuable employees and market share. It is no longer just quality, price, customer service and uniqueness that consumers are interested in. They want to know how a brand and or company inter-acts with its workforce, the community and environment. Even charities & NGO’s are coming under the same scrutiny. Consumers the world over, want to see what really lies in the hearts of business be they profit or not for profit.

Business must understand that today’s consumer expects organisations to deliver over and above the minimum regulatory requirements to grow shareholder value. They must be ethics and values driven, remembering that loyalty is a habitual behaviour not necessarily a commitment to the brand. You can’t add value without values. Companies must generate real, lasting trust with all its stakeholders if it wants sustainable development and CSR is a great vehicle to deliver this.

It’s no longer business as usual. Companies must look to long term sustainability as opposed to short term profits if they are to win consumers over, engage employees and rebuild trust and grow market share.

Actions speak louder than words. What will you do to make your mark as a responsible entity in 2006 and beyond?

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