NFPs - Are They Following the CSR Line?
5 November 2007 at 11:42 am
Australia’s Not for Profits are quick to scrutinize the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platforms of the companies that they partner with! But are NFP organisations socially responsible in their internal operations? According to an international expert Australia’s charity sector may be lagging behind.
CSR expert from Sustainability Strategies in Amsterdam and expat Australian, Paul Hohnen says Australian Not for Profits are only just starting to consider CSR strategies in their own operations. He argued that enhanced NFP engagement in the CSR debate was important for a number of reasons, including the fact that NFPs had been largely responsible for highlighting the need for greater attention to social and environmental issues.
While they monitor CSR in the companies they partner with, Hohnen says few NFPs recognize the progress the business sector has made, and consider their own internal issues of sustainability or their environmental footprint.
Hohnen recently convened a high powered Masterclass on "What CSR Means for NFPs" hosted by the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR) in partnership with Pro Bono Australia.
Hohnen told the Masterclass that CSR frameworks offer important policy roles for Not for Profits.
He says the outcomes for NFPs include increasing influence in the direction of the CSR debate and the reduced risk of charges of ‘hypocrisy’.
Hohnen urged Australian NFPs to sign on to the recently launched International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) accountability charter, which is aimed at setting a common global accountability standard for NFPs. The website is at www.ingoaccountabilitycharter.org
Noting the wide experience NFPs have, he suggested that NFPs should consider developing a framework to share experiences and strategic approaches in relation to CSR issues.
Hohnen is no stranger to these issues. He has worked intensively since 1975 on a range of global economic, development and environmental issues as a diplomat, international civil servant, Director of Greenpeace International, and Strategic Director of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and is currently involved in the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility.
In a call to action ACCSR founder Leeora Black and Pro Bono Australia founder Karen Mahlab agreed there needs to be a ‘peer group exchange’ described by Hohnen to come together and debate the issues around social responsibility.
Mahlab says the statistics show that the NFP sector employs over 600,000 people with 5.5 million volunteers so the sector’s footprint is big and sustainable practices should be paramount.
She says just as many corporates have CSR champions within their organisations to drive the strategies so too should Not for Profits find their Social Responsibility (SR) champions.
As part of the Masterclass, the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) discussed its own CRS experiences given the organisation has set up social enterprises and deals with global issues in its local social welfare mission.
BSL’s Emer Diviney explained that implementing CSR strategies within their organisation included the establishment of an Ethical Business Unit, responsible supply chain management and accreditation as a No Sweatshop Label.
They told the Masterclass that while implementing CSR is difficult, the NFP sector must embrace the global dimensions of CSR and use the regulatory environment as an opportunity to raise social and environmental issues.
They say the NFP sector must become smarter, innovative, sophisticated and resourceful.
They agreed with Leeora Black and Karen Mahlab that cross-sector collaboration should be harnessed and the establishment of national and state CSR platforms.
For more information about CSR go to www.accsr.com.au