Social Responsibility Shifting from Gov to Private Sector - ACCSR conference
15 February 2012 at 12:41 pm
Corporate Social Responsibility is set to grow not change as responsibilities for addressing social issues shift from government to business and civil society, Professor Dirk Matten has told the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility conference in his keynote address in Melbourne.
Opening the ACCSR’s 5th Annual Conference, Professor Matten told the 180 delegates that while innovation is crucial to Corporate Social Responsibility, “not any innovation contributes to CSR innovation”.
Professor Matten holds the Hewlett-Packard Chair in Corporate Social Responsibility and is a Professor of Strategy at the Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto.
Professor Matten said that the more traditional styles of innovation such as reaction – the funding of research; defense – disclosing carbon footprint, or developing accounting systems for greenhouse gas; and accommodation – implementing carbon off-set programs or collaborating in setting up emission trading schemes were not as useful innovation tools for CSR.
“What we are really talking about in terms of innovation are pro-active measures,” Professor Matten said. “How can we take this challenge of climate change issue and address the issue but at the same time create business value?”
Professor Matten said that developing hybrid cars, higher fuel efficiency and looking for new sources of carbon free energy sources were examples of pro-active Corporate Social Innovation (CSI).
When talking about CSR and innovation, Professor Matten said that it was all about “a way of finding new products and services that meet not only the functional needs of consumers… but also their wider aspirations as citizens”.
He said that businesses need to look for opportunities and see the demands of society not as risks or threats, but ways in which they can serve new markets and long-stemming business problems.
“Companies are increasingly under demand to address wider aspirations of citizens,” Professor Matten said.
“On the one hand businesses are there to generate profit – meet a certain economic goal… But then CSR looks at social impact – addressing social demands and social needs.”
Professor Matten suggests there are four major types of CSI:
Philanthropy of business – businesses giving back to society not necessarily to address key social issues
Missionary business – achieving social change through the employment of business principles and processes (social entrepreneurship)
Profit from principles business – the way in which businesses address social needs, environmental improvement and ethical issues as new sources of profit generation
Social purpose business – businesses take unaddressed challenges in society and successfully develop ways of addressing those, while at the same time opening new areas of income generation.
Professor Matten said that social purpose business is emerging in many parts of the world, particularly in the developing world where businesses are discovering a new group of consumers.
Product innovation, process innovation and the development of new community economies, he says, are a few of the evolving practices of social purpose business.
“Some of the players over time have moved from philanthropy, for instance, to missionary – you see it with many big organisations,” he said. “Once they become involved in this space, they apply their business rationale to the way in which they address these issues.”
In closing his address, Professor Matten said that the shift in responsibilities from governments to businesses was a key consideration in where CSR is heading into the future.
“People are turning to private corporations, particularly for issues that cannot be addressed by the government,” he said.
“The growing demand means that the private sector corporations will have to step in to address social issues.”
The theme of the ACCSR Conference in Melbourne is The Innovation Imperative: Taking CSR from Risk Management to Value Creation.
The ACCSR conference is hosted and sponsored by the National Australia Bank. Pro Bono Australia is the official media partner for the conference.