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The new responsibility for CSR and purpose in current times


7 April 2021 at 8:04 am
Wendy Williams
We sat down with Dr Virginia Munro to talk about her new book, CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation: The New Responsibility. 


Wendy Williams | 7 April 2021 at 8:04 am


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The new responsibility for CSR and purpose in current times
7 April 2021 at 8:04 am

We sat down with Dr Virginia Munro to talk about her new book, CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation: The New Responsibility. 

Emphasising a global perspective, CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation offers a deep dive into social entre- and intrapreneurship, innovation, shared value, social impact, stakeholder engagement, and the development of the UN sustainable development goals beyond 2030.

Dr Virginia Munro provides a framework for understanding the evolving role of the corporate dollar in the pursuit of a global ecosystem that is more inclusive of all stakeholders.

She says her aim is to show that the connection between business and society is circular and inseparable. 

In addition to practical strategies, Munro hopes her book will help people build on the many research gaps she’s identified, to take these topics to the next level. 

We sat down with her to find out what prompted her to write her new book, why she wants to dispel any potential myth that CSR is dying, and why she thinks Australia is falling behind.

Why did you write this book?

headshot Dr Virginia Munro

Dr Virginia Munro says we must all play our part in the future we wish to see.

There is a strong misconception regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR), and how it fits with related and complementary terms (such as, sustainability, shared value, corporate citizenship, conscious capitalism and B-Corp). I first noted this when working in the Middle East/Africa, followed by the UK, and more recently Asia. In these regions there is an entrenched commitment to CSR. On returning to Australia, I found a complete disconnect with these themes. In the UK, for example, CSR is “a given”, with even small to medium enterprises (SMEs) prolific in its uptake. Australia in contrast, mentions CSR far less. The term is then further diluted, referring to it as “sustainability” – in an economy driven by mining – with “environmental” issues as a predominant theme. 

This book was written to provide transparency on this and acknowledge that “social” and “environmental” initiatives are inextricably linked in a circular discussion. In doing so, I hope to encourage universities to teach deeper on “responsibility” – and therefore CSR, value creation, social impact measurement and reporting – alongside new and in-vogue degrees for “social enterprise” and innovation. The current focus on the “social entrepreneur” is one-sided and needs inclusion of all “preneurs” (such as corporate social entrepreneurs and the many types of social intrapreneurs). In particular, millennials and Gen Z need to understand these different roles and funding options, including corporate funding, project “incubation” and provision of additional skill sets available in CSR settings. 

I also wanted to dispel any potential myth that CSR is dying or becoming extinct. The book provides case studies and research to back where CSR stands around the globe and how its evolving, especially in response to the “stakeholder inclusion” movement and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). I also hope this book will assist industry to move beyond fashionable trending statements and social media lingo-based blogs, by unveiling the use of concrete terms alongside actionable and measurable strategy.  

You say in the preface that “the purpose of this book is inseparable from the current and escalating need for renewed purpose, in both our business and personal lives”. Can you expand on that? 

Purpose as a business concept has been around for quite some time. However, more recent transitions (e.g. from “what if climate change” to “actual climate action”), means we all need to rapidly re-examine a renewed sense of our own personal “purpose”. Any transition involves a cognitive mind shift in the way we perceive our social and natural environment, and can include everything from: what we purchase and how we dispose of it, to how we treat and provide for others in acknowledged settings of inequality.

With regards to our working lives, we need to help managers re-define operations toward purpose – by placing a systemic problem at the centre of the business model, where action toward that problem becomes a solvable challenge. This purpose must directly drive the selection of products and services; watch over the entire supply chain; and redefine operations to be seamlessly integrated within the model’s networks and communities. The overall objective of this book therefore is to show that the connection between business and society is circular and inseparable.

How timely is the topic given the circumstances in Australia and the world?

The Build Back Better movement which gathered momentum during the COVID outbreak in 2020 and the 2021 World Economic Forum based on The Great Reset, continue to highlight the urgency and timely nature of these topics. I was fortunate to be researching these themes long before they entered mainstream discussion. This allowed me from the book’s first inception, to directly focus on what’s required right “now” and also beyond 2030 and 2050. 

Included in this journey was the revelation that CSR has moved beyond its early years of philanthropy to a new type of responsibility and a new and evolved type of CSR. I label this CSR 4.0, as it has a strong part to play in the current transition toward Globalization 4.0, and the “reset” toward a new global economic and social system. During my research, I developed an eight-stage approach for CSR 4.0 referred to as the DIIP-SSMC, to deliver performance indicators based on: innovation, inclusion, collaboration and engagement, in a shared, integrated and networked organisational system. All performance indicators are built to be measurable and promote circular social and environmental initiatives which are SDG motivated. As we rapidly usher in Globalization 4.0, CSR 4.0 will develop in response and provide an important framework during this transition for C-Suite leaders, small business managers, various “preneurs” and government intrapreneurs. 

You mention that a deep transformation is required for CSR and society, as we move toward stakeholder capitalism and away from shareholder capitalism. Where is Australia on this journey?

Compared with other developing countries, Australia is falling behind, especially with the roll out of the SDGs for all stakeholders by 2030. We have seen a cognitive shift in some sectors, but the Australian government is behind on delivery with even the basic issues. In particular their human rights issues for migrants and the gap in Indigenous and non-Indigenous equality alongside other noted inequalities such as gender. Frowned upon the world over, is also their slowness to discontinue fossil fuel production and commit fully to carbon zero by 2050. The cognitive mind shift I refer to, has not yet reached the highest levels of Australian government. The direction is murky and doesn’t currently include any real acknowledgement of an existential manmade climate crisis, past greed, current inequalities and documented future ecological extinction. This after all is the “Decade to Deliver” – that’s right now please.

 We must all play our part in the future we wish to see.

 

See here for more information or to read a sample of CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation: The New Responsibility.


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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