I write about digital strategies and communications — and their intersection with culture, politics, journalism and social activism.

Entries in CSR (13)


Professors and the Social Web

Okay, I have misled you. This post isn't about social web usage by professors. But I do think a Wall Street Journal article by Professor Aneel Karnani called "The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility" was maybe intended to kick up some cyber dust and force some social web coughing and sputtering . . . All the better to draw attention to yourself especially if your ideas are lame and dated. (A colleague commented on Twitter that he thought at first the article was a reprint from the 1980s.)

I was going to post a response to Professor Karnani, but it is hard to know where to begin, with the unhistorical claim that responsible conduct is "(i)rrelevant or ineffective", his ignoring evidence of the enormous social and economic benefits of social entrepreneurship (Take a look at David Bornstein's easy primer called Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know or his How to Change the World), or his missing entirely the relationship between conduct, reputation and profit.

But having scanned reaction online, it's obvious I am much too late to the game and likely have little to add that hasn't been said. On Elaine Cohen's blog (thanks to CBSR for pointing me to it) you can find nearly a dozen links to articles from mainstream and online media taking Professor Karnani to task. Mallen Baker has a clear and well-argued counterpoint on Ethical Corporation's blog. Even CSR-skeptics like Paul Seaman admit the critical element missing from Professor Karnani's logic: . . .

The problem with deciding between profit-first or profit-with-purpose is that they are difficult to separate. Firms live within society and have all kinds of unavoidable obligations to fulfill as they produce profit.

Rather than giving a poor article more social web traction, I'll just leave it there.


A Natural Marriage - CSR and Social Web

The Conference Board of Canada is the matchmaker in a sensible marriage of two closely related concepts -- corporate responsibility and social media.

A Conference Board event called CSR and Social Media is taking place in Toronto on May 13th. (I am the conference chair, but this is not about shilling for it. But do come.) I wanted to explain why I think a discussion of these two conjoint ideas just makes sense, and in any case the post will likely metamorphose into my introductory remarks.

Three ideas make the marriage of corporate responsibility and the social web work:

  • A readiness to identify, work with and listen to stakeholders should be at the core of corporate social responsibility strategies within organizations if they are to be influential, believed and trusted. Organizations which leave stakeholders out of their responsibility planning, actions and reporting are missing the most important program "element" . . . people who care about, can affect or can be affected by their actions.
  • The social web exists because people are, well, social. They will choose social exchange platforms in which they are listened to, have the possibility to question and observe, and have the potential to contribute. People become stakeholders of the conversations or dialogues (they're different these two, but that's for another more philosophical day) in which they participate.
  • The harmony of CSR and the social web around what I guess you could call 'people dependency' opens up interesting and worthy new ways to gather information and opinion about CSR performance (point of view mapping, open performance data rooms and online co-development of evaluation models) as well as to report on -- and evaluate -- progress on achieving targets and goals through quarterly online reporting on performance indicators which are open for comment (see Timberland).

There. . . I have set my expectations for what I hope at least some of the speakers will address. If they don't, I get 15 minutes at the end of the conference to make my case anyway.