Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CSR professional advocates for putting CSR on the Board agenda

In this compelling piece on the glass ceiling for CSR managers (and corporate social responsibility itself), Marie d'Huart argues that Corporate Social Responsibility has to be part of the mandate of the top of corporate management, including at the Board level.  She points out that many mid-level CSR managers find themselves in the awkward position of recommending that management decisions be countermanded without having the authority or support within the management structure for these recommendations.

Financial compliance is now embodied in U.S. corporate law through the Audit Committee - why not create a similar mechanism at the Board level for Corporate Social Responsibility, along with a Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at the same level as the Corporate Financial, Executive and Operations Officer?

A fundamental management principle common to company policies banning financial malfeasance and bribery of government officials on the one hand and prohibiting racial, sex-based and other kinds of discrimination and harassment on the other is the need for ethics and behavior modelling at the top - along with effective, swift and fair discipline of malfeasors.  Leadership at the top has an important impact on the culture of an organization or company.  CSR experts point out that there is often a disconnect between the buyers who set prices and manage contracts with manufacturing subcontractors on the one hand and the CSR managers who develop and implement policies and corporate codes of decent conduct.  With these kinds of internal disconnects, it is no wonder that multinational companies find themselves in the position of learning they have sourced products from factories so unsafe that they quite literally collapse on the workers, as happened in Bangladesh earlier this year.  As d'Huart points out, only by setting strategy at the top level of a company with leaders that have sufficient authority and a full view of all aspects of operations can a company overcome these kinds of disconnects.  People who act as a company's conscience at mid-level and management levels of the governance structure should receive the training and opportunities to allow them to rise to top level leadership.

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