REGENERATION IS THE NEW THEME FOR CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY POST-COVID-19
Impactful CSR Initiatives Need To Be Top Driven, Sustainable
And Involve The Entire Stakeholder Ecosystem
Businesses must embrace Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as part of their business strategies to rise in the new normal. The key areas that must be addressed are: the review of the role of CSR in driving sustainability, the need for regenerative solutions to tackle climate change, and the engagement of local communities. This call was made by a panel of experts during the recent ‘CSR – Luxury or Necessity?’ webinar, organised by Centriq PR, an award-winning independent public relations consultancy.
The panel discussion featured John Elkington, the ‘godfather of sustainability’ who coined the breakthrough ‘Triple Bottom Line’ (People, Planet and Profit) concept for CSR, and Professor Datuk Dr Rokiah Hj Omar, Director of University Community Transformation Centre (UCTC) from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. It was moderated by Centriq PR Managing Director, Jacqueline Arnold,
In her preamble Arnold said, “CSR plays a great role in influencing the speed and depth of social and economic recovery. Traditional CSR practices are no longer enough. If we are going to 'Build Back Better' after this global Covid-19 pandemic, we need to start thinking about CSR and doing it now. This way, we can give people more of a ‘hand up’ rather than a ‘handout.”
Panellist and ‘Sustainability Guru’, Elkington emphasized the need for a profound shift in CSR that is designed for the people, the planet and prosperity. CSR needs to be transformed to adopt the ‘Green Swan’ characteristics and help regenerate our natural, social and economic worlds through Regenerative Capitalism. This is an effort to get the entire economic and political region to embrace both inclusive and decarbonised clean growth.”
Elkington explained that for longer term survival, security and competitive advantage, leading-edge business models now increasingly aim to achieve exponential progress in four key areas:
Social: They deliver both financial and extra-financial value through positive impacts for people, in the present and in the future.
Lean: They optimise the use of all types of capital, from physical and financial through human and intellectual to social and natural forms.
Integrated: Increasingly, they are integrated, managing financial and extra-financial value creation across economic, social and environmental systems.
Circular: And over time they must have the potential to become increasingly circular, sustaining inputs and outputs at their highest value in both technical and biological cycles.
“Regenerative businesses also represent a huge opportunity for ambitious startups to lead the way in the recovery from the pandemic. Rather than following a straight “how to be regenerative” list, set up your business according to a set of principles. They’ll have greater resilience than companies using current business models,” he said.
In sharing UCTC’s stance, Professor Rokiah explained the need to embrace CSR initiatives to help revive and rebuild the local communities in the long run. “In Malaysia, many organisations still perceive CSR as community outreach projects, citing cash donations or volunteering activities as the norm. These initiatives are often one-off projects with a short-term impact,” she said.
“We should get young people involved in the transformation process that businesses aspire to champion. Most of the time, if you do not empower them, they will just sit and not do anything. It is very important to engage the youth, as we want to create community leaders who make a difference,” Professor Rokiah explained.
During a quick poll conducted prior to the webinar, 61% of the 200 respondents claimed they were familiar with the triple bottom line concept. However, only 23% of this number had an established key performance index involving all three elements of the triple bottom line concept in their organisations.
The panellists recommended a list of priorities for organisations to undertake on order to embrace sustainable CSR efforts:
Start with an assessment to identify the real needs of your target community.
Put in place a target community problem solving plan.
Implement and monitor the project.
Analyse the impact of the project by measuring the work.
Engage and empower the youth to be community leaders in the transformation.
Document to indicate and keep track of the success of the project.
Arnold concluded, “CSR is a journey and goes hand-in-hand with proper communication with a business’ stakeholders. It can help maintain the confidence and goodwill that a business needs and ultimately support an organisation’s long term objectives and profitability. We need to step our communication efforts and reach out to the community and engage our stakeholders.”
The webinar was well-attended by 100 participants from diverse industries including banking and finance, property, healthcare, education, non-profit organisations, and social enterprises. Participants ranged from CEOs and business owners, to heads of marketing, communications and public relations.