The 2013 Ethics and Leadership Conference has highlighted the need for companies within the same industry to group together to exercise their corporate social responsibility
In a panel discussion entitled ‘CSR as a Strategic Initiative: Why companies are doing it’, Richard Kusmer, Managing Director of Omega Management Group, stressed the issue of altruistic egoism. While the concept sounds like an oxymoron, it sheds light on how larger corporations and publicly traded companies can more easily demonstrate how they socially enable local communities simply because they have the money and the man power to do so.
The panel, who met at the Florida Institute of Technology for the 13th annual conference, was made up of representatives from multinationals including Coca-Cola, IBM and Honeywell. The guests discussed why companies are adopting corporate social responsibility as part of their core strategies, and why positive change operations need to be profitable for the organisation.
Smaller private companies’ efforts to operate socially beneficial projects often slip under the radar. Additionally, in their attempt to seem socially aware they can financially cripple themselves. The failure to wield a well-executed CSR plan in an attempt to seem socially conscious could ultimately be costly, when it is easy to make projects profitable in the long term.
Kusmer illustrated how his firm helped companies in the computer technology industry boost their market in Southeast Asia. “A lot of the population wasn’t computer literate,” he said. “So competing companies combined to resolve the issue by taking trailers from village to village, teaching people how to use computers. And we distributed about 10,000 of them.” Kusmer emphasized the effort was not simply to be nice “but rather to benefit our market. We did it as an industry, not just as a company.”
A similar issue has been raised by business network CSR Europe in the form of their Enterprise 2020 initiative. The scheme stresses the need to incorporate social innovation into business models in a sustainable manner. The network advices that by developing CSR management and transparency, not only can companies build stakeholder confidence, but also make other businesses in their sector aware of what social innovations they are trying to exercise as a business strategy.
A CSR spokesperson said: “More and more businesses see the opportunities in tackling societal issues to simultaneously create business and social value. Through Enterprise 2020, we aim to provide value added services to our members that will not only restore faith in corporate leadership but will allow for continuous improvement and the transition to a sustainable economy.”