Ten Ways to Make a Bigger Difference in 2013
By PAUL KLEIN
As a follow up to the article I wrote last week (Three Ways to Secure Your Social License to Operate in 2013) here are ten practical ways that businesses and civil society organizations can improve the impact of their social purpose initiatives in 2013.
1. Create an Advisory Council. Unbiased input from CSR and social change authorities that are external to your organization can help improve what you do and give you added credibility. Starbucks Canada created an Advisory Council to help shape its new Thriving Neighbourhoods program andBarrick Gold has a CSR Advisory Board that “acts as an external sounding board on a range of corporate responsibility issues, including community relations, sustainable development, water, energy, climate change, security and human rights,” according to the company’s website.
2. Eliminate Your Annual CSR/Sustainability Report. For the last two years, CSR experts and practitioners have been talking about integrating annual and CSR reports, but most corporations still produce two expensive reports that few people read. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are only relevant in the context of business performance. Save time and money and have more impact by integrating ESG reporting with your annual report. In 2011, PepsiCo integrated the results of their Performance with Purpose program into their Power of PepsiCo Annual Report.
4. Build partnerships with controversial NGOs. Working with like-minded, effective NGOs is the baseline for improving social outcomes. However, in order to secure a stronger social license to operate, corporations should also build relationships with organizations that have contrary points of view. NGOs that want to move beyond incremental change should consider forming relationships with corporations that are seen by their stakeholders as having poor CSR records.3. Have Community Stakeholders Write Part of Your Annual Report. Corporations write their own assessments of their social and environmental impact and are surprised when local stakeholders don’t support what’s been said about their communities. Civil society organizations make the same mistake when reporting on social outcomes. The better approach is to have community stakeholders write the parts of your annual report that pertain to them.
5. Create a blog for your stakeholders. Every corporation and civil society organization has a range of stakeholders, including some who support them and others who will oppose everything they do. Why not create an opportunity for an unfiltered dialogue among your stakeholders (or one that is moderated by someone external to your organization)? Positive and negative comments and dialogue are going to happen anyway, so why not accept and support this? You’ll also learn lots that you can use to improve both business and social programs.
6. Exchange jobs with your most important partners. You need to know what it’s like to work in your partner’s organization and to welcome them to yours. This could be for a day or a week each year and could involve executives and/or managers. In addition to building a level of trust that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, you’ll learn things about your organization and theirs that you would never have known otherwise.
7. Disclose your irresponsible actions to the media. Most “news” from corporations and civil society organizations is about positive accomplishments that aren’t that remarkable. That’s why very few stories get written about these things. The media is only interested in what’s gone wrong, what hasn’t been disclosed, and why business performance or social outcomes isn’t better. Why not use this as an opportunity? By disclosing actions that are irresponsible you’ll get lots of attention from the media and be seen as trustworthy by your employees and stakeholders. Plus, it’s likely they’re going to find out about it anyway; then the story will be out of your control.
8. Hire someone from outside your sector. Most organizations surround themselves with like-minded people who share a similar point of view and background. That’s why organizations tend to repeat both the same accomplishments and the same mistakes. However, to be a social purpose leader your organization needs a high degree of positive internal disruption. (As an aside, there’s a great article in the December issue of Harvard Business Review called Surviving Disruption.) If you’re a corporation, the best way to do this is to hire someone who knows about social change. If you’re a civil society organization you should find someone who knows about economy and efficiency.
9. Be provocative. Most corporate and civil society leaders believe that it’s too risky to take a strong stand on a social issue for fear of negative backlash from their stakeholders and/or the media. Ironically, these same leaders wonder why their employees and external stakeholders aren’t paying more attention. In 2013 declare your commitment to an issue and commit to do something remarkable. Your people and your customers will pay more attention and be more loyal.
10. Have fun! CSR has an unfortunate reputation of being earnest but boring. I’ve written about this before and I’m more convinced than ever that social change and humor aren’t mutually exclusive. (My twelve-year-old daughter told me that it wasn’t fair to include having fun because every list ends with having fun. I told her that’s because not enough people have enough fun!).
I hope this list will inspire you to take your social purpose programs to the next level in 2013. As always I welcome your comments.
Follow me on twitter at: paulatimpakt
Paul Klein founded Impakt in 2001 to help corporations become social purpose leaders and is considered a pioneer in the areas of corporate social responsibility.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.com Posted with permission of the author.