12 Mar 2013
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept embraced in theory, even if its implementation can mean many and varied things from small acts of corporate philanthropy to an all encompassing CSR strategy.
Yet, new research shows that there are still many obstacles in the quest to embrace CSR by companies - a lack of time being, in the case of New Zealand business - the most stubborn.
A range of New Zealand companies took part in the latest State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand Annual Review 2012/13, indicating clearly that in a time of global distrust of large institutions, CSR was important - and the uptake of CSR by business leaders critical.
But time constraints, combined with a lack of resource and a tendency to focus on the short-term, meant CSR remained more a discretionary activity than a central strategy for most New Zealand business.
This was in marked contrast to Australia, where those responsible for getting buy-in for CSR strategy in the corporate environment report the greatest obstacle they faced was a lack of 'organisational buy-in'.
In other words, Kiwis want to embrace CSR but they are too pressed for time and under-resourced. Aussies are resourced to implement CSR, but can't always get the senior-level buy-in.
This might be most clearly illustrated in the area of climate change. New Zealand has had several years to get used to an Emissions Trading Scheme, and so reducing or eliminating a business' negative environmental impact remains a top priority, perhaps in the absence of a wider, and more all-encompassing, CSR strategy.
In Australia, a new carbon pricing scheme is still pretty controversial, and business is grappling with it. Environmental issues on their own are not a top priority across the Tasman; instead, getting buy-in and internal understanding for CSR is a major bugbear.
The Review clearly demonstrates that leadership in the area of CSR not only enhances the recognition and reputations of the companies that embrace it, but provides an inspiration for other companies to follow.
Companies like Rio Tinto, Westpac and National Australia Bank have been 'set apart from the pack' for their willingness to make sustainability part of the business proposition and 'walking the talk' - embedding sustainability practises in all facets of their business.
In New Zealand, sustainability leaders also exist. Companies like Ricoh and Toyota have charted a new course for business in this country by embracing CSR - driving productivity through increased business value and better employee engagement.
The best managers know the importance of CSR, of course, but sometimes they and their top team need a friendly nudge. The Review's survey of 160 Australasian CSR professionals turned up the best tactics for overcoming obstacles to getting CSR front and centre of operations.
For the full report and more commentary, see www.accsr.com.au
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