In response to a question about CSR in crisis time, posted in an online forum of an upcoming conference that I co-host, I wrote:
If we break ‘crisis’ to its danger and opportunity aspects, the danger seems to be obvious. When companies have to cut costs, the first casualties are always expenditures that seem to be not related directly to the core business.
The opportunity is to re-examine and re-define what is the essence of “responsibility.” To whom, and for what? In the dominant and simplistic view of CSR, it means only being good to the environment or giving money or donating employee time to social benefit causes. However, in a more essential sense, response-ability also means that business organizations use their resources wisely to respond to social needs, including the need of its members for sustained employment, respect, and meaningful work.
Crisis is not a time when the leadership can go on trying to figure out alone how to climb out from it. It is a time when the collective intelligence of all members and stakeholders have to be mobilized, for none of us is as smart as all of us.
The crisis seen as an opportunity for regeneration is a true gift for change agents and their organizations. Future-responsive leaders are skillful at engaging the whole organization in the regeneration process. They know or learn how to host company-wide productive conversations that matter and chart a course of action together, into a new future.
I hope this helps with deepening the conversation about CSR. I am curious of what you think about the perspective that I introduced here. If it resonates with you at all, what new questions does it raise about embodying it in a company?
p.s. if you are looking for other good reasons that you can give to your management for not killing CSR, you may want to google “Corporate Social Responsibility” and “financial crisis.” Let us know if you find something interesting, since other members of our community may also be concerned by the same issue.