29 Sep 2012

CSR : it’s also a question of personal behavior

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The topic of the CSR roundtable I attend on September 13th, in Luxembourg, was how to adapt the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) model to any size of companies ?

CSR too often relates to large companies : symposiums and forums addressing the challenge of CSR are used to showcasing the best practices of multinationals. National regulations and CSR guidelines issued by international organisations take the large companies as a framework for application. But what is the exposure or background of the SMEs (Small and Medium Entreprises) to CSR ?

In his key-note speech, a PhD student in Economics at Bielefeld Graduate School of Economics & Management (Germany), cited Walmart – the most controversial case of responsible business approach (!!) – as being a successful company with applying a CSR approach. This assertion is a vivid signal that the CSR debate worldwide is still in its infancy

Reaching integrity

“Yet, we still do not agree on what exactly constitutes CSR”, said Jed Grant, one of the panelists and Executive Director of Tigfi and Partner at Sandstone, SA. But certainly, its starts with transparency.
Jed Grant introduced the concept of integrity, as a basement of the responsibility of each person.

Integrity-CSR-ethics

Conditions towards Integrity (TIGFI)

He stated that every company has a social performance (positive or negative, depending on the context) : “Each person will embody different aspects of the company’s social performance. Together they make the company’s social profile”, he said.
The risk of ruling the CSR with too many norms, labels or laws is to have only one approach (or dogma ?) of the relation between business and society. Is it what we want ?

If the CSR topic may not be very familiar within the SMEs sector yet, the close relations of these companies with their employees, the local community and business partners often mean they have a naturally responsible approach to business.
“CSR is simple : it is respect”, said Netty Thines, another panelist from Female Entrepreneurship Ambassador Luxembourg (FEALU) and Managing Director of Mediation S.A., a SME specialized in relational marketing. How to motivate and retain people when it is not possible to compete with the high salaries they could get with big companies ? CSR starts at home, primarily inside the company.

Any longer time to lose

One delegate in the audience came rapidly to the conclusion that CSR is “a tool (used by the big players – editor’s note) to legitimate the capitalism again, in time of crisis”.
I myself took the floor with reminding that there will by 2050, around 9 billion inhabitants living on the Earth … against 2,5 billion in 1950. The expected growing pressure on the environment and the society at large (that is somehow already visible) will force the business community to get more responsible. Otherwise, the best living areas on the planet will face massive migration flows of populations coming from from starved or just underprivileged regions. I concluded with saying that it may be useless still to discuss about CSR, because it is now just a question of time … not a option whether it is a cost or a benefit for the companies.

 

 

This roundtable was organised by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors Luxembourg (FEALU) and The Institute for Global Financial Integrity (TIGFI)

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