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Updated: Nov 17, 2022

You may well ask. Most of the people I spoke to in the course of my research this year were mystified about CSR, so you're in good company. What mystifies me - or did, until I figured out what had happened - is how on earth we reached the point in 2022 where all the significant features of CSR had been completely side-lined, when 10 to 15 years ago all the signs were there to suggest it was going to be big potatoes.

Corporate Social Responsibility is pretty much what it says on the tin. You have a corporate mission, it aligns with the social aspects of your company and its position in the wider world, and you take responsibility for your actions along with all the people who make your company what it is.

So where did all that go? As I discovered, it disappeared into the undertow of what became the major driving force in C.I., namely Lean and SixSigma. These became watchwords that nobody, according to the sales pitch, could do without. Not that I have anything against such process-driven initiatives (other than the fact that they bypassed CSR completely), but I know - and probably by now, you know too - that they did little for sustainable improvement beyond introduction of some pretty slick data-analysis systems. Several readers will be jumping up and down in anguish at the mere suggestion of these (expensive) implementations being anything less than Mecca, and that's okay, because we can't please everyone in this world. But what they cannot do (and CSR does) is enable your mission to stand on its own two feet without you (and the rest of your belted management team) keeping your foot firmly on the gas 365 days a year.

CSR is not difficult, it's not complicated, it's just a mystery to most in terms of how to go about setting it in place. So here are some pointers if you want to go DIY.

1) Consider what motivates your staff. Forget wage supplements and bonuses, you want to bring in the stuff that gets them going every morning and makes sure they look forward to coming into work on Mondays. Build your mission template with a strong CSR policy at its heart, and see what happens now that you have real, collaborative engagement.

2) Create a platform for teams to work on - together. You might want to look at KPIs and put a working party into action to decide what will best reflect their performance as people (and not merely as numerical catalysts to bottom-line considerations). With this cohesion, you're now better placed to study the use of resources and make improvements on wastefulness, quality and housekeeping. Look for routes to involve family and friends in annual events, so that your company earns itself a reputation for genuine, visible care in the community.

3) Co-opt a charity into the mix. Preferably one your staff have selected by choice. Then discuss with that charity how you can best support them. Throwing cash into a bucket is not the best way to go about instigating change - you want to align with a project they are looking to implement, and put your company's name on the map with a recognisable, significant piece of socially important work.

So now you know. CSR was always the unrivalled route to sustainable success in creating a positive culture and raising productivity. While you get on with looking after customers (who, incidentally, are going to subsequently see your company in a new, shining light), your people are actively going about their lives with a new-found sense of purpose. Suddenly, you find yourselves in a win-win situation.

And win-win, let's face it, is what sustainability is all about.

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