Thursday, June 11, 2009

CSR and the Economy: A double-edged sword

Just when more and more organizations were getting the hang of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the economy took a nosedive and CSR initiatives slipped in the priority ratings. According to an article at, a survey of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives found that last year at this time 29% of executives rated CSR as "high" priority; this year, only 17% did. The shift is evident in other industries as well - American Electric Power recently delayed plans to build a wind farm due to the increased cost of capital.

On the other hand, other companies are backing into CSR by embracing initiatives primarily to save money, but that just so happen to be good for the environment. For example, The Gap is holding a strategy meeting involving representatives from 20 different countries - all will attend online.

Intially, some companies embraced CSR for the "wrong" reasons, perhaps succumbing to pressure or for the positive PR it provides. Now, some are also embracing CSR for the "wrong" reasons, citing cost cutting as the main motivating factor. In both cases, a short-view approach is driving the strategy.

While the end result in any event is that good is being done, the short-view puts organizations in a reactive position. What is the hidden cost of this changing of direction with the economic winds?

Read more here and then come back and leave a comment - share your experience, concerns, and lessons learned with the community. Do you have a CSR strategy? What drives your plan, and how has the economy affected it?

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