How CSR managers can Inspire other leaders to act on sustainability

How can CSR managers inspire other leaders to act on sustainability? Four different tactics are found to be most effective at mobilizing others, say ABRI Fellow Christopher Wickert and Frank G.A. de Bakker in their article that has been feautured on 10 January in the Harvard Business Review.

01/11/2019 | 11:59 AM

In 2013 the authors interviewed a cross-sectional sample of 54 CSR managers in German multinational corporations. The sample included companies such as Bayer, BMW and SAP, and we typically spoke with the Head of CSR in each company. Creating momentum for sustainability and social change still remains a major challenge that requires further examination.

The first tactic is to Build a network of internal allies. “If you want to successfully integrate CSR topics in the company, you need to build up a network of people who know the company, and whom you know,” said one respondent.

The second tactic: make sustainability resonate. Rather than promoting an overwhelming vision of a “better world” that was incomprehensible for most people with regard to their daily routines, the focus was on establishing business relevance for specific job environments.

Identify adequate incentives. The CSR managers we interviewed also said that shop-floor employees and blue-collar workers were more motivated by presenting CSR as the “right thing to do”, independent of how it might enhance profits. At the other hand employees in managerial functions are more likely to be convinced if CSR can be quantified and a strong business case can be presented.

Use external and internal benchmarking. Creating benchmarks against which progress of CSR projects can be measured is another important tactic. One interviewee said he established an internal competition among factories across the globe for the most environmentally sustainable production, based on a set of commonly agreed indicators. This CSR performance challenge led to sharing of best practices within the company. External benchmarking allows for comparing the CSR performance of an entire company against that of its competitors, for instance wit the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

The article in the HBR can be read here.