TUESDAY 24 FEB 2009 12:19 PM


Too many programmes still focused on image, argues new book

CSR is even more important now than in less volatile economic conditions, according to a new book by INSEAD Chaired Professor of Ethics and Social Responsibility Craig Smith.

In ‘Mainstreaming Corporate Responsibility’, Smith says the financial crisis and its effects on the global economy have shown that the stability of the global market system depends on responsible behaviour, sustainable business models, and the proactive management of business impacts on society.

"We’ve seen one of the largest destructions of shareholder value in recent times by managers who should be paying attention to the interests of shareholders,” says Smith. “This socially irresponsible behaviour has wider repercussions and we’re all now suffering as a result.”

Too many CSR programmes are oriented towards PR. Instead, the emphasis should be on embedding CSR into the heart of the business, claims the book. This means integration into organisational systems, processes and structures, and into organisational culture, skills and competencies.

While recognising that this represents a significant challenge, Smith notes that more companies are realising that CSR and sustainability are linked to competitiveness. Marks and Spencer iis one example cited in the book. According to CEO Stuart Rose, its programme to invest up to £200 million to position itself as the UK’s greenest retailer has already resulted in the discovery of many cost savings.