The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Strategic CSR - Business case

The article by Mallen Baker in the url below makes a great point about the futility of our ongoing search for a business case for CSR/sustainability:
“Think about it. Why is so much business networking based around semi-social settings, such as dinners or entertainments? Because any good salesman knows that you have to create a positive relationship of trust. If people like you, they’re more likely to want to buy from you. And if they want to buy from you, they will seek a business case that makes it work. Because they already wanted to do it.”
In other words, Baker argues that we have our priorities the wrong way around—that making the business case is the easy part; it is convincing the hearts and minds that is difficult. Once that is done, however, the business case will be constructed to justify the decision that has already been taken:
“… the business case becomes the tool that shows how something can be made to work for the business. It is not the tool that helps you choose to do the thing in the first place.”
In making this point, Baker is talking more about the essential nature of business and how humans act and interact:
“It’s received wisdom that corporate responsibility is all about the business case. You can’t hope to get sustainable action within your company unless you can prove it’s going to work with hard, indisputable numbers. And lots of people duly spend time crafting the business case, only to find that it fails to persuade. It’s frustrating. When that happens, the chances are that the role of the business case is being fundamentally misunderstood.”
Business, like most of human activity, is inherently social. This underlying social component of human behavior extends to all aspects of decision making, from who we associate with, to major decisions about how we run our lives (and our businesses):
“So you have to deal with your decision makers as people. They need to be seduced. They have to be influenced by people they respect and want to emulate. They have to see something that will make them think about it in a new way – that will touch their heart not just their head. And then, only then, the business case becomes a powerful and essential tool.”
The business case for CSR, in other words, is the means by which we help senior executives do what they want to do anyway, rather than a tool we use to persuade them to do something that they perceive to be against their best interests:
“So the business case is no longer the tool you use to win somebody over. The business case is the tool that demonstrates you can do what they now want to do and maximise the benefit for the company.”
It is useful to remember that CEOs are human too:
“… very few chief executives or other senior decision makers would really decide to take action based on a business case if they came to the table in a sceptical frame of mind.”
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site:
Strategic CSR Simulation:
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Sustainable business – Keep the business case in its proper place
By Mallen Baker
March 7, 2013
Ethical Corporation Magazine