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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Strategic CSR - Double standards

An important challenge for CSR advocates is to understand why we might employ different values at home and at work:
"'I know I should be bothered but I just can't be,' said a colleague recently as they threw some paper towards the bin, 'it's weird really because at home we're fastidious about recycling and all that … but at work I just don't bother.' In one sentence highlighting how hard it can be to encourage employees to be as environmentally friendly in the workplace as they are in their own homes."
Why is one behavior at home and in the family unacceptable (e.g., lying or creating waste), yet 'deception' and 'pollution' have long been a part of business practice? The list of companies where such 'unacceptable' behavior is not only sanctioned, but rewarded or incentivized, is long (e.g., Wells Fargo, VW, BP, etc.). The article in the url below presents an interesting take on this issue – unfortunately, as with many things with humans it seems, our behavior is explained by following the money:
"… research confirms that employees act worse at work because they don't have a financial interest (most don't even know the energy spend of their organisation), equipment is often shared so there can be a lack of responsibility and employees can't control many of the elements that could make a difference to energy and resources use, such as heating or lighting."
As such, solving the problem appears to rest in explicitly demonstrating a self-interest in choosing one behavior over another:
"A London council, for example, tackled printing by showing that if every employee used one less sheet of paper a day it saved paper equivalent to the height of a local landmark."
In an organization, however, in order for the individual to feel motivated to act in the best interests of the collective, there has to be a sense that everyone is in it together. Because such a culture is difficult to create and often depends on executives leading by example, there is significant variance – among firms, certainly, but even within firms:
"… employee environmental behaviours differ between organisation types (private versus public) and even between sites and buildings of the same organisations. Each may have its own constraints in terms of infrastructure, social norms or managerial expectations. Research has found behaviour may even vary during different times of the day or week because of employee's emotional state, job satisfaction or ability to complete work goals."
As with any kind of culture, it is hard to align everyone's interests in a way that persuades us there is value in thinking first of the group, rather than the individual.
"There is no one solution to encouraging pro-environmental behaviour, but leadership is a key issue and without managers demonstrating their commitment, staff are unlikely to follow suit. [Firms] must also understand the barriers to sustainable behaviour for employees and what might motivate them to make different choices. This can be as simple as making sure that there are enough recycling bins or setting up computer systems effectively so employees can work remotely."
Take care
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'I just can't be bothered': why people are greener at home than in the office
By Victoria Wells.
May 20, 2016
The Guardian