There are a lot of ways that CSR and sustainability are manifested in today’s businesses. By discovering what CSR personality type your company is, you can help to differentiate yourself from competitors and begin to communicate your efforts in a more compelling and individual way. If you’re using phrases like “integrated into our business model” you’re not telling your customers anything – you’re just filling in a blank on the corporate lingo bingo card. You can start defining yourself by finding your type.
A lifestyle company is one whose commitment to the greater good drives the business. Many non-profits fall into this category, but companies like Patagonia, Seventh Generation and Timberland also come to mind. A lifestyle company is one that attracts people who live sustainably at home – who are personally committed and who look for a place to work that shares values they already have. In these companies, social responsibility is “in the blood.” They don’t do it because they have to, they do it because they want to.
A change driver company is one who has influence over other companies and drives change down through the supply chain. Big box stores are the best example. These companies can dictate the future of responsible business practices across the globe. By imposing standards on their vendors and refusing to do business with anyone who doesn’t meet those standards, they truly drive change in the global marketplace. Their customers become better stewards by default. It’s a powerful business model that literally forces everyone into a more responsible position.
A low-hanging fruit company is one whose products and/or practices have traditionally been easy targets for criticism. The forest products industry is a prime example. It’s easy to say, “Don’t use paper because you’re cutting down all the trees” and get lots of people to jump on the bandwagon. These companies aren’t always the bad guys, but they take the brunt of public criticism. They have the complex challenge of improving their practices, countering a negative image and assuring a modern workforce pool that they are operating responsibly.
A little league company is one whose business isn’t really under scrutiny for environmental or social behavior, but still feels that their CSR story is worth telling. Perdue Creative is a little leaguer. Who cares what this design firm does? In our case, WE care. We want the world to know that we seek out vendors who can provide paper and printing services that are third-party certified as sustainable – that we contribute to the greater good as a company and as individuals – that we’re concerned and active citizens of Planet Earth. Little league companies may have a greater philosophical story than lots of hard facts and figures, but that story is powerful.
An influencer company is one who is actually altering public perception and behavior. Fast food chains, soft drink companies, automobile manufacturers come to mind. Whereas a big box will eventually alter public perception, their primary effect is backwards into the supply chain. An influencer company is changing public perception in order to generate a more sustainable business model, stay competitive and ensure that their image is changing with the times. By changing what their customers want, they improve their social and environmental performance.
An evolver company “acts their way into a better way of thinking” because that’s what the times require – increased sustainability is part of surviving in business. Most companies fall into this personality type. Sometimes an evolver company may think that the changes they are making are imperceptible and not worth reporting, but today’s more educated customer wants to make sure that they are buying from a company who is making their best effort. Also, by highlighting efforts, no matter how small, an evolver company can create aspirational behavior within the ranks and may actually elevate the overall company mindset to a higher level of commitment to sustainability.
Defining your CSR personality type can help you craft a better – and more authentic – story for your stakeholders. It helps you to more precisely define your objectives and put your efforts into context. And it also gives your employees a better understanding of their role in the larger sustainability picture.
Thu, October 1, 2009
by Suzanna Phelps-Fredette filed under