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Corporate Responsibility

TALKING ABOUT CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

The ability to communicate well is critical to a career in corporate responsibility. The job requires public speaking and writing as well as the ability to influence others within the company.

An effective way to disseminate information about CR to people within the company is through verbal communication. Many employees will have little understanding of CR; a brief “elevator speech” can introduce the essential points and might cover how CR increases employee engagement, attracts socially managed investment dollars, builds a reputable brand, and works directly with activists to fend off ethical attacks. Communications with company leaders must be candid and concise, focusing on the decisions executives will be making. CR professional should be sure to learn their facts and build support among decision makers.

Companies with CR departments should publicly disclose information regarding their ESG practices. Because of this transparency imperative, the amount of information for external communication has increased dramatically, as more and more companies have developed CR programs. For the communication to be noticed, the CR department must develop the CR message (focusing on one or two key points), consider the timing and place of communication (e.g., conferences), serve as thought leaders, and deliver (and redeliver) the message.

THE CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY REPORT AND BEYOND

Those who work in corporate responsibility must have excellent written communication skills. As part of the job, a CR professional must communicate online via blogs, social media, websites, and newsletters, as well as research and write an annual corporate responsibility report as mandated by the Global Reporting Initiative of 1999. Areas covered in this report include:

*Vision and strategy

*Organizational profile

*Report profile

*Governance

*Economic performance

*Environmental performance

*Social performance

*Human rights

*Society

*Product responsibility

The annual CR report also serves as an important marketing document for the company. Therefore, it should be carefully scheduled, planned, written, and presented.

STAKEHOLDERS AND INVESTORS

Stakeholder engagement involves maintaining relationships with stakeholders, aligning mutual interests, reducing risk, and advancing the company’s financial, social, and environmental performance. Stakeholders include:

*Those with ownership interest

*Customers

*Employees

*Value chain and operational support

*Industries

*Communities

*Civil societies

*Government

*Multilateral organizations

Formal stakeholder engagement may involve forming a committee that works with CR over the long term. The committee may advise, offer diverse perspectives on CR issues, and comment on behalf of the CR department. Informal stakeholder engagement focuses on people who have not made a long-term commitment to the cause.

Socially responsible investors (SRIs) include SRI analysts and SRI funds. The analysts are firms that interpret data on a company’s environmental, social, and governance data and provide these results to investors. SRI funds are investment funds that target socially and environmentally acceptable companies whose stock values are rapidly rising.

The numbers of SRIs are growing at a faster rate than conventional investment assets. In addition, SRI funding groups tend to be less volatile than conventional investors. They hold onto stock longer, helping to stabilize share values.

In publicly traded companies, any shareholder owning $2,000 worth of stock can file a resolution on ESG and other issues. Activists use this option to raise awareness about the company’s ESG policies. The CR department can collaborate with the SRI community to win greater shareholder support for these issues. They can also establish dialogues to address shareholder concerns.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

Among the greatest benefits a CR department imparts to the company is employee engagement. CR encourages workers to get more involved, and when workers equate their jobs with their causes, they work harder. Additionally, a high degree of employee engagement correlates to significantly higher earnings for the company.

Increasing numbers of people care about sustainability. Several studies show a correlation between sustainability and engagement. Employees of companies with a good environmental records and reporting programs do their jobs more responsibly. Therefore, making sustainability a part of the work experience constitutes a clear business imperative.

CR departments can increase engagement by forming green teams, groups of employee volunteers who work to improve the environment in the workplace and the community. Including customers in green teams further expands the team’s environmental impact while enhancing the company’s brand. Some joint projects might include:

*Recycling

*Creating personal sustainability plans

*Biofeedback for buildings

*Environmental excellence awards

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