Social Responsibility Increasingly Becoming Integral Part of Corporate DNA
OTTAWA—As corporate social responsibility increasingly becomes an integral part of the way companies are structured and run, a corresponding transformational leadership and strategy is evolving to manage this change.
This is the theme of Canada’s 5th annual Corporate and Community Social Responsibility (CCSR) Conference to be held at Ottawa’s Algonquin College on Nov. 6.
Conference chair and co-founder Eli Fathi noted that both actions and attitudes surrounding social responsibility have evolved in communities and enterprises over the past five years.
Especially for enterprises, “a lot of them are going through transformational structures and starting to include social responsibility as part and parcel, fully integrated with what they do,” Fathi said.
This integration into their infrastructure—their DNA—is really the evolution of the concept of “shared value,” he said.
“It is now, not only what is good for me I will share a little bit with you, but rather how can I work together with you to make both of our lives better—this is really the shared value where we both benefit from what we are doing in a similar fashion.”
Why Sustainability Matters
Veteran management consultant Bruce Piasecki agrees. The president and founder of U.S.-based AHC Group and New York Times bestselling author of “Doing More With Less: The New Way to Wealth” will be the first keynote speaker of the day.
“There are plenty of reasons why sustainability matters for the future of a corporation,” he said.
Firms based only on fossil fuels will soon become obsolete. Firms based on vices like tobacco or alcohol, which don’t enhance human health, or those not providing value to society through social responsibility programs, will probably be made obsolete, said Piasecki.
Piasecki noted what he called “the shocking truth” of the 21st century, that “of the 100 largest economies in the world, more than half are corporations like Google, Exxon, and HP, instead of nation-states like Canada and the United States.”
“So we need to learn how to create levers to change those companies, because the way of the near future is more driven by the wealth of those companies than the wealth of nations.”
And every individual has responsibility to participate. “We need to learn how to become positive instruments of change, rather than functionaries within those firms.”
The good news is that “the engine of the future is going to be a social response capitalism,” said Piasecki, adding that his work over the last 30 years gives him confidence this is both necessary and possible.
Lesson from Ben Franklin
Piasecki will share ideas from his new book on how “doing more with less is a mantra for success, because it allows us to rebalance the way we view money, people, and rules.”
Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s essay “The Way to Wealth,” written in 1758, which espoused the virtues of thrift and hard work, Piasecki’s book explores the arts of “competitive frugality” taught by Franklin in a new way that speaks to the “swift and severe” challenges of the modern world.
Organizations can compete on sustainability by being frugal, inventive, and diplomatic, Piasecki said.
As an example, he said his company at one time made millions with 45 people working as consultants for the world’s largest multinationals. Now, with 15 people, many subcontractors, it is making even more millions.
“If you learn to work frugally with the right people, they save the founder’s time, they do their work more effectively, and your margin of profit increases.”
Making More Money
Piasecki advised viewing money, people, and rules through the lens of social value.
“[Money] should enable you to get things done in a way that you think answers social needs. So, money is nothing in itself until properly used for social good,” he said.
Moreover, “think of people as entities that want to do good … and see that rules are in fact there for a purpose, not something you’re supposed to lobby to erase. They’re something that you’re supposed to outsmart and do better than.”
Piasecki gave the example of how his firm helped Toyota invent the hybrid powertrain strategy to create a hyper-efficient car for the North American market “that went twice a far as the rules,” crossing multiple lines, from the Prius eco car and midsize Camry sedan to the Highlander crossover and Lexus luxury vehicle.
“We found that through that inventive breakthrough we could make more money and save gas at a time when the world was being threatened with 5-dollars-a-gallon gasoline,” Piasecki said.
“This is what we’ve applied now to hundreds of different firms to realize that you can change the mind of the leader, and thereby change the actual product that’s being sold,” he added.
In an age of consumerism and excess, Piasecki said identifying fundamental human principles is one way to highlight the importance of competitive frugality.
For example, he noted that money can only be used for good if one is not engaged in the dangers of debt, and ultimately “in assuming too much debt we sacrifice our freedom.”
Conference topics will also include environmental leadership, social investment, the power of consumers, and the role millennials play in shaping the future, among others.
For more information, please visit www.ccsr-conference.com
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