Insight & Analysis
Eight self-interested steps to creating a CSR Program
A CSR Thoughtpiece from the CSR Training Institute
– By Wayne Dunn
Self-interest = ‘What’s in it for me?’ This is the true heart of CSR and stakeholder engagement. How could it be otherwise? Why would companies, individuals, communities and others not act in their own interest?
CSR is simply about finding ways to align those self-interests. It is about finding ways that you can win by helping other stakeholders to win too. It is about aligning interests so that others win when you win. So that you win when others win.
CSR: Simple, but far from easy.
Here are eight steps to creating a CSR program. They all concern self-interest.
They will help you to create an ‘interest landscape’ which will help you plan a successful CSR program.
But as you read through the list keep your own thinking hat on. These are not all of the answers; and each could be discussed in much more detail than I do here.
As you read them you may find yourself thinking of additional steps, or disagreeing with some of these. That is perfect! Make it your own. Take what you like and leave the rest.
1. Admit that it is all about self-interest, the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question
Sure, this is uncomfortable. It’s easy to think it is those other people who are just in it for themselves.
Meanwhile many of us are working in this space because we truly care about others and want the world to be a better place.
But our motivation can be our own self-interest. It’s what we want; for things to be better, for others to benefit, for the world to be a better and fairer place.
That is OK. Feeling good about yourself and the outcome is what is in it for you. That’s your own self-interest.
I suspect if we are honest we have more self-interest than that. But, it doesn’t matter. The simple truth is nobody and no company is going to do CSR if it isn’t somehow in their self-interest. Why would they?
The essence of CSR and stakeholder engagement is really quite simple. It is ’What’s in it for me?’
2. Find out who else cares. Or should or could care. Make a list.
Identify who might win or lose if your business or project is successful. Who is definitely affected? Who might be affected?
These are the people who will also ask ‘What’s in it for me?’ and you need to be prepared and have thought about ‘What’s in it for them?’.
This step is critical. And don’t just limit yourself to the obvious.
When identifying stakeholders, boldly go far beyond where others stop. Your most perfect and influential ally might be lurking way out there (see point six in Six best practices in stakeholder engagement for an interesting example of this – open>>).
However, listing them at this step doesn’t necessarily mean you need to engage with them. You just want to make your list as broad as possible at this point.
3. What’s in it for them?
Now go through your list asking “What’s in it for them? Good or bad?” Make a list of how your success, or failure, would affect the stakeholders on the list.
Go back over the list again and push the boundaries. Ask “What might be in it for them? What could be in it for them?” Be crazy, be creative. Think beyond the obvious.
No idea is wrong at this point. Push the horizons. The gem may lay on the far horizon and if you don’t push you’ll miss it and leave a lot of value on the table.
4. What are their biggest wants/needs?
This time go through your list again and think what might be the biggest wants and needs of each stakeholder.
Don’t confine yourself to whether or not the want or the need is related to your business.
5. Where does What’s in it for me? meet What’s in it for them?
This is about finding the interest intersections that are a critical part of the Interest Landscape.
Go through your list, stakeholder by stakeholder, and look to see where/if your interests meet theirs; whether positively or negatively. Even tangentially.
Apply creativity, insight and anything else you can think of to the interest intersections to find and release value
6. Learn the Interest Landscape;
Group, arrange and re-arrange the stakeholder interests
Of course it had to get boring sometime, but, this step is crucial! It will allow you to see and understand the interest landscape in vivid detail.
The better you understand it, the better your chance of meeting interests in a way that creates a value multiple
There is no magic here. Some of the stakeholders will have the same or similar interests. Some will have complimentary interests. Some will have opposing interests.
Sometimes two stakeholders may have common, complementary and opposing interests, all at the same time.
The point is that by analyzing stakeholder interests you will get an understanding of the interest landscape as it relates to your business.
Remember, much of the success of CSR and stakeholder engagement rests on efficient and effective alignment of interests. The better you understand the interest landscape the better your chances of success.
7. What’s in it for me? (Again!)
At last – this is where you look through the interest landscape you have created, examine the natural intersections, positive and negative, and ask yourself some questions which will help you to understand and evaluate various actions you might take.
· What are the stakeholder interests that will be naturally supported by the success of your venture?
· What are the stakeholder interests that, no matter how hard or creatively you try, just have nothing to do with your business?
· What are the stakeholder interests that, at first glance, are harmed by your business?
Now, set aside those interests that have nothing to do with your business. They’re beyond your control of influence.
Put your creative hat on and go through those interests that would seem to be harmed by your business. See if there is any way that you might do things differently, or the stakeholders may do things differently that would eliminate or mitigate the negative impact.
Prioritize those interests that are naturally supported by your business. When prioritizing be sure to keep value in mind.
· The value of the interest to society at large;
· The value to the stakeholder(s); and
· The value of the affected stakeholders to your business (how much can they support or hinder your social license and business operations).
Do the same for those interests that, at first glance, are negatively affected by your business.
Working from the highest priorities of both the negative and positive impacts look for opportunities to accentuate the positive and mitigate the negative.
In other words, what does it take to make the positive impacts stronger and the negative impacts less? Maybe you can even find a way to replace a negative impact with a positive one.
When doing this, remember to think about natural partners (see point four in Six best practices in stakeholder engagement for how to think about this – open>>).
Repeat the above steps often. Do it alone, do it with internal partners, involve external partners and stakeholders. Bring in fresh sets of eyes (yes, consultants can be very helpful here!).
The more work you do on understanding the interest landscape, the more value you will find for you and for the stakeholders.
As you review and analyze the interest landscape the basic elements in a CSR plan will emerge.
Use this as the basis for developing your CSR and stakeholder plans, programs and activities.
8. CSR and stakeholder engagement are about business efficiency and value too!
Successful businesses are those that, amongst other things, are able to optimize the value of output in relation to the cost of input. In other words, they are the most effective at getting things done efficiently.
CSR and stakeholder engagement is no different. This isn’t a do-gooders game. This is about the interests of the business and the shareholders.
It is about creating value. Creating value for shareholders and creating value for society, efficiently and concurrently.
Be efficient. Look for those activities and leverage points that create the most value for stakeholders at the least cost of time and money for the business.
Look for ways to have more positive impacts with less resources. (Hint: Partners are great for this.)
You can read another article I’ve written about the CSR Value Continuum and how all CSR activities can be looked at along a continuum from value distribution to value creation (see it here).
This and other tools can help you to analyze your CSR and stakeholder engagement in terms of value efficiency. And, believe me, value efficiency in CSR is in your self-interest!
*note to formatter* – this is the wind-up conclusion piece – be sure to separate it from the numbered pieces
The steps in this list won’t give you all of the answers but will hopefully stimulate you to think creatively and find some new and exciting answers for the challenges you are facing in CSR and Stakeholder Engagement
My own self-interest
Sorry, I couldn’t resist! The main purpose of this article and of all the CSR Thoughtpieces is to stimulate thinking and, hopefully action. Many of the answers lie within us and if this or any other article helps you to find them, that serves my self-interest!
You see, there are no experts; we are all learning. Learning from and with each other. Learning from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others. I’ve learnt a lot from the feedback I’ve gotten from readers of my CSR Thoughtpiece series. Please do me the favour of giving me any feedback or insights you have. Feel free to do it privately or publicly.
Our self-interest is served if we can help ourselves and help others to make the doing of CSR more effective.
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