Insight & Analysis

Data and management systems for CSR. Progress, but still far to go.

By Wayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn is an award-winning global CSR expert with extensive teaching, writing, lecturing and Advisory Service experience. He is supported by an extensive faculty and advisory team.

I just read an interesting article on the emerging role of data in making CSR & Environmental functions more efficient in companies.  Article by Matt VanTassel in Business Wired.  http://bit.ly/1weD7Gb 
It is difficult to quantify the costs and returns from CSR and environmental programs. No clear answers, but progress is being made.
Just the fact that there is more and more attention being paid to the issue is important. But, it seems like a long time for not so much progress.
One of the challenges is that while we need better data, and better management systems, we need to avoid letting data be king.  Data is important but needs to be used to guide and support an overall management system that is aimed at producing value for both shareholders and society.
Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve long been an advocate for more of a systems approach to managing Corporate Social Responsibility and stakeholder engagement.
I’m told that my 1999 paper, Beyond Beads n Trinkets, delivered at the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s 1999 Annual Conference, was the first to make the case and set out a management framework (looks pretty rudimentary now!  But, that was 15 years ago and these issues were just emerging)
Below is a graphic that I have used in presentations since the 1990s.  It is too often the case that well-meaning companies and managers approach CSR and stakeholder investments without well thought out management frameworks to help them be more efficient at creating value where business meets society.
 

Throwing money at social issues without a plan for creating social and shareholder value is not the answer

Progress is being made but we still have lots of room for improvement in management systems in this space.  

Especially in developing the tools and mechanisms that will allow companies and other development stakeholders to be more efficient at translating CSR and stakeholder program investments into social and shareholder value.
Congratulations to the Sustainability Practice Network for hosting the discussion at Baruch College in New York.