I am often asked this question. Today, while hunting for something I came across this response I gave last May when someone asked. I thought it might be interesting for others
Dear (name left out)
Thanks for reaching out. You ask a good question and one that doesn’t have a set answer. CSR can literally reside almost anywhere inside a corporate structure. And often does.
Three things are of paramount importance if the CSR function is to perform it’s proper role as a contributor to shareholder value and an integrator of societal value and environmental stewardship.
- Not ghettoized – Sustainability should not be set off in the corner of an organization and left to ‘do good’ while the rest of the company gets on with the core function of creating value. CSR should be looked at as a way to support and contribute to business value at the same time as it supports and contributes to social and community value and supports environmental stewardship
- There should be a strong and well communicated internal business case for strategic sustainability. That is to say that CSR isn’t just about how a company impacts and/or interacts with society, but it is also about how it creates value for the company. Too often CSR professionals don’t spend the time and effort to understand how their work is supporting the company – and then spend the time and effort to communicate that internally.
- No matter where Sustainability sits inside a company, every department and group in the company should be part ‘owner’ of the Sustainability function. I often counsel executives, managers and workers on a simple three question approach to driving sustainability. I tell them that before any decision or action ask three questions
a. How does this create value or create risk for the business?
b. How does this create value or create risk for community and society?
c. How does this create value or create risk for environment.
The other key component for all of this is communications. Communications (but not Socialwash/greenwash) is often critical to optimizing the value that flows from any sustainability activity or investment.
I hope this is helpful