Knowledge Centre

CSR Metrics: Measure and manage the meaningful

Value to you and your stakeholders *internal and external* must be the foundation of metrics and management systems.  Don’t even think of metrics until you understand your value propositions.

Get this right and your metrics and management systems will help you to create more value, do it more efficiently and facilitate stakeholder relations at the same time.

When planning your CSR project you should have answered the WHY questions:  What value for the company? What value for society and key stakeholders? What environmental impact and value.

Your metrics and management systems should help you understand, track and optimize impact and value across these dimensions; helping you to efficiently deliver on the WHY of your project.

The specifics of what to track and measure often not so clear.  That is OK. Often the process of setting up impact measurement frameworks can be as valuable as implementing the program.

Start by engaging key stakeholders, including internal stakeholders, on the value/why questions, what success will look like and what metrics will help you understand your progress towards success.

[bctt tweet=”#CSR Impact metrics can waste time, money and goodwill.  Lots of it. Be strategic. Learn to measure and manage the meaningful. Meaningful to your project, your stakeholders and to your value propositions. ” username=”@ZINGmore”]

You may well find that their vision of success and how you measure progress towards it is different than yours.   That is fine, good actually. The process of understanding their vision and helping them to understand yours will not only make your impact measurement framework stronger, it will help to develop consensus and buy-in.

I’ve seen many CSR projects, and even businesses and careers, run into big problems, and even flat out fail, because the front end work of developing consensus on what success looks like wasn’t done.

The start of a project generally has blue sky, sunshine and the goodwill to give you room to facilitate a shared vision of success and the key metrics to track, and how to track and manage them.  Use this time wisely.

If you’ve been asked to support the development of a local school, how do you measure success?  By staying on time and budget with construction? That is certainly important, and needs to be managed, but that likely has nothing to do with the WHY, the value the community was looking for when they identified it as a priority.

Before you agree to the project is the time to engage on what success looks like and how you track and measure it.  Is it number of students? Graduates? Students going on to post secondary? Attracting and retaining teachers? Or what else?  And over what timeframe. What is the role and responsibility of each key stakeholder in achieving success?

There are no universal answers?  There are some near universal questions though and if you don’t address them with stakeholders you add risk and complexity:

  • Why should you do this particular project and not something else? (this discussion should have taken place during prioritization and planning, but it is worth revisiting)
  • What is the value for key internal and external stakeholders?
  • What indicators will demonstrate progress towards achieving that value?
  • How do we track them?
  • What is each stakeholder’s responsibility in the process?

Having that discussion early in the process and revisiting it regularly will help you to get the metrics and management right and will help to facilitate stakeholder buy-in and ownership. And, don’t forget to have this discussion with internal stakeholders as well as external ones.  Smart CSR will have meaningful value inside and outside the company.

At CSR Training Institute we understand that integrating Corporate Social Responsibility into your business value strategy can seem overwhelming. That’s why we are here to help. If you are struggling to move forward, we will work with you to cut through the confusion and help you align business, social and environmental performance goals.

If you would like to speak to me about how a value-centric strategic approach to CSR can help your business leverage social capital to deliver more value, email me at


Prof. Wayne Dunn

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