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CSR – what’s in a name? 16/06/2009

Posted by Corneel Maes in Uncategorized.
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Any company – big or small – has a responsibility to its stakeholders, by virtue of participating in the socio-economic society in which it is doing business. Corporate Social Responsibility emerged in the late nineties from Boardroom vision and conviction that companies must give back to the community. CSR has since become a ‘must-have’ for the average company and organization. Unfortunately, the notion of CSR has been used and abused in such a multitude of instances that the essence of what it actually stands for has considerably diluted.
Historically, the main emphasis of CSR has been on social and environmental engagement. In today’s economic crisis shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers have more, different needs. Amid economic uncertainty they look for reliability,  for responsible companies that are viable and sustainable. But even more so, they expect company leadership to showcase that sense of responsibility, to evidence ethical behavior in running their business. Against the background of too many major disappointments (finance, automotive and others) stakeholders want to “put their money” with companies that do understand their concerns and are seen to pre-empt them.
That to me is the essence of what Corporate Responsibility today should stand for. Not a nicely phrased CSR statement, not a promise of good intentions but a genuine sense of trustworthiness. That is also what local and EU policy makers are increasingly scrutinizing for – and rightfully so!
Corporate Responsibility, in my view, spans the ground between three solid pillars: financial viability, ethics and sustainability – firmly held together with the glue of mission, vision and values and actually embedded in the DNA of a company and its leadership.

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