The Future Faces of CSR Activism

The Future Faces of CSR Activism

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 9 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for CSRwire.

The third principle of Transformative CSR, or CSR 2.0, is responsiveness. (We explored creativity and scalability in the last two posts). Some of the most important players in the responsiveness game – especially through cross-sector partnerships – are civil society organisations (CSOs, which I prefer rather than the term NGOs). Reflecting on how this sector is changing in the face of increased calls for responsiveness, I have distinguished 10 ‘Paths to the Future’ for CSR activism. I believe that CSOs acting in the CSR space will increasingly be:

  1. Platforms for transparency – Undertaking investigative exposes & hosting disclosure forums;
  2. Brokers of volunteerism – Providing project opportunities for employee volunteers;
  3. Champions of CSR – Raising awareness and increasing public pressure for CSR;
  4. Advisors of business – Offering consulting services to business on responsibility;
  5. Agents of government – Working with or on behalf of regulatory authorities;
  6. Reformers of policy – Pressuring for government policy reforms to incentivise CSR;
  7. Makers of standards – Developing voluntary standards & inviting business compliance;
  8. Channels for taxes – Receiving and deploying specially earmarked tax revenues;
  9. Partners in solutions – Partnering with business/government to tackle specific issues; and

10.Catalysts for creativity – Creating social enterprises & supporting social entrepreneurs.

Let’s explore these ‘future faces’ of CSR activism in a little more detail below, drawing on examples from around the world of CSOs emerging roles.

Platforms for transparency – The role of CSOs as agitators for, and agents of, greater transparency seems set to continue. For example, in Senegal, Benin, and Guinea, CSO intervention has been critical in the development of a free press. And in India, Karmayog allows citizens to report specific instances of bribery and corruption on a live, public website.

Brokers of volunteerism – As companies increasingly see the benefits of volunteerism (greater job satisfaction, productivity, commitment and loyalty), CSOs are increasingly becoming people-brokers, as sources of projects for employee volunteers. For example, the Voluntary Workcamps Association of Ghana (VOLU) coordinates volunteers to help with the construction of schools, reforestation and AIDS campaigning.

Champions of CSR – While some CSOs remain sceptical about CSR, in many countries they are the main agents for promoting CSR. For example, in Iran, a group of CSOs have joined forces with the UNDP to promote CSR through targeted training for managers under the umbrella of the UN MDGs. And in Senegal, CSR awareness has grown mainly due to a CSO called La Lumière in Kédougou.

Advisors of business – A combination of genuine expertise, valuable perspectives and a crunch on funding means that many CSOs are turning to consultancy, working with and advising companies not only on specific social and environmental issues, but also more generally on sustainability and responsibility. For example, in Hungary, as opposed to the traditional role of watchdog, many CSOs engage in consultancy on CSR.

Agents of government – The phenomena of GONGOs (government organised NGOs), GINGOs (government-inspired NGOs), GRINGOs (government regulated/run and initiated NGOs) and PANGOs (party-affiliated NGOs) are becoming more widespread, no longer just seen in China. Even where governments are not setting up or running the CSOs, they are supporting them as key …

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Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2011) The Future Faces of CSR Activism, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 1 December 2011.

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