Going glocal with CSR

Going glocal with CSR:

Multilateral musings in Mexico

Blog by Wayne Visser

In some senses, my CSR quest world tour, which was the main inspiration behind The Quest for Sustainable Business, started back in December 2007, on a trip to Guatemala. The main purpose of the visit was to launch The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) annual conference on CSR. That was when the seed of the idea was planted—while talking to my colleague and co-author, Professor Dirk Matten, over a glass of celebratory champagne in the hotel bar late one night.

One of the greatest insights for me had come after a tour we had at a local sugar plantation. The company had prepared a presentation on its approach to CSR, and imagine my delight when I saw that it also had a CSR pyramid! The interesting thing, however, was that it was not Carroll’s CSR pyramid or a Prahalad and Hart’s BOP pyramid. Economic responsibility was still seen as most important, and depitcted as the bottom layer of the pyramid, but the next most important responsibility was to the families of the plantation’s employees. The third tier was community responsibility and, rather intriguingly, the apex of the pyramid was ‘engagement in responsible national policy development’.

Was that company right and others wrong in its interpretation of CSR? Of course, they were right. That is the beauty of ‘glocality’. It is not an ‘either–or’ mentality, but a ‘both–and’ approach. The other interesting observation is that they had formed a cooperative of farms in order to tackle CSR. Individually, they were too small to justify a sustainable business programme, but collectively, it made sense. This is one of the ways that SMEs can address sustainable business, through pooling their resources and collaborating.

I gained more insights into sustainable business and SMEs when I visited Mexico in 2008, at the invitation of Jorge Reyes, Director of the IDEARSE Centre at Anahuac University, which is doing some excellent work on the subject. In 2009, I was invited back to deliver the keynote address at its 7th International CSR Conference, and again in 2010 to run a workshop, so I got to know a little bit about its research programme.

In response to a government-sponsored project aimed at SME growth acceleration, IDEARSE put together an approach for supporting growth of the businesses through the implementation of a sustainable business administration model that would develop competitive advantages for the companies. Built into its business training programme, therefore, were six elements for SME development: self-regulation, stakeholders, human rights, environment, labour and social/community impact. Working with the supply chains of big brands such as Sony, Coca-Cola and Cemex, IDEARSE have taken more than many SMEs through the programme, with impressive results. On average across the six sustainable business dimensions, the SMEs improved from a score of 23% to 43%, while simultaneously showing average annual sales growth of 30%. They have effectively demonstrated that CSR is perfectly feasible for SMEs and may even be constructed as part of a growth and competitiveness strategy.

In 2008, on another trip to Mexico City …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/blog_csrwire6_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Going glocal with CSR: Multilateral musings in Mexico (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) Going glocal with CSR: Multilateral musings in Mexico, Wayne Visser Blog Series, 24 July 2013.

 

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Practising Social Responsibility Without the CSR Label

Practising social responsibility without the CSR label

Article by Wayne Visser

An International Sustainable Business column for The Guardian

Mexico’s small and medium sized enterprises account for more than 99% of the four million businesses in the country, generate 52% of GDP and provide 72% of employment. The government’s business accelerator programme supports these SMEs by funding institutions that can help the sector grow by improving competitiveness, business opportunities and market scalability.

One such business accelerator is the IDEARSE Center at Anahuac University in Mexico City. The centre’s business model for SME acceleration is built around CSR, incorporating environmental impacts, human rights, self-regulation, social impacts and community involvement and stakeholder engagement.

More remarkable still is that, by working with the supply chains of big brands such as Sony, Coca-Cola and Cemex and having trained more than 150 SMEs since 2007, the SMEs achieved sales growth of between 5% and 37% and jobs growth of between 5% and 19%. At the same time SME performance across all six CSR areas has improved between 23% and 46%. These numbers debunk several popular myths, most notably that CSR is not relevant, too expensive or not incentivised for SMEs. Let’s look more closely at these myths.

Is CSR relevant for SMEs?

The issue of relevance largely hinges on whether you adopt a very literal and narrow interpretation of CSR. Laura Spence, director of the Royal Holloway, University of London’s Centre for Research into Sustainability, says that the terminology of CSR is both inaccurate (as small firms are unlikely to be corporations) and off-putting jargon for SMEs.

“Also since CSR practice is often associated with reporting, SMEs don’t stand a chance. They are unlikely to have external financial reports, let alone the time resources or need to produce a glossy CSR report,” says Spence.

So first, we need to get the labels and definitions right. The IDEARSE centre, for example, describes CSR as “a permanent and continuous commitment, voluntarily adopted by the business, to respond to the economic, social and environmental impacts of its activities, and to guarantee the sustainable and human development to all its stakeholders.” No doubt, it helps that CSR in Spanish (responsabilidad social empresarial or RSE) translates more accurately as socially responsible ‘enterprise’.

Explicit or implicit CSR?

The second issue – whether CSR is too costly – is a real concern, but once again, it depends what we mean by CSR. Work by CSR academics Dirk Matten and Jeremy Moon distinguish between explicit and implicit CSR. Explicit CSR refers to many of the formalised practices we associate with large corporates, such as CSR codes, standards, managers, systems, reports and audits. These are resource intensive and mostly not feasible for SMEs …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/article_mexico_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Practising Social Responsibility Without the CSR Label (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2012) Practising Social Responsibility Without the CSR Label, The Guardian, 12 September 2012.

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