From CSR to lasting change – a series in 7 episodes
This is the seventh chapter in our series on how corporations can create real and lasting social change through your CSR efforts.
The series is based on the book “Change for Good – An Action-Oriented Approach for Businesses to Benefit from Solving the World’s Most Urgent Social Problems” by Paul Klein.
The series consists of the following articles:
1. Paul Klein has a message for corporations: Drop CSR Lite and make lasting change
2. So you want to create real social change? Here are 9 good questions to begin with
3. The Impakt Model: How to find your way to create change for good
4. Here are the 7 building blocks of Change for Good
5. Good CSR starts with your employees. Here’s how to involve them
6. Will a strong CSR profile damage your reputation? Check your risk here
7. Wanna make change for good? This is how you do it
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You have decided that your business should do more than just make money. You want to use your position and resources to make a social difference. But how do you turn your good intentions into reality? How do you go from talk to action?
The Canadian expert in CSR and social change, Paul Klein, has formulated seven steps that you can use to secure the resources you need to make change for good.
1: Learn from people with lived experience
What kind of problem would like to work on – and what do people who have experienced the problem themselves think should be done?
Do they think that their situation can be improved or that the problem can be solved completely?
Which community, government, or other organization do you think is doing the most to solve the problem?
And is there a possibility that they themselves can be involved more in that organization’s work to address the problem?
Without good answers to these and similar questions, you will not understand the problem enough to take effective action. Making change for good depends on getting input from people who have first-hand experience with the problem you set out to solve.
2: Conduct a social audit
In addition to involving people with lived experience, you must research your chosen social issue carefully. Your investigation can consist of desk research or interviews with experts. When you’re able to consult with the most knowledgeable people, there is rarely a need for more than five to ten conversations.
Here are a few questions to which you need to find an answer:
Who is most affected by the problem you want to tackle?
Has the problem changed over time and what developments can be expected in the future?
To what extent are NGOs, authorities and other companies engaged in advocacy, funding, research or direct remediation of the problem? And how?
Are there examples of others having succeeded in solving the problem elsewhere in the country – or globally?
Is the problem relevant to companies in your value chain?
Who are other experts on the problem and what do they think needs to be done to overcome it?
3: Is the problem relevant to your employees
As we have written in a previous guide, your employees have first-hand knowledge and
experience of your company and can help you understand and advocate for your social mission.
They have knowledge and experience that can benefit you. And if they are committed to solving the problem, you will go much further. Hold structured processes where your employees can provide experiences and input at meetings and informal conversations. Remember that not everyone is equally excited to speak their mind in a large gathering. Make sure to provide the opportunity to submit input in writing.
4: Go through the risk checklist
If you have read the previous guides, you know that we have published a checklist that reviews the risks associated with businesses that actively help to solve social problems. You can find the checklist here.
5: Engage your managers
Developing a business case for social change is not accomplished with the snap of a finger. If you only involve the people you usually involve, you’ll get the suggestions you’ve always gotten. Therefore, you must ensure that managers at all levels and in all departments are involved. The most valuable input can come from unexpected places.
Ask yourselves – and your managers – what your strategic priorities for the near future look like – and how an investment in social change can fit into the strategy?
What data do executives need to make an investment decision?
Who do managers at all levels suggest that you involve in the development of your business case?
6: Co-create your business case
Plan a development process that involves broad input from both internal and external stakeholders. For example, hold a larger event to which you invite a wide circle of people inside your business along with external stakeholders and people with lived experience who are in contact with the problem you want to solve.
Find outAsk yourself what the overall view from employees, other companies and external
stakeholders is of the problem and the opportunities for your business to help address the
problem in a way that is most aligned with who your company is and what is does.
How will you validate, test and further develop the knowledge you have already acquired about
the social problem?
How will you build a community that can support and contribute to your company’sbuild on your
work investment in with social change?
7: Assess your return on integrity
What is the value of doing the right thing?
Keep that question in the back of your mind as you set about creating social change. According to Paul Klein, there are four central values that you can work with to strengthen your integrity – and thus your business:
• Honesty: Companies that are honest with customers, business partners, investors and legislators are seen as companies of high integrity.
• Respect: In order to create good cooperation, companies, employees and stakeholders need to respect and use each other’s differences. Integrity is about building a culture full of empathy and respect internally as well as externally.
• Accountability: Companies build integrity when they act responsibly – within the company’s own walls and towards other companies, customers and the surrounding community.
• Trust: There is really only one way to build trust: Set the expectations right by telling what you intend to do; live up to the expectations by doing what you said; and remind the world of what you have done. Over time you build trust from employees and people outside the company.