Thursday, January 24, 2008

CSR: Too much of a good thing?

According to Daniel Franlin, the business of trying to be good corporate citizens (or at least being seen to be virtuous) has been booming: witness the volume of glossy "sustainability" reports companies now churn out, and the thriving job market for CSR specialists. But as the British and American economies turn down and corporate profits are squeezed, firms are bound to take a closer look at their CSR efforts and ask how much these really contribute to their business.

This scrutiny will be healthy, says the Economist report on CSR this week.

Few companies do CSR well. For many it is merely a sideline, often dressed up by the public-relations department to look like something terribly grand. CSR efforts tend to be unfocused, and not closely connected to firms' main business objectives. So a review of which activities make sense and which don't for a particular business may be timely. And if the result is a bit less waffle about how a company is helping to save the planet, so much the better.

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