It’s no secret that consumer demand for brands and businesses to be more accountable to their communities and to the world at large for living up to their social responsibilities has forced companies to become more engaged and activism-minded. But now, new research reveals that a rising mandate for CSR is resulting in CEOs choosing positive social impact over other business goals, including making more money.
CEOs and C-suite executives in all sectors are more deeply involved in CSR, as these programs are increasingly integral to a company’s culture and its recently connections to customers and employees, according to a new Executive Monitor report from leadership and talent advisory firm Boyden.
The report, CEOs and the New CSR Priority, focuses on CSR across industry sectors becoming an effective vehicle for engaging employees, attracting customers, managing costs, and keeping pace with the competitive landscape. The emphasis on CSR is pushing CEOs and other senior executives to engage in dialogues with a wider variety of stakeholders, fast-track innovation and solutions, and better measure social impact initiatives.
“CSR has evolved, and more recently taken on a moral tone,” said Lynn Ogden, partner at Boyden United States, in a news release. “Leaders who embrace CSR see it as an integral and foundational part of their company’s DNA and corporate culture. More often top CEOs are choosing positive social impact to the potential detriment of initial financial returns. For today’s CEO, it is about engaging with customers for a better future and not just short-term gains.”
“It is absolutely essential that the CEO and C-suite be involved,” added Amanda Eversole, head of public affairs and managing director of corporate responsibility at JPMorgan Chase & Co., in the release. “These individuals serve as a company’s cultural center and have great influence over the entire employee base’s attitude toward the importance of corporate responsibility.”
The report also focuses on new hurdles as well as opportunities in building CSR:
- CEOs and corporate leaders are increasingly viewed as both directors and models of society’s moral compass
- Greater CSR often challenges business practices, including supply chain management
- Building more environmentally and socially sustainable business practices creates uncertainty, particularly in the short and medium terms
- CSR initiatives create opportunities for new and improved direction for the organization
“The implementation of effective CSR strategies requires that CEOs be better communicators, more informed at large, and more receptive to challenges,” said Kevin Gregor, partner of Boyden Canada, in the release. “If done right, it has the potential to create stronger communities, where corporate leaders also serve as community leaders.”
“Leadership from the CEO level is important in that it sets the tone from the top for the rest of the company,” said Iván Arriagada, Group CEO of Antofagasta plc, in the release. “However, for a company to fully embrace this business model and mindset, the emphasis on social responsibility needs to be very cross-sectional.”
“In Chile and throughout Latin America, CSR is deeply ingrained in our business system and it is a top-down policy in many corporations,” added John Byrne, managing partner of Boyden Chile, in the release. “CEOs lead these actions and empower their implementation. In today’s world a company that is not validated by its stakeholders will not be around or will certainly fade in the near future.”
The Boyden report is supported by in-depth interviews with Boyden partners and top executives including Iván Arriagada, Group CEO, Antofagasta plc; Simon Levine, Global Co-CEO, DLA Piper and Amanda Eversole, Head of Public Affairs and Managing Director of Corporate Responsibility JPMorgan Chase & Co.