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We can define in a simple way the CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, as the ability of a company to combine business with attention to the environment and society. In recent times, however, the term has been used more sustainability with respect to Corporate Social Responsibility.
But sustainability is CSR can they be considered synonyms? For years, when we talked about sustainability, we referred exclusively to the environmental one, while CSR also included the social and economic dimensions. Today, however, this is no longer the case: the three dimensions are part of any sustainable business strategy, of a different management culture, of a new way of doing business.
Being an organization CSRoriented it means adopting a sustainable strategic approach which includes commitments undertaken voluntarily and which go beyond what is required by law.
Corporate Social Responsibility: the commitment of companies in Italy is growing
An important change is also underway in our country: many companies are changing the very way of doing business to meet the needs of a market that asks all organizations to put attention to the environment and social issues first.
An important phenomenon for our country (mainly made up of SMEs) is the spread of the principles of CSR even in smaller organizations. If until a few years ago CSR only involved large companies, today SMEs are gearing up, as well as to respond to a request for greater sustainability from people, also because they are included in important supply chains where large customers ask for of green processes and products.
To demonstrate the growth of this trend, we can take participation in The CSR and social innovation exhibition which has been organized for many years at Bocconi. www.csreinnovazionesociale.it
If in 2015 the “protagonists” of the event were just over 100 organizations, in 2016 the number of participants rose by over 30%: in fact, over 140 companies were present. And an important number is expected for the next edition which will be on 3 and 4 October 2017.
For those attending the CSR Show, it is an opportunity to interact with other realities and to communicate at what point is their path towards sustainability.
Communication and sustainability: relationships change
First do and then say: companies that believe in CSR know that declarations of intent or principle are useless. To be able to communicate your commitment and be credible, you need to have changed your strategy and implemented concrete actions.
But it is also necessary to have a different approach to the relationship with the children than in the past stakeholders, the stakeholders of the organization. The company that intends to create a positive relationship e dialoguing with its stakeholders must carefully choose the means to reach them and to involve them. In fact, being responsible means meeting the needs of different audiences: it is not the people who must approach the organization but it is the organization that must go towards the people.
A company that wants to be sustainable and inclusive must start from the basic tools to communicate CSR and to share principles and values with internal and external audiences. Some are used in particular for accountability, auditing and reporting such as certifications and social reports; others, such as the Charter of Values, the Code of Ethics, the Code of Conduct are also useful for regulating relations between the organization and its internal and external audiences.
In my latest book Communication and sustainability: 20 theses for the futurehowever, I affirm that today being responsible, transparent, coherent is no longer enough: we need to be able to engage stakeholders by changing the very way of conceiving relationships in decision-making processes and communication strategies. A paradigm shift that puts everyone in a virtuous circle in which everyone has something to gain.
Corporate Social Responsibility: towards the future
Organizations that have changed their approach to business making it sustainable are more innovative and perform better. And there will be more and more because many companies have realized that being sustainable is not a postponable choice.
In some cases this new awareness leads to a change in the governance organization: for example, the number of Benefit Corporations is growing, a new business model where those who govern are asked to take into account environmental and social performance as well as economic and financial performance.
In this rapidly changing scenario, communication also needs to renew itself: it must increasingly be a tool for sharing principles, values, projects. It must be convincing, experiment with new languages and channels, it must be able to face problems in a multidisciplinary way by adopting a creative and responsible approach to engage people and make them feel part of an overall project.
Today the real challenge is in fact to find the right words and channels to share important values with an ever wider audience.
April 30, 2017