The poster child for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) happens to also be “the most notoriously corrupt company in business history”. Enron whose name is now a byword for corporate greed, corruption and deceit on a truly remarkable scale, was also the deserving recipient of a climate protection award from the EPA, and a corporate conscience award from the Council on Economic Priorities.
Despite its misplaced moral compass, Enron managed to do quite a lot of good by aligning the direction its profits came from with “the greater good”. I know the mention of Enron brings up a lot of emotional responses so suffice to say that its example in this particular regard is one to be closely studied and perhaps, emulated.
Ever mindful of where its moral compass pointed towards (a.k.a. profits) Enron was quick to identity and then align with initiatives that whilst good for the environment and good for the planet, also were going to make it money.
There is a classic mistake made by those who shun corporate social responsibility in that they see it as a costly exercise that garners PR points but drains resources and slims down the bottom line. That’s old thinking.
The world has always been connected but when those connections ran slow seeing it as an assembly of largely compartmentalized segments, each ruled by its own unique dynamic was an approximation that worked. This is no longer the case.
The world has accelerated. Technological advances have delivered reduced friction in communication, finance and trade and this has produced a quickening that has made ignoring the interconnectivity that exists both short-sighted and illogical.
When business was strictly local the connections and impact a business enjoyed was so localized that for most it made little sense to get involved in anything but the most perfunctory of corporate social responsibility initiatives. Today, even the most local of business is part of a global pattern of buying and selling. The commoditization of goods and services has changed the way consumers decide where to spend their money. Social media has made corporate efforts transparent and immediate to the point that now there is equity to it contributing to brand value and audience appeal.
When everything is a commodity what matters to a potential customer is their perception of the business they feel they support with their money. That business had better then be sure that the values it projects and the ethos that guides it are in alignment with the audience it targets.
Having a corporate responsibility initiative in place need not be a drain on resources, but for that you need to have a long term plan and an eye for win-win scenarios. If Enron, of all companies, managed to do that then surely anyone can.