For our final chapter in this series, we will focus on the necessity of proper leadership when building corporate social responsibility (CSR) into your business. In his final section of "What is Strategy?," Porter emphasizes that executing a strategy relies on differentiating activities, choosing the right trade-offs, and communicating clearly. No matter your role, you can be a leader in implementing CSR at your business.
For Those Directing The Vision
One of the best lessons learned in the article is, "General management is more than the stewardship of individual functions. Its core is strategy: defining and communicating the company's unique position, making trade-offs, and forging fit among activities" (18). As an executive or high-level manager, you can use CSR to assert, support, and reinforce your values and mission, no matter the size business you are running.
Good leaders at high-level management can use CSR to:
As a person receiving your responsibilities from above, implementing CSR into a strategy may seem quite difficult. Although your actions may not be as significant in terms of strategy, your leadership can help create the change. As outlined throughout the "What is Strategy?" article, improvements in each function lead to operational effectiveness. To make an impact on the entire company, however, Porter asserts that sharing your successes across channels is a critical step. Furthermore, making your messages clear allows for high-level management to easily understand and replicate your ideas properly.
Good leaders at the functional level can use CSR to:
- Be innovative and share successes.
- Follow and reinforce what higher-level management wants.
- Create a stronger team through completing CSR projects together (e.g. volunteering as a department).
For Those Purchasing The Vision (Customers)
As a customer, what you say and how you act help businesses adjust their strategies. Throughout this series, we discussed several CSR practices that have been based on customer demands. SCA's customers demanded sustainable packaging and Nordstrom went to its customers when designing their CSR program. If businesses have focused their strategy on your customer segment, they will need to follow you.
Good leaders at the customer level can use CSR to:
- Advocate new ideas on product requirements through in-person communication, surveys, reviews, or emails.
For this series, we hope that no matter what your role is, you can help ensure CSR is being incorporated into a business' strategy. Those at the top of the business need to believe that CSR is a necessary tool and gaining their buy-in starts at any level of influence.
- Part 1: Overview and "Operational Effectiveness is Not Strategy" - Click here.
- Part 2: "Strategy Rests on Unique Activities" - Click here.
- Part 3: "A Sustainable Strategic Position Requires Trade-offs" - Click here.
- Part 4: "Fit Drives Both Competitive Advantage and Sustainability" - Click here.
- Part 5: "Rediscovering Strategy"
Brian Phipps is the Founder and a Strategist at Confluence in Denver, Colorado that consults small and mid-size businesses to increase their positive impacts and community connections in their corporate giving and social responsibility practices. To find out more go to www.ConfluenceLLC.com.