wanted – leaders!

Another year has come to past. Another 80 million people, net (all births minus all deaths), have taken up residence on over-taxed, groaning Planet Earth. Everything around us is being used up faster than it can be replenished. Some things cannot be replenished even if one tried, because the stock to start with is finite. Water for example. Essential for all life on Earth. A gloomy scenario at the end of the millennium?s first decade.

But wait! Good things have happened too in 2010. For one, the CSR Empire has expanded and become stronger, spreading its sphere of influence across the seven seas. Its warriors are now on all continents, advancing relentlessly and spreading enligh tenment. Lecturing, networking, cajoling. Their weapons? research, analysis, reports. Countering opposition, often strong and hostile, with the business case for CSR.

There remain pockets of resistance. There remain detractors and critics and disbelievers. But which great movement in history did not face such a lot?

The task though is far from accomplished. Year 2010 perhaps saw more CSR related activity taking place globally than in any other single year previously. Many more companies are now, more than ever before, filing an annual CSR report of one description or another. Many more companies are now embedding CSR into their business strategy than before. And to end off the year in fine fashion, ISO 26000 took birth in November. Though received with mixed opinions, it needs to be taken as what it is ? a first ever advisory guidelines document to get things going in the right direction.

So where do we go from here?

Praetor believes the ultimate goal of CSR should be to move beyond embedding CSR into business strategy and business operations of an organization, into embedding the spirit of CSR into every single individual that works for that organization. A company at the end of the day is people. The great religions have survived millennia and grown exponentially because of the people who believe in them. This is not to suggest that CSR too is a religion! But if the essence of religion is a defined way of life for goodness and well-being of all, then this too is the essence of CSR and its followers too must ‘practice’ CSR if you will, at an individual level to ensure both its longevity and the fruits of its success.

CSR in other words needs to reach a level where every employee in a company, voluntarily and with conviction, going beyond the company’s directives, follows a code of behavior that generates a positive outcome. A positive outcome in whichever way is possible in a given situation or job responsibility. There has to be a heightened sensitivity to one’s personal environmental footprint for example. Water usage, energy usage, paper usage; a personal commitment to reduce at every opportunity, not just for the company’s sake but for Mother Earth.

Can this happen? Yes, it can, but there is a critical condition for success. This may be true for most things to happen, but in the case of CSR, it is a mandatory requirement. CSR can be effective only if the numbero uno in the organization believes in it and leads by example. Sounds obvious and sounds simple. But closer examination will reveal that it is neither. Countless organizations exist that profess following good CSR practices, perhaps even publishing annual CSR reports, but with the top gun having little or no concern or connectivity to the organization’s CSR practice. There may even be a whole CSR department within the organization; even a director level head of department. But if the CEO is not involved, then it is not the same thing. And the simplest way to understand what difference this can make is to just consider for a moment a company in which the CEO is in fact involved.

So Praetor ends the year with this appeal to CEOs the world over. You can make it happen. You need to lead from the front. And you know something? This one grows on you and gives you a deep satisfaction!

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