By Ashley Coale
So what exactly did Unilever CMO Keith Weed mean when he told the annual Marketing Society audience in London at the end of last year that CSR departments have become redundant? Well, besides meaning to be just a little bit provocative, he also meant that the time has come to look past add-on CSR units within a corporation and start thinking about integration.
Calling a CSR department redundant wasn’t Weed’s way of saying CSR or sustainability efforts no longer have value. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Much like the example that Unilever is striving to set, integrated sustainability means putting sustainable principles into every facet of business operations. CSR is not the sole purvey of corporate affairs, the corporate foundation, the marketing department or even facilities. It’s part of all these departments and more. With integration, sustainability drives strategy, planning and the core of what and who the business is.
Companies that put integrated sustainability into practice strive to build a culture of environmental and social responsibility. Fostering a culture that embraces these values down to every decision is an effective way to standardize and insure compliance. (See Bertel’s Framework for more on this idea). Leaders such as Intel and Cisco incorporate sustainability goals – among other core frameworks – into individual employee performance reviews and base bonuses on successful achievement of these goals.
Intel and Cisco, among other leaders, also work to integrate sustainability into governance strategy. Board-level planning and decisions to embed sustainability into strategy reinforces this type of corporate culture. It also pushes the company to take a longer-term approach and innovate for the future challenges of a resource-constrained world. (For more on Intel and Cicso, check out their ratings on CSRHub. Intel scores a 66 and Cisco scores a 69.)
With the whole team on board, and executive reinforcement, there is no longer an isolated CSR effort. Instead, sustainability becomes a part of each decision, product and service. Nike’s Considered Design is an example of sustainability at conception, design and production of a product. Rather than looking at how to reduce impact after the product is made and shipped, Nike has taken a leadership role in employing principles of sustainable design right from the start. Integrated sustainability means thinking about this challenge every step of the way and in every conference room, office, assembly line and factory.
Photo courtesy of US Embassy New Delhi
Ashley Coale has a long-standing passion for business sustainability and the impact that strong, effective communications campaigns can have in catalyzing change. As the Social Media Editor, Ashley manages social media and communications outreach at CSRHub. She is responsible for crafting and implementing content and strategy. Her communications experience includes a wide range of causes including international development, human rights, and federal and municipal sustainability policy. She holds a bachelors degree from Wellesley College and a Masters degree from the London School of Economics. A native of Portland, Oregon, she now makes her home in Brooklyn.