Sunday, July 25, 2010

Linking Leadership to Social Responsibility

In many organisations it’s the implementation phase of business initiatives where things often go wrong and this is just as true with the implementation of corporate social responsibility (CSR). As Epstein, Buhovac and Yuthas (2010) state “the challenge lies in how to actually integrate sustainability into operational and capital investment decision making and implement it successfully in large, complex, for-profit organisations,” (p.41).

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development identified, after analysing several surveys and case studies, that those organisations which design and implement focused CSR programmes, “attract better talent and have employees that are more motivated, loyal and innovative.” This view has been supported by further research and in a detailed survey by Environics International in 2002, (that questioned 25,000 employees from 25 different countries) they found that eighty percent of employees “felt greater motivation and loyalty towards their jobs and companies, the more socially responsible their employers became,” (Glavas and Piderit, 2009, p.55).

In fact Epstein, Buhovac and Yuthas highlight that “leadership and organisational culture are the most critical determinants in successfully managing the various trade-offs that middle managers face when they try to manage and control, social, environmental and financial performance simultaneously,” (p.43).

To be able to effectively incorporate CSR into your organisation, you need to understand the key social responsibility issues that apply to your organisations products and services, as well as your community. Often these facts can be sadly lacking, where organisations either are too focused on their own financial growth that they have lost sight of the ‘world’ they operate in; or organisations make assumptions about social responsibility issues because they are ‘the flavour of the month’ rather than what is required on the ground.

Leaders need to ensure that CSR is an integral part of their strategy and that the appropriate structures, systems and procedures are developed and aligned to the CSR goals. Further the organisation needs to engage fully with all their employees so that they are aware and understand the impact of the CSR issues on the business and their community. This will ensure that the organisation commits to the CSR strategy from a basis of ownership rather than lethargic compliance. We must remember that CSR is about leadership, culture and education and if we don’t understand CSR and the impact it has on our business and community, then we cannot implement it effectively.

At the educational level, CSR has already started, with currently over 200 Management Schools signing up to the ‘Principles of Responsible Management Education’, backed by the UN and first developed in 2006.

In support of linking CSR with education, leadership and organisational development, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the academic community at a global forum on 5th December 2008, and stated that ”as teachers, you can ensure that tomorrow’s leaders understand that the long-term growth of a business is tied to its environmental and social impact. As scholars, you can produce research that drives innovation and helps management to recognize the benefits of being a responsible business. And as thought leaders and advocates in your communities, you help advance awareness of broader challenges, opportunities and responsibilities, (Glavas and Piderit, 2009, p.67).

To conclude Epstein, Buhovac and Yuthas believe that “leadership, organisational culture and people may be among the most important drivers of effective sustainability decision making. CEO’s should communicate – and over communicate – the importance of sustainability and establish a culture of integrating sustainability into day-to-day management decisions,” (p.47).


Epstein, M., Buhovac, S.R., and Yuthas, K. (2010). Implementing Sustainability: The Role of Leadership and Organisational Culture. Strategic Finance, Vol. 91, Issue 10, p.41-47.

Glavas, A. and Piderit, S.K. (2009). How Does Doing Good Matter? Effects of Corporate Citizenship on Employees. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Issue 36, p.51-70.

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