Corporate Social Responsibility

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What’s Your Strategy for Supply Chain Disclosure?

How much information should a company disclose about its supply chain? In addition to having to be lean, agile, and sustainable, today’s supply chains are increasingly the focus of growing attention from a variety of external stakeholders. These stakeholders often want information beyond what the company is legally obliged to disclose. But many companies have limited visibility of their supply chain information and have not fully considered their disclosure strategy.

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Environmental and Human Rights Assume a New Urgency for Boards

The G7 summit in June of 2015 and the G20 meeting in November both upheld the idea that businesses have a responsibility to respect environmental and human rights principles. As such concerns take center stage, business leaders must recognize their role in navigating the new regulatory environment. As environmental and human rights risks rise in importance, board members are at risk of being seen as negligent if they fail to ensure that their companies comply with the G20/OECD Principles and the standards to which the Principles refer.

Photo courtesy of Patagonia/Dylan Lucas Gordon.
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Why Sustainability-Oriented Innovation Is Valuable in Every Context

While the most basic form of Sustainability-Oriented Innovation has led to combining sustainability practices with revenue generation, more refined forms of SOI target innovation at different stages and in different contexts. Jay, the director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan, along with Gonzalez and Gerard, write that "SOI allows companies to push beyond their usual innovation boundaries and their typical business protocols."

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Finishing School for Social Intrapreneurs

The Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program is focused on developing business leaders for a sustainable society. One of its fundamental founding questions was, “If we want business to operate in a way that’s attentive to long-term value creation and an array of stakeholders, what kind of leadership do we need?” The solution: Aspen’s “First Movers” program, cultivating creative intrapreneurs dedicated to products and management practices that enhance profitability without negative social and environmental impacts.

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What Companies Can Learn From Social Scalers

A new breed of social entrepreneurs has evolved. “Social scalers” focus on market-based solutions that can be scaled up to create social change. Their goal: transform social problems into business opportunities on a national or even global scale. The authors of Strategy and Competitiveness in Latin American Markets: The Sustainability Frontier (Edward Elgar, 2014) look at how companies seeking to address social issues can learn from these social scalers.

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The Leaders’ Choice

The next generation of business executives will face a choice: What kind of companies do they want to lead? Organizations that will treat most employees as costs to be minimized — or ones where both employees and the company prosper together? So-called “high-road” companies begin with different values and assumptions about the workplace. But few MBAs are learning about high-road strategies in their courses, and they don’t learn that they will have distinct choices in how to compete.

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Why Boards Must Look Beyond Shareholders

Shareholders are just one audience a board of directors considers when making decisions for the corporation. Others include employees, customers, suppliers, and NGOs. In the face of limited resources, directors must make choices regarding the significance of the corporation’s many audiences. Given obligations to multiple stakeholders, the authors suggest that boards of directors issue an annual “Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality” to identify the company’s significant audiences.

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The 2015 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

This year’s winning article is “Combining Purpose With Profits,” by Julian Birkinshaw, Nicolai J. Foss, and Siegwart Lindenberg. The authors examine a familiar question for managers: How can the tension between purpose and profits be best managed? The article explores the kinds of structures companies need to pursue "pro-social" goals. The Beckhard Prize is awarded annually to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development.

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Why Sustainability Ratings Matter

The convergence of communications technology, big data and globalized markets make ratings based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance indispensable for B2B and B2C exchanges. Credible, transparent and timely ratings are a powerful enhancement in a fast-moving global economy. As ESG issues are recognized as material to investment decision making, the need for trusted, transparent ESG ratings will intensify.

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To Red-Card Corruption, You Have to Know What a Foul Is

Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, is in crisis over corruption — and MIT Sloan Management Review’s guest editor for Sustainability, Gregory Unruh, says the situation offers a useful case study for corporate social responsibility. By looking at the FIFA scandal, Unruh argues, managers can learn how to identify corruption from a systems perspective — and understand why it harms their business.

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Why Corporate Social Responsibility Isn’t a Piece of Cake

Corporate Social Responsibility "is fraught with contradictions, subject to political challenges and demands deep commitment," argue José Carlos Marques and Henry Mintzberg. Responsible corporate behavior, they write, isn't simply “doing well by doing good.” Instead, six changes need to be considered, within and beyond our private institutions. These changes include fostering ethical judgment within the enterprise, rethinking compensation and acknowledging the benefits of regulation.

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MasterCard Pins Down the Cash Economy

When impoverished families in developing nations receive government subsidies in cash, the system is an easy target for abuse, fraud, and theft — and some of the world’s most vulnerable people suffer from economic insecurity as a result. MasterCard seeks to change that by helping governments move to a non-cash system. A 2012 initiative launched in South Africa highlights both short- and long-term benefits of the approach for the company, the government, and some of South Africa’s poorest citizens.

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Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability

In the 2014 Sustainability Report, new research by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the UN Global Compact, shows that a growing number of companies are turning to collaborations — with suppliers, NGOs, industry alliances, governments, even competitors — to become more sustainable. Our research found that as sustainability issues become increasingly complex, global in nature and pivotal to success, companies are realizing that they can’t make the necessary impact acting alone.

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Why It Pays to Become a Rule Maker

Managers in some leading companies have pioneered a new approach to sustainability. In this approach, businesses have the potential to be rule makers as well as players in establishing environmental regulations. “There is an expression in Washington,” says DuPont’s Michael Parr, “that it is better to be at the table than on the menu.” Indeed, by engaging with government on the structure of the phaseout of air conditioning chemicals, DuPont helped bring an end to one profitable product life cycle and spawn another.

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The Sustainability Insurgency: Missives from the Front Lines, Part 2

In part two of two, Gregory Unruh talks to Emma Stewart, Autodesk’s head of sustainability, about how social intelligence helps CSR advocates in the company to win colleagues’ buy-in. The use of such intelligence supports CSR managers’ ability to create a sustainability business case.

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The Crucial — and Underappreciated — Role of HR in Sustainability

Recent research by the Center for Effective Organizations shows that most companies aren’t relying on HR departments as part of their sustainability focus — yet most think there’s an opportunity for HR to play a major role in the structuring of a company’s sustainability processes, practices and strategies.

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The Sustainability Insurgency: Missives from the Front Lines, Part 1

Emma Stewart, Autodesk’s head of sustainability, says that social intelligence helps CSR advocates in the company win colleagues’ buy-in. “In order to be a legitimized contributor to the business, you have to be as smart or smarter about your customers or other stakeholders as other business units,” Stewart says. The use of social intelligence, such as systematically calling on leading customers and “market-shapers” such as regulators, supports CSR managers’ ability to create a sustainability business case.

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Asia Pulp & Paper and Greenpeace: Building New Directions, Together

When two organizations are on opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to sustainability issues, it may seem like there’s no hope of ever reaching agreement. Such was the case when Greenpeace and Asia Pulp sat down to negotiate a truce after Greenpeace’s hard-hitting campaign to change Asia Pulp’s forestry practices, which Greenpeace saw as destroying endangered rainforest habitat. But as Asia Pulp’s Aida Greenbury explains, it’s possible even for two polar opposites to find areas of common ground and work together for sustainable business practices.

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