Corporate Social Responsibility

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The 2015 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

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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.

Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop open innovation program nurtures collaboration with individuals and companies globally to develop new ideas and products. Image from Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAvwst8FAuk.
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How Procter & Gamble Uses External Ideas For Internal Innovation

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Using its own version of open innovation called Connect + Develop, Procter & Gamble is now accessing externally developed intellectual property to accelerate internal innovation. Its Live Well Collaborative, for instance, was founded by Procter & Gamble and the University of Cincinnati with the goal of specializing in research and development of products and services for the 50+ market.

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Sustainability Dialects

All functional areas have their own “language” to express the concepts most important to their roles in a company. In the fourth installment of his series on the Sustainability Insurgency, Gregory Unruh explains how CSR officers can introduce sustainability as part of the conversation in different functions.

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Mobilizing the Insurgency

The sustainability director’s goal? Empower allies inside of companies to link social intelligence with their job responsibilities and the company’s overall sustainability strategy. In the third installment of the series on corporate social responsibility insurgencies, Gregory Unruh examines how managers offer leadership in establishing and nurturing sustainability projects — and culture — in their companies.

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Combining Purpose With Profits

It’s an old idea: If you want to build a company that truly motivates its employees, it has to have a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose that transcends making money can motivate employees. But to sustain both a sense of purpose and a solid level of profitability over time, companies need to pay attention to several fundamental organizing principles, including the need for support systems that reinforce goals.

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Bringing Sustainability Metrics to Purchasing Decisions

When hotel chain Hilton Worldwide looked at supply chain sustainability, it lacked tools to help weigh sustainability factors. Hilton partnered with sustainability consultant BSR to create the Center for Sustainable Procurement. In this interview with MIT SMR’s David Kiron, Hilton’s VP of supply management William Kornegay and Eric Olson of BSR discuss how the initiative evolved.

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Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility to a Cynical Public

Companies are increasingly engaging in CSR activities. But unless companies communicate their CSR achievements wisely to stakeholders, they fear being accused of greenwashing. A study of CSR communication practices in 251 European corporations yields seven guidelines for effective CSR communication. The authors conclude that many beliefs about the risks associated with CSR communication are exaggerated, and that companies that communicate honestly about their activities have little to fear.

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New Ways to Engage Employees, Suppliers and Competitors in CSR

Timberland LLC, a global boot and outdoor apparel manufacturer, goes beyond simply telling the world about its sustainability work. According to Betsy Blaisdell, the company’s senior manager of environmental stewardship, it has creative new ways to involve employees and to partner with suppliers — and competitors. In this interview, Blaisdell talks about the environment “nutrition label” it’s developed for its footwear, and its partnership with 60 plus apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers and NGOs (from Adidas to Patagonia to DuPont to the World Resources Institute) to develop an environmental index called the Higg Index.

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