January 29, 2009

2009 Leadership Conference on Global Corporate Citizenship

I spent today at the Conference Board's 2009 Leadership Conference on Global Corporate Citizenship. After a year and a half as a student, it was great to get back into the professional world and hear what CSR practitioners are talking about these days. Some of the day's major themes included the following:
  • Making the business case for CSR
  • Definitions - are sustainability, CSR, etc. all the same thing? What's included in and what's excluded from the definitions? Does it matter?
  • Environmental concerns - especially water and energy
  • Government regulations and their relationship to corporate engagement
  • Collaboration among competitors (i.e., industry initiatives)
  • Public/private partnerships

Perhaps most of all, though, the current economic environment came up again and again. Will we see "CSR attrition" in the coming months? Does the bad economy mean that companies, facing low profits, should back off from CSR for awhile? Or does increased need suggest that this is the time to step up such commitments?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but I did recently read
an article that addresses this debate through the metaphor of soccer. While I never played soccer, I found the framework both insightful and accessible. The article was written by Shankar Venkateswaran last June, before we really knew how bad it would get, and he's talking specifically about Indian companies, but it's just as relevant here (wherever that may be) and now.

Over the next few days, I'll be writing about the conference and the issues raised above. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading about responsibility and recessions through the lens of strikers and full-backs!

January 28, 2009

Welcome to Reimagining CSR! 

This blog will explore innovations and trends in corporate social responsibility, with an emphasis on initiatives that serve both a social impact motive and a profit motive. For instance, I'm very interested in the overlapping worlds of creative capitalism, business at the base of the pyramid, cause marketing, for-profit social enterprise, and so on.

My name is Jessica Stannard-Friel, and I'm currently in my last semester of the MBA program at Harvard Business School. Prior to grad school, I worked for several years as a corporate philanthropy consultant; in that capacity, I helped companies to be more strategic and more effective in their social engagement activities. I deepened that experience by spending last summer working for a corporate foundation. Through this blog, I hope to layer together my work experience with the perspective I've gained in my MBA classes.

I hope that this blog will become a dialogue. In my posts, I plan to draw on sources including conversations with practitioners, books, articles, and conferences, but I think your comments and feedback could be the richest source of learning for me. Please don't hesitate to share your thoughts on these issues or your ideas for this blog by commenting or emailing me at ReimaginingCSR (at) gmail (dot) com.

As I consider where to go with this blog, I would really appreciate your feedback. In particular:

  • What are the major challenges currently facing the field of CSR? (e.g., difficulty measuring social and business impact)
  • What are the major unresolved conflicts in this field? (e.g., the ethics of making money by addressing social problems)
  • What are the major books, articles, websites, and other resources that a CSR practitioner must be aware of in order to be educated about this field?

If you have any thoughts on these questions, please comment - thank you!