April 10, 2013

CSR Practitioners: Connecting the Dots within Your Company

How do you connect the dots on social impact within your company?  How do you break down silos and break through the fog to identify and leverage the cool things happening in different departments and offices? 

I've had two experiences recently that have made me mull this issue.  I'm currently working on our paper policy, setting goals for how we can improve our environmental impact by improving the choices we make around paper procurement and usage.  As I started digging, I discovered that, actually, we're already doing a pretty awesome job.  We have growth areas, of course, but this is absolutely on our procurement team's radar, and they've been doing great work.  At the same time, our distribution centers have been implementing some wonderful initiatives, the teams that handle excess inventory have been really responsible about how they deal with it, our facilities team thinks a lot about this, etc.  That's obviously great - individually, these groups are all having a terrific impact.  Collectively, though, I think we've been missing an opportunity - certainly an opportunity to tell our story more effectively, but also the chance to bring these groups together, to leverage their work to make the whole more than the sum of the parts.

I had a similar experience a few months ago, when I was filling out a survey by an advocacy organization.  The previous year, we hadn't scored very well.  This past year, our score shot up, in part because I dug up a lot more information than had been available to the person who filled it out the year before - these were things we'd been doing all along, but that we hadn't reported on previously, because we didn't have access to the right information.  Like with the paper policy work, it required collaborating with a range of colleagues across a variety of departments.  In many cases, it also required that I reframe the questions in a way that made sense to my colleagues - they were written in a way that made sense to me as a CSR practitioner, but not necessarily to a benefits coordinator or a publicist.  Pulling all this information together not only mitigated a reputational risk by helping us avoid another low score, but also gave me a clearer picture of where the company is on this issue and, therefore, where our growth opportunities lie.

This makes me wonder about all the other instances in which I'm not making the connection.  What great opportunities are out there that I'm not leveraging because I'm seeing a data point here or an instance there, and I can't see how they fit together into something compelling?  I think this is a particular issue for CSR practitioners, particularly as more companies evolve to a shared value approach, because so much of the work we do requires significant collaboration with other business units.  In many cases, we aren't carrying out the activities at all, but rather influencing or spotlighting or helping the people who do.

How do you connect the dots within your organization?  Are there particular habits or practices you implement to make these connections?  Recently, my team has been thinking a lot about internal networking - for instance, we're each reaching out to at least two colleagues a month for informal get-to-know-you chats, to learn more about their areas of the business and to share how we think our work intersects with theirs, and then we're reporting back to one another at our monthly meeting.  I'm hopeful that this will help, but I know it isn't enough.  What else would you recommend we try?

1 comment:

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