How to become a “social purpose leader”
Paul Klein is the founder of Impakt. Impakt is a consulting firm that works with companies and their social responsibility programs. When Paul first started his consulting firm in 2001 the companies that he approached were not sold on social responsibility. 12 years ago, social responsibility was seen as trivial and most companies found a way around it. However, fast forward to today, 2013, and most companies view social responsibility as an important factor in what grows business.
A lot of companies figure they need a social responsibility program in place but, they don’t fully understand why it’s in place or even why it’s important. Klein has noticed a growing number of companies have been implementing corporate social responsibility programs on a “check box” basis. Management in most companies figure CSR is a necessity in order to compete in the marketplace but, they have little to no idea about what social responsibility really is and what it means.
One of Klein’s ideas is that businesses should step away from the term corporate responsibility and adopt the term “social purpose leaders” instead. A social purpose leader is an organization that realizes the way that it does business will have an impact both socially and on results. Klein believes that companies need to know exactly how their products and services influence the environment and other social issues. It isn’t good enough to just make sure a program is in place. A company needs to understand why that program is in place.
Klein has come up with ideas for social leaders that he believes are valuable in directing a company from the basic concept of CSR and the newer idea of social purpose leaders.
1. Set up an advisory council
Bring people from the community to meet and give feedback on the social responsibility activities that are in place. Klein states that too often businesses surround themselves with other businesses and they all think the same way. Bringing people from the community will allow new perspectives and valuable unfiltered feedback.
2. Drop the CSR reports
Klein says that most companies generate CSR reports and they are not necessary because very few people actually read them. Klein believes the social responsibility information should be included in the regular report, where it is more likely to be read by a greater number of people.
3. Have outsiders contribute to annual report
Klein suggests that people on the outside that are helped by the social responsibility program should have a say.
4. Link with controversial NGOs (Non-governmental organizations)
Klein argues that companies should take risks with the organizations that they are getting involved with and they should not shy away from the non-governmental organizations. He even further suggests that companies exchange their staff to work for a bit in an NGO and have the staff from the NGO work with the company for a certain period of time. By doing a staffing exchange, they will be able to understand each other from different perspectives.
5. Create a stakeholders blog
Klein suggests that companies allocate space on their website to allow for people to write about the business.
6. Don’t hide bad news
Don’t try and cover anything up. It is better to let the public know about pitfalls in the company than have the entire story come out later and tarnish the reputation of the company. Credibility is established when a business takes ownership.
7. Be provocative
Klein argues that companies should take a powerful stand on a particular issue and make a commitment to it regardless of the negative that may come about in doing so.
Personally, I believe that a company should really care about their social responsibility programs. As people become more aware and involved about business practises through technology, I believe just having a social responsibility program in place won’t be enough. A company has to understand why the social program is in place and how it influences social and environmental factors.
I agree with a few of Klein’s ideas. If a company is proactive in their approach to social responsibility and make a commitment to the program I believe they will leave a better impression on the consumer and the people viewing the company. It may be okay now for a company to have a program in place whether they understand it or not but, years from now will it be enough?
I think more companies need to adopt Klein’s way of thinking in order to be sustainable as a credible business in the future.
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