Monday, November 17, 2008

Growing Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility

There is an increasing emphasis on what is now generally labeled “CSR.” This emphasis takes many forms, including shareholder and external stakeholder interests, increasing legislative requirements, and corporate desire to do (and receive credit for doing) “the right thing” for the environment. But CSR goes far beyond the bounds of environmental interests, although that is where its original basis is found.

Green is good business. Whether their focus is construction, operations, technology, or any of the other competency areas, FM’s and the product and service providers who support them have gotten the message and are acting positively. This was not always the case. In the early days many FM’s tried to look the other way, fearful that “Green” would be just another fad. Many simply didn’t want to deal with it. Reality, however, has a way of changing our perspective. When Green moved from being a fringe agenda item to being a centerpiece of boardroom conversation priorities changed. That change came about because leaders were successful at doing two things – communicating the bottom line benefits and positive societal impacts of Green; and nurturing the grass roots support of the ideals, ideas, principles and purpose of the movement. Green is now seen as a societal and moral imperative and has the unwavering support of a growing critical mass, enjoying large corporate support because it has healthy implications to the “Triple Bottom Line.” Importantly, the pathway to Green offers lessons learned to other societal issues.

“Social Accounting” is a term FM’s should become familiar with if they aren’t already. Familiar with, comfortable with, and competent at, one suggests. Social Accounting refers to the ability to apply meaningful measures to the impacts of corporate social policy. While relatively easy to do when talking about energy reduction and the like, it may be harder to do when talking about other policies. Indeed, debate about the motivation and benefits of some policies may cloud the issue. For example, if a company decides to include a day care center in a new facility is that a decision driven by a desire to do something good for the workforce, the environment, or the company? The answer, of course, is that it is good for all three. Concrete information can be easily developed to support each case. Hours saved commuting to/from childcare, reduced carbon footprint, and improved staff morale and productivity are all measureable and verifiable. And that is the key – measure and verification. Data, facts, understanding, and wisdom are the elements of driving and sustaining change. FM’s have a responsibility to all of their constituents to be able to quantify the societal implications of corporate policy and initiative in real life, meaningful, and actionable terms.

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