Blogs & Comment

10 Ways to Stay Responsible

Almost a year agoDennis Schaal, Editor of CRO Magazine(CRO being Corporate Responsibility Officer) interviewed me for an article he wrote called 10 Ways to Stay Responsible During an Economic Slowdown.I just re-read it and thought it was worth sharing the highlights:

1. Up the Ante and Accelerate Corporate Responsibility Initiatives

If a company has developed a strategy that incorporates or is driven by corporate responsibility issues, given the huge growth in consumer interest and demand for more responsible companies, as well as increasing external drivers, now is the time to accelerate progress if you are truly focused on long-term value,Jeffrey Hollender, the President and Chief Inspired Protagonist of Seventh Generationsays.

2. Focus and Prioritize

One prominent retailer, who declined to be identified,noted that many companies cant afford any CR letdown because customers demand that corporations track the sustainability of their products and gauge the overall CR health of the companies they do business with.

3. Think Different and Tell the World About It

Paul Klein, the President of Impakt, a corporate responsibility consulting firm in Toronto, agrees on the need to tout your value proposition.The ROI of this is clearer differentiation, stronger sales, better supplier and customer relationships, more consumer loyalty and improved investor relations, Klein says.

4. Share and Share Alike

Strike a deal,Krista Pilot, a Senior Vice President at DKC,counsels. CR is multidisciplinary covering legal, Human Resources, environment and communications, so go out and make friends with your fellow corporate department heads to see if you can collaborate on CR projects and share the costs.

5. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

The biggest challenge is how to be seen as responsible when significant operational changes are needed, Klein says. Theres no easy answer for a company thats had to downsize its operations in a local community. There are a few ways to minimize the reputational damage, but these all involve earlier foresight and groundwork.

6. In Lean Times, Lean on Your Partners, Get More Efficient

Robert Leffel, associate director of the Ethisphere Institutein New York City, believes there is solid reason for ramping up your investment into corporate responsibility efforts and communication in sluggish economic times as the battle for the customer and profit is more fierce.Still, Leffel notes that there is a good chance during such a downturn to negotiate better rates from advertising and communication vendors.

7. Get a New Analysis of Your Risky Business

Given the increasing media scrutiny of corporate responsibility by NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and the media, now is the time to update your risk analysis and determine if accelerating investments in dealing with anything related to reputational risk is appropriate, Hollender says.

8. Get Trendy, or Trend-Conscious, At Least

Take a look at what your competition is doing, saysChris Park, a Principal at Deloitte Consulting. Then take a look at where the legislature is leaning, not just at the federal level, but also at the state and municipality levels in all of the locations where you do business. Assess market trends here and abroad. Once you have this information, youll know what to do.

9. Check Your Reality and Shift Around Your Budget, if Necessary

If the bulk of your corporate responsibility budget has been dedicated to corporate communications or public relations, it may be time to re-apportion it so that operations and governance get a greater share. Park says.Of course, if you have your act in gear and already can walk the walk, then it may be time to increase the public relations budget and let the world know about your efforts and brand.

10. Keep the Faith

The economy is like an elevator: what goes up must go down.And, if you have done your corporate responsibility homework and kept integrating sustainability as a way of doing business, your efforts should put your company on solid ground.