Is My Company Responsible? Five Quick Questions to Assess Your Company’s CSR Health

Dave Smith is a Ph.D. student at Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL) and has broad leadership experience including for-profit, non-profit, and military command.



Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is more than a buzzword; it’s a value for many of us as leaders.  In fact, research shows that companies who have active CSR strategies are perceived as more responsible, having better board oversight and employee training, and less corruption.  (Read more here.) 

Here are some quick thoughts on how to do a CSR Health Assessment of your organization. Not surprisingly, good CSR health starts with an honest look at your values.

1. Have we been able to put our values around the environment, people, and the role of profit into words that are understandable?
There’s nothing more painful to some of us than the meeting where we craft vision statements and mission statements.  But words do have meaning – and they should lead to action.  Do you have a values statement? Being honest and getting the real values on the table is key.  As with most things, short and simple statements are usually better.

2.  Now that we have the words – is there any evidence that we actually DO anything because of them?
Values lead to action. Slogans lead to apathy.  If you had a friend walk through your organization to observe, and also talked to a few of your customers or clients – would they find any concrete evidence, examples, or stories about how the firm is taking observable actions which represent the values?  Maybe having a friend literally observe is not a bad idea….

3.   Do the front line folks know our values?
The key idea here is determining if the values have made it all the way through the org chart.  Things that sound great in the corner office are often just words at the levels where the rubber meets the road.  Go ask the janitor if he or she knows the values, and ask what difference they make when the janitor disposes of cleaning chemicals.  You may think of other folks to ask, and other questions.

4.  Do we collaborate with other groups in our area – or are we the “Lone Ranger of Responsibility”?
Lone Rangers and community responsibility don’t mix.  If you’re cooperating with local groups and charities, great.  If not, don’t think of cooperation as accountability or something to get in the way of doing your thing – think of it as networking and finding out how to do things better.  You’ll probably find that other groups and businesses have found ways to save money and be responsible, too.

5.   Are there areas or actions in our company that don’t line up with our values?
Nobody’s perfect… but that’s OK.  The idea is to be improving continuously.  As the leader, you may not see the little things that are out of alignment with your responsibility values.  Ask!  Your managers and the folks in the field or at the call center who deal with customers will have great ideas and will appreciate your interest.

So what do you think about this simple self-assessment?  What would you change or add?  Make a comment and let us know.

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