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What’s CSR Got To Do With IT? #313/07/10

Two weeks ago I started this series of blogs in the lead up to the itSMF Australia National Conference being held on 23-25 August at the New Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

My keynote presentation at this years conference is entitled:

What’s CSR Got To Do With IT?

IT Service Management and Corporate Social Responsibility

You can access the full conference programme at the itSMFA website here.

This is post #3.

So having outlined in the previous posts why there is a definite link between CSR and IT and why it is so high on the CEO agenda, let’s explore what this means to the CIO.

The pressure to achieve business efficiency and sustainability is being piled on IT managers more than anyone else in business according to an IDC survey.

74% of managers involved in sustainability said that IT managers are given the main responsibility.

Chris Ingle of IDC said: “IT managers need to take effective action to meet the challenge”.

“The big area you need to focus on is improving workflow. After that you also need to make your datacenter more modular, you need better data and asset management and a change in client device strategies”.

Traditional views on sustainability had been focused on hardware recycling and use, the impact of services, and data de-duplication and power management, he said.

Ingle said that the mindset that green IT managers needed was “how can IT contribute to the reductions across the business and not just within the IT department itself.

Some of the capabilities and practices being put in place range from corporate transparency initiatives to improve brand reputation and monitoring supply chain activities to “greening” of the data centres aimed at better management of energy efficiency and carbon footprint.

In all of these cases, it is the CIO who is being asked to deliver.

Where is the pressure coming from?

Driving the agenda for the CEO are the customers, employee, suppliers, investors and partners. Customers want information about environmental and social policies, international trade practices, product health and safety records, procurement and sourcing policies, product composition and lifecycle management, community activities and the way in which employees are treated. Potential employees want to know whether the organisation is one in line with their own values before accepting employment and existing employees want to be assured that the organisation is meeting it’s CSR obligations. Investors are including CSR factors into their decisions about whether to invest in a particular organisation or not and suppliers and partners are looking to the organisation to ensure that the values and CSR are in line with their own. Organisations are digging deeper into their partners’ operations asking questions about CO2 emissions and the impact of hazardous components in the supply chain.

Where do these stakeholders obtain their information? It no longer through marketing and advertising which is pushing selective information out to the audience but through the internet and social media which allows the stakeholder to gather information – pull – from whatever sources they have access to. This information is how the stakeholder makes their decisions about an organisation and forms their own perception of “brand” rather than the one that the organisation itself may be perpetuating.

Almost half the respondents surveyed in the Rethinking Corporate Social Responsibility report (Hilliard, 2006) said that they used the internet to do their own research about a company’s CSR track record. In particular, consumers like to be able to receive “uncensored information from their peers”.

The power of the internet and social media along with the existence of advocacy groups, non-government organisations (NGOs), industry watchdogs, consumer groups, forums and the like, all sharing and exchanging information, makes it imperative that the way in which organisations operate is transparent.

This is where pressure is on the CIO and IT. According to IBM (IBM, 2008):

“They will be called upon to gather, analyse and communicate massive amounts of data – some of which is not currently being collected – and ensure their accuracy, reliability and relevance. Companies will need to collect and share information across a wide array of channels and with multiple constituencies to ensure that customer – and partner – needs are met, not to mention the needs of NGOs, governments and community organisations”.

The consumer is setting the CSR agenda and the experts say that many of the consumer drivers for CSR point directly at IT.

In my next blog I will explore what the CIO has to do to respond to this pressure.

Karen Ferris is a Director at Macanta Consulting.