What’s CSR Got To Do With IT? #4

Three 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 itSMF website here.

This is post #4.

In the previous posts we looked at the link between CSR and IT and why it is so high on the CEO agenda. We looked at what it means to the CIO and where the pressure to respond to the demands of CSR was coming from.

Now I would like to explore what the CIO has to do to respond to this pressure.

What should the CIO have on his/her agenda that underpins that of the CEO?

I believe that there are four key areas: integration; transparency;  employees and green IT.

Let’s look at the first of those – integration.

According to Courtney Macavinta writing in CIO Strategy Centre there is a good place for CIO’s to start.

“Take inventory to align IT practices with the company’s CSR mission statement”.

The Green Capital and CSR Sydney Joint Research (Green Capital & CSR Sydney, 2008) determined the perception of CSR integration into the organisation by the respondents. The results are shown in the diagram below.

The majority of organisations are in the stages of early integration.

The research defined the levels of integration as:

  • Not integrated: Sustainability / CSR objectives are seen as separate from the organisation’s business
  • Early integration: Sustainability / CSR becoming part of normal business
  • Substantially integrated: The organisation’s Sustainability / CSR objectives are generally in line with the organisation’s general objectives
  • Fully integrated: Individuals, departments and the organisation as a whole consider the environmental and social implications of their decision-making processes together with the financial success of the organisation linked to KPIs as a measurement tool

The research revealed that the higher the level of integration of CSR to the business strategy, the bigger and the more numerous the benefits the organisation derived from its engagement in CSR.

The higher the level of integration, the increased ability of the organisation to attract good staff, reduce risk, establish long term viability in the market place, increase productivity, improve brand image, improve the bottom line, save costs and provide product and market innovation. It was only the organisations with a higher level of integration of CSR that said they experienced financial benefits such as higher profitability, cost savings and share price increase.

The level of reported negative impacts or risk associated to CSR also decreased when the level of integration increased.

It is clear that CSR is an ongoing process or a journey and is about progressively developing a sustainable strategy that meets the overall business strategy. In other words, organisations engaging in CSR engage in a process of integration of CSR into the business. The successful organisations work to embed in CSR into their business and the day-to-day activities of their staff.

IBM describes the journey as the CSR Value Curve as shown below.

As organisations move from left to right on the value curve, greater returns are realized as CSR becomes more integrated into core business strategy (IBM, 2008).

The CIO has to (a) ensure the IT CSR strategy aligns with that of the overall business and (b) embed the associated activities into the business-as-usual operation.

In my next blog I will explore the second item on the CIO agenda – transparency.

Karen Ferris is a Director at Macanta Consulting.

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