Do you need a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program

Do you need a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program?

That is the wrong question to be asking.

What you do need is a productivity improvement program – because that is how you increase your markings and your competitiveness.

Essentially, improving productivity is the only way to add extra value and make a business more profitable in the longer-term. Productivity increases the size of the cake that is shared out ... rather than just trying to slice up the cake in different proportions.

At its most simple, productivity is expressed as outputs/inputs – it is what you produce compared to the resources you use in that production.

However, over the last couple of decades, we have realised that not all outputs are good – many organisations produce waste, pollution, emissions and other harmful substances. In addition to any effects these have on the environment and the planet, they cost the business money.

We have also realised that we do not always consider fully the other impacts we have – the social impact we have on the communities in which we operate, the full impact we have on our employees … and on the wider society.

That is why we now hear about concepts such as the triple bottom line and SEE productivity – suggesting that, to be sustainable in the longer-term, organisations need to consider their social, environmental and economic productivity.

The real breakthrough in thinking, however, has been for some organisations to realise that they need to consider the three factors not because they want to be seen as being ‘good’ … but because they have realised that attendance to the SEE factors is good business.

We should address our 'negative outputs' and simultaneously make our business and our environment better. This can be done by looking at our waste and seeing what we can do to reduce it ... but it is much more effective when we look at the whole process of producing our goods or services and see what can be done to re-design the product and/or the process to avoid creating waste (and those other negatives) in the first place.

Some ethical consumers, concerned environmentalists, global NGOs and so on are lobbying for change. Companies are moving from concentrating on stakeholder value (how much money they make for their shareholders) to concentrating on stakeholder values, recognizing that there are multiple stakeholders whose values sometimes conflict. We must commit to facilitating the management of the outcomes of productivity efforts, and the mitigation of its unintended consequences.

What we do in pursuit of growth and wealth must be economically viable, but also must be environmentally bearable and socially equitable. We want to act as responsible citizens – to demonstrate our corporate social responsibility – but we can do this in a way that contributes to our bottom line … we just have to start thinking differently.

The pundits keep reminding us that the only thing constant is change.

All sorts of external factors - the availability of raw materials, government policies, legislation, the availability of capital, interest rates (need I go on?) - have an impact on organisations.

Looking at our productivity (in all its forms) enables us to understand and then improve the ratio of our outputs to our inputs - to add more value, to reduce ‘negative value’ and to become both stronger and more sustainable.

A fit, lean, efficient and flexible organisation has much more ability to cope with external change – and to survive and prosper.


Productivity is my 'bag' ... it is what I know about. I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science - and Director of the National Productivity Centre in the UK - go to this site for some good free resources and some (paid for but low price) e-learning on productivity. I also edit the International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management. My views on productivity and on learning (which I think are related) are su...

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