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CSR managers branded dull and ‘time serving’

September 2002

Companies stand accused of giving their corporate social responsibility briefs to unimaginative ‘time serving’ executives with little taste for innovation.

The London-based research institute Demos says too many businesses regard CSR as a ‘bolt-on’ issue, and that this is reflected in the calibre of CSR managers they appoint.

‘It is rare for CSR departments to attract rising stars, the dynamic entrepreneurs who will form the next generation of senior executives,’ it says. ‘On the contrary, CSR is often given to individuals who have served their time within an organization. It is an opportunity for semi-retirement for those who are failing to perform.’

The comments are made in a Demos discussion paper on CSR, Getting down to business, which argues that even companies active in the field often give it little enough attention. ‘This is all too evident in the limited resources allocated to many CSR projects and the calibre of staff assigned to work in CSR departments,’ it says. Demos claims greater investment in ‘respected, skilled, and creative’ staff and meaningful programmes are ‘crucial if CSR is to move up a gear’.

This will enable businesses to take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to social issues ‘in an environment that encourages learning, risk-taking and long-term thinking’.

David Varney, chairman of Business in the Community and of the mobile phone company MMO2, said the Demos report highlighted the need for greater dynamism in CSR. ‘The political will [within companies] is there, but what is lacking is the managerial expertise and the incentive frameworks to encourage innovation,’ he said.

However, David Danielli, CSR manager at Vodafone, said he did not recognize the picture of CSR executives painted by Demos. ‘It certainly doesn’t accord with the scene here at Vodafone or with my experience of meeting and listening to other CSR professionals in the UK and Europe. I would say most are ambitious, dynamic and very able. They come from extremely diverse backgrounds and are quick on their feet.’




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