Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


The recipe for success: board-level champions

June 2010

New guidance on how to embed corporate responsibility throughout an organization has stressed the importance of having CSR subcommittees and ‘board-level champions’ to underpin such efforts.

The latest guide in the Doughty Centre’s How to do corporate responsibility series, covering CSR governance, says subcommittees are the most effective way of monitoring principles and policies, and should also be responsible, as a ‘support structure’ to the board, for raising issues of concern, reviewing strategy with stakeholders, and monitoring a company’s non-financial reporting. It argues that committees additionally help ‘to formulate a strategic approach’ to the issue.

Marks and Spencer is singled out as an exponent of the committee approach: it has set up a ‘How we do business’ committee on which executives from every major department of the company take responsibility for the firm’s CSR strategy.

However, Doughty warns that ‘it would be too easy to think that corporate responsibility can simply be outsourced to a subcommittee’, and emphasises the importance of board leadership.

It says having a specific ‘corporate responsibility champion’ in the boardroom, preferably a chief executive, is also necessary. ‘It is important... to have the absolute commitment of top level management,’  it says. ‘As long as board members are not held responsible for corporate responsibility targets, there will be little progress on an organization’s corporate responsibility strategy.’

The UK-based Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, which is part of the Cranfield School of Management, also identifies five other factors essential to good corporate responsibility governance at board level: awareness of the drivers and benefits of CSR governance; a ‘culture of openness and critical loyalty’; strong stakeholder engagement; a clear link between CSR and day-to-day business practice; and a statement of the company’s principles for doing business.

The guide additionally identifies the worst barriers to good corporate governance in this area, including the over-use of consultants, a lack of training and education, and deficiencies in stakeholder engagement and feedback.

In a separate Communicating corporate responsibility guide, published simultaneously, the Doughty Centre says a good governance structure also needs to be supported by a sound communications strategy that reinforces messages to employers, customers and other stakeholders.

The guide, produced in partnership with the UK-based public relations business Ogilvy, says online communication has now become so important that companies should consider employing an online community manager  ‘who is passionate about blogging and all types of social media’.

Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility | Global | Governance

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