The Age of Corporate Social Justice

Research has shown that companies with effective CSR programs are more profitable than those that aren’t. Corporations have relied on these programs to build their brands and satisfy customers. Now, consumers and employees are raising the bar.

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A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Lily Zheng, co-author of The Ethical Sellout: Maintaining Your Integrity in the Age of Compromise, calls for companies to consider a possible paradigm shift from Corporate Social Responsibility to, what she calls, Corporate Social Justice. 

As described by Zheng, “Corporate Social Justice is a reframing of CSR that centers the focus of any initiative or program on the measurable, lived experiences of groups harmed and disadvantaged by society.”

The article continues with a critique of the current CSR framework pointing to no legal or social obligation for corporations to hold to the positive impact they claim to create. Now more than ever, this wave of current events has driven the corporate sector toward a more authentic alignment.

In other words, Corporate Social Responsibility can no longer solely service public relations strategy without seeming disingenuous to their stakeholders. Zheng suggests companies respond quickly, but more importantly, with a thoughtful plan of action:

  1. Begin with a goal or vision for a more just society. – Develop a thoughtful and intentional process that brings together representatives from your various stakeholder groups to determine which issues lie at the intersection of your company’s mission and the unmet needs of its stakeholders.
  2. Thoughtfully situate your company within the broader ecosystem surrounding that goal. - Most companies play a role in creating and maintaining inequities through their supply chains, hiring strategies, and the customer bases they serve — or don’t serve.
  3. Build robust and representative working groups that connect the company with its stakeholders. - The goal of these groups is to fully explore the impact of the company’s actions on various stakeholders, and to use this knowledge to proactively inform how the company acts on and reacts to society.
  4. Take a stance. - The first step that many companies have taken by publicly supporting Black Lives Matter through public statements and donations is an example of that: a commitment to taking a stance.
  5. Regularly evaluate progress - To build accountability into the process, goals and metrics should be set by working groups and translated by senior leaders into directives for the entire company.

For more in depth consideration, visit the full article, “We’re Entering the Age of Corporate Social Justicehere.

 

Em Clarke

Senior Manager, Corporate Solutions , Points of Light

Em Clarke has been with Points of Light for a year and a half working with corporate clients through POL's Corporate Solutions consulting practice. She is motivated by her work evaluating corporate accountability and social responsibility and has spent the last five years dedicated to improving the well being of local communities through global strategy and ensuring marginalized voices are heard when funders and decision makers choose to take interest. Upon receipt of her Master of Nonprofit Management and Leadership from The University of Georgia, she joined the United Way system for several years before transitioning to Points of Light. Her professional experiences include managing teams of executives working collectively to design enterprise-wide programming, volunteer days of service, and funding strategies.
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