At a conference of 600 people or so, your incoming intelligence is limited by the number and type of people you meet. And who you meet is pretty much limited to luck, or as my wife would say the synchronicity of fate.
Here just a sample of things and thoughts fate brought my way today at CSR in the Americas.
Colombia. A petroleum company that has a state of the art stakeholder management system where once a year stakeholders are brought together in focus group like setting to discuss their interests. Executives of all levels of the company sit with community representatives, suppliers, NGOs and others in schools, community centres and popular settings where executives are not at home and but the locals are! Through facilitated sessions, the company systematically collects and then analyzes the main themes of discussions, and comes up with an action plan for those themes deemed most important. Teams within the company are given responsibility to resolve issues. Importantly, the company has on-going door to door stakeholder relations in many of the communities where it has operation, facilitating constant two way information among all community members (including women often outside the community power structures) and not just community leaders sometimes pursue their own personal agenda over the communities they supposedly represent.
Back to the Future: Two multinational companies to remain unnamed have wonderfully sophisticated and beautiful booths staffed by very nice models who struggle to articulate company sustainability strategies. What the heck?
Conference Give Aways: Pens and notebooks made of food (we have compostable corn starch pens and 100% recycled paper booksmarks). Other good ones include bags made of recycled paper (nice looking but don’t take them out in the rain), food plants to plant in gardens (my favorite), and of course the ubiquitous flyers/information brochures. Proud to say ES Global has the only paperless stand at the trade fair.
Drivers: Three big ones in Latin America.
Supply Chain: want to be part of the global market place, you must have something serious to do with CSR.
National CSR Reputation. Big national and regional firms simply have to have a more sophisticated approach to CSR, one much more than being the Patron, or the father-big boss giver of largess (pave a road, build a school etc.). This is now seen as too expensive yielding too little return (not to mention reinforcing a culture of dependency and unequal power structures, and come to think of it, letting government off the hook for the things it really ought to be doing itself).
Global Reporting Initiative
It is not causal – that is GRI does not cause companies to become more sustainable — but it is very influential. The more companies reporting the more others have to. The more companies count up what they are doing in CSR (or not) the more they realize their competitive disadvantage and or don’t like what they see they are doing (see patron above!)