In the Strategic CSR class at Haas, I am working with two other students on a project to integrate sustainability into the value chain of an online retailer. We recently had our first in-person meeting with the client to gather more information and background on the company and its overall CSR strategy.
What struck me most in our conversation with this client was the extent to which CSR permeated nearly every business unit of the company. Although the company’s CSR efforts began in an isolated department, once the program was refined, the various initiatives that had developed within this department were distributed across the company to relevant business units, from Human Resources to Marketing. And you could see visible signs of this integration just by walking around — in the bathroom, a sign asks you to be mindful of how many paper towels you use, and at the exit, a box is prominently displayed for dispensing temporary ID tags so that they can be recycled.
In order for CSR to be truly integrated into a company’s overall strategy, it needs to touch various functions and business units across the company. This is CSR 101 — one of the first (and most heavily emphasized) lessons we received in class. I’m grateful to have a client that realizes the importance of this kind of approach. It’s an essential step toward linking social responsibility to a company’s bottom line.