What a Mature CSR Team Looks Like

What a Mature CSR Team Looks Like

David Risi, Christopher Wickert & Tommaso Ramus
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Bern University of Applied Science & ESSEC Business School

As climate change, social inequities, and other critical issues grow ever more urgent, many companies have built dedicated departments focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). But while this is an important first step, the authors’ new research suggests that organizations with the most mature CSR programs are often actually those with the smallest CSR departments. Based on an in-depth analysis of several Swiss firms as well as a review of prior research on CSR implementation, they identify a three-phase process through which many companies progress as their CSR operations advance from high-level vision to on-the-ground impact: A nascent stage in which the CSR department centralizes and coalesces, an intermediate stage in which it decentralizes and orchestrates, and a final stage in which it retreats and consults. Through this process, resources shift from the central CSR team out into functional units, meaning that the size and budget of the CSR department is often a poor indicator of the maturity of its CSR execution. To paint an accurate picture of a company’s performance — and to identify opportunities for improvement — the authors ultimately suggest that it’s essential to recognize these nuances and calibrate expectations and evaluations accordingly.

The full article can be read in Harvard Business Review.


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