On Monday evening British-Swedish Chamber of Commerce (BSCC) together with Stora Enso AB hosted an evening of discussion in lieu of the book: “CSR as a Management Idea – Ethics in Action” written by Peter Norberg and Mats Jutterström. Joining them were a panel consisting of Nigel Salter, founder of SalterBaxter, Toby Webb, founder of Ethical Corporation, Terhi Koipijärvi, Head of Global Responsibility at Stora Enso AB, and moderator Tommy Berglund, Senior Vice President of Communications Renewable Packaging, Stora Enso AB.
Some insights from their research and the following panel discussion:
A common misperception among companies regarding CSR is that it is merely a brand enhancing cost. However, with their book, Jutterström and Norberg argues that CSR implemented throughout the organization may increase efficiency just as Total Quality Management, Just in Time, and/or Lean Management would. Nigel Salter notes that CSR goes even further and requires a psychology change which sets it apart from the other management ideas in that it can’t just be delivered on a spreadsheet. Salter also emphasizes that the mean time a CEO serves a European company is 18 months and it is therefore not enough to cement social responsibility ideals with top management. To reach its full potential, CSR needs to be implemented throughout supply chains and employee mindsets.
Another interesting topic raised by the panel was that of CSR as a constantly evolving principle. Contradictory to other management-ideas you can never fully “master” CSR – the further you go with it, the more questions you raise and the deeper you have to go. Toby Webb emphasized the impact of technology on CSR, both from the perspective of consumers and how more information creates more critical consumers, as well as how technology development defines what is possible. CSR does not have any definite terms, there will always be more that you can do.
Peter Norberg also spoke about how cultural differences affect CSR commitment. In Sweden, where we have a long history of “Folkhemmet” and the notion that the state is responsible for looking after and protecting its citizens, it was almost taboo for companies to meddle with social issues during the 20th century. It is only very recently that Swedish companies have started to “care” in this way. Nigel Salter argued that the Swedish response to CSR has been very narrow compared to e.g. the U.K. and the U.S., a statement which may be explained by the differences in culture. In the U.S. and U.K. for example, where there is a long tradition of philanthropy in all levels of society, it has been more natural for companies to partake in social issues alongside their core business. In these countries we see the absolute vanguard leaders within CSR.
CSR has gained wide influence and acceptance in corporate Sweden, but we still lack companies who take it one step further. Understanding how culture shapes our relation to CSR is one step in the right direction for companies who want to improve their own efforts. And for real inspiration, go west!