Thursday, 11 September 2008

Dan Levinson on CSR

I managed only to make it back to the first session of Integrated 2.0 Communications yesterday in time to catch the presentation by Dan Levinson of Dan's been around China for about 11 years in various capacities and his latest incarnation is that of a service provider in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility.

This topic is one which is quite close to my own heart as I have have been priivy to many a debate on what exactly CSR is. The beginning of Dan's presentation actually demonstrated how fragmented the understanding of CSR is. Aside from the increasingly popular strategy of greenwashing that has been adopted by practically every industry that might cause any harm to society or the environment, Dan highlighted an interesting study that found that a little over half of the respondants to a survey who were in senior strategic positions defined CSR as charity or community outreach. This comes to no surprise except when you consider that as part of the same study, 75% of CSR managers or people directly involved CRS programs defined it as such. Thats about a 25% difference between people who run companies vs. people who run CSR programs. No wonder amongst the few successfuls programs are so many that never get the right kind of traction.

The remainder of Dan's presentation was an eloquant illustration of how different organisations including Bayer, Novozymes, Sony, United Technologies and Vanke all percieved CSR as something completely different. In the case of Vanke who have had some unfortunate press of late associated with both their donation policy to the Sichuan quake victims and the blowback of an less-than-well-thought-out press release about the where the blame lay for the fall in value of Vanke properties (let the buyer beware) their perception of CSR is that since their business is to build homes, they are were already contributing to society enough. 

Dan's presentation was for the most part a good birds eye view of CSR in China and in many of the multinational companies operating in China. The core message on the CSR end though is that regardless of how you define social responsibility, it is important to garner top to bottom buy-in for your program to succeed and once that is in place how you decide to compliment those values, whether it be through traditional or digital medium, becomes a secondary concern. (Well that's the take-away I got from his speech)

Thank you Dan for sharing your thoughts with us. For more info on CSR in China visit Dan's site

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