I have found it useful to view the evolution of business responsibility in terms of five overlapping economic periods – the Ages of Greed, Philanthropy, Misrepresentation, Management and Responsibility – each of which typically manifests a different stage of CSR, namely: Defensive CSR (about compliance, risk management), Charitable CSR (about philanthropy, donations), Promotional CSR (about brand marketing, PR), Strategic CSR (about codes and standards, management systems) and Transformative CSR (about using the core business to bring systemic solutions).
My contention is that companies tend to move through these ages and stages – each increasing their sustainable and responsible competitive advantage – and that we should be encouraging business to make the transition to Transformative CSR in the dawning Age of Responsibility. If companies remain stuck in any of the first four stages, which I call CSR 1.0, I don’t believe we will turn the tide on the environmental, social and ethical crises that we face. Simply put, CSR will continue to fail.
While Strategic CSR is focused at the micro level – supporting social or environmental issues that happen to align with its strategy (but without necessarily changing that strategy) – Transformative CSR focuses on understanding the interconnections of the macro level system – society and ecosystems – and changing its strategy to optimise the outcomes for this larger human and ecological system.
Transformative CSR – which I also refer to as CSR 2.0 – is based on five principles: Creativity (about entrepreneurship, social enterprise), Scalability (about taking sustainable products or solutions to scale), Responsiveness (about listening and responding to stakeholder needs), Glocality (about following global principles, with local adaptation) and Circularity (getting to zero-waste). These hold the key to making change happen, at a societal, organisational and individual level, and ensuring that we can all make a difference.
Reference: The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business, by Wayne Visser (publisher: Wiley)