I personally hate the thought of giving up on anybody but the triage process used by medics in emergency situations is maybe a good analogy for how we should address CSR awareness and engagement. Why flog a dead horse? Some individuals just don’t have the emotional intelligence and never will ‘get it’, no matter how much legislation, moral debate or evidence of potential return on investment is placed before them.
I’m not the type to shy away from a challenge and been told I have a reputation for being a little tenacious, but then being completely responsible for your business (and therefore the direct impacts on your family) plays its part in honing this personality trait. I set up my business to assist the group of business that sit between the now well supported social enterprises at one end and the well serviced corporate market. Why? Because nobody else was and it needed doing!
Now here’s the problem (challenge or opportunity dependent on your perspective); already established small to medium enterprise (SMEs) managers set in their ways. My position is pretty much the same today as it was 4 years ago. We shouldn’t sit back and allow SMEs to blindly operate in the same way for their own good and everybody else’s. How do I stimulate passionate, extremely focused entrepreneurial owner managers when they believe they have no spare time and no spare cash even if they did grasp the concept of CSR? The dinosaurs are out there, everybody knows at least one and I now know a few hundred.
There is an accelerating train of thought that we should completely focus our efforts on younger entrepreneurs who have grown up surrounded by a greater awareness of global issues such as climate change and access to information. This approach would mean giving up on some more ‘traditional’ business mindsets but does the environment or society have time to wait for the youngsters to come of age?
How much can really be done with today’s owners and managers, regardless of the size of their business? My question to you is should we give up on those who obstinately refuse to accept the additional pressures being placed on commercial operations? The market itself may overtake them as competitors identify a range of competitive advantages as CSR and sustainability reinforce their positions in mainstream management thinking? Younger and stronger values driven management may replace the traditional cost / price trading mentality but this will be at best a generational timeframe. The only effective tool left in the box for enforcing change within this cohort is legislation, but there are limits to how much can and should be forced onto so called free market economies.
My answer, for what it is worth, and it works, is to work with those who want to work with us rather than against us. Targeting the worst offenders to create change only works in rare cases, granted they are the best case studies you could ever wish for but buying a lottery ticket maybe a better investment of resources. If management concepts such as CSR are as effective as we tell everybody, in the absence of politics logic has a good chance.