Responsible Business Triage

stethoscopeI 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.

13 thoughts on “Responsible Business Triage

  1. Jill Poet

    Hi David

    How strange! Just like you I felt the SME market needed support and engagement in the CSR dialogue “because no-one else was doing it.” amazing how much lip service has actually been paid to it but……

    Once again, I totally agree its not worth flogging a dead horse. There are loads of businesses out there that are interested in what this new business paradigm can do for them. They just need to have it explained that this is all about doing the right thing, saving money and competitive advantage – a triple whammy!!

    Keep us the good fight.

    regards
    Jill

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    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Jill

      Up late working?

      I get so frustrated that there are so many opportunties for win-win scenarios out there, and even more so that this whole agenda isn’t rocket science but ignored by so called business support experts and governments. I just wish I could have another 20 staff to get the message out there and the positive impact that accompanies it.

      Good luck with ORB – the project has great promise and worth all the support you can get!

      David

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      1. Jill Poet

        Thanks for your kind words David.

        Yes, I was working late. Something I do quite often at the moment. But I had been to a networking meeting and given a 10 minute presentation about ORB and the win-win situations we have been talking about. It was very well received.

        Don’t get frustrated. It is hard at the moment but it is changing for the better, so if you want to build an empire of warrior staff getting the message out there go for it – if you are determined and committed it will happen in due course!!

        The important thing I think is that like minded people now have the opportunity of building strong alliances to help each other push through this positive change in culture.

        Jill

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  2. Nick Morris

    Hi David!

    Great post. I strongly agree with your concept of triage. We should focus our efforts on those who want to change, and not lose too much sleep about failing to convince others.

    To carry on with the “triage” analogy, I think there are three main groups. The first are those who already embrace and are engaged in CSR, or who are actively trying to become engaged.

    The second simply lack skills, knowledge, or motivation. Some of these individuals still believe the common misconceptions about CSR, e.g. that it is too costly or too time-consuming. We all have a role to play educating these managers about the opportunities, and showing them the cost of NOT acting.

    The third group is the one I think we should avoid, because they lack leadership, a key prerequisite for CSR. They might be great managers, capable of keeping operations moving smoothly, even able to keep staff engaged and satisfied. But they lack the long-term, holistic, courageous, critical, and optimistic attitude of a leader. I’ve met a lot of business owners, many of whom I very much respect as managers, but who unfortunately fit this category.

    That’s not to say they won’t change but, without a leadership mentality, it will probably require realizing they’ve fallen too far behind to survive, and they must catch up.. or else. No amount of wrestling on our part, right now, will bring them over.

    What do you think?

    All the best,

    Nick

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    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Nick

      I was trying to avoid getting too embroiled in the leadership v management debate but it is an integral part of the issue.

      I also agree with your three group theory and your descriptions. The problem is identifying those within the areas of overlap between them. I too often spend too much time trying to affect change with those who should be left to their own devices but that’s more down to my own competitive streak! I regularly and actively challenge the most cynical within audiences because to convert a passionate detractor can create truly attention grabbing genuine advocates.

      David

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  3. Jill Poet

    Thanks for your kind words David.

    Yes, I was working late. Something I do quite often at the moment. But I had been to a networking meeting and given a 10 minute presentation about ORB and the win-win situations we have been talking about. It was very well received.

    Don’t get frustrated. It is hard at the moment but it is changing for the better, so if you want to build an empire of warrior staff getting the message out there go for it – if you are determined and committed it will happen in due course!!

    The important thing I think is that like minded people now have the opportunity of building strong alliances to help each other push through this positive change in culture.

    Jill
    OH! You’re my new favorite blogger fyi

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  4. Jill Poet

    Hi Nick

    I partly agree with your comments, but with reservations. You talk about good managers able to engage and satisfy staff. Well, that is actually part of CSR isn’t it – but you don’t seem to have acknowledged that!

    Yes, I agree there are some radical changes required on the environmental side and the managers you speak of may not have the vision to take the courageous actions you may be thinking of. Perhaps that is where the problem lies. Are we expecting too much too quickly? Talking in a certain idealistic manner can just frighten them away. To engage SMEs we need to ask them to take small steps – after all the oceans are but droplets of water! Once on the right ladder they’ll soon learn the best ways to climb it.

    And I also think, when we are dealing with SMEs – particularly at the smallest end, we should stop using the term Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. As soon as you say “corporate” to most small businesses the shutters go down. “Responsible Business” does the trick just fine I think – the small business owner / manager can relate to that and actually want to be acknowledged as being a responsible business.

    jill

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    1. Nick Morris

      Hi Jill,

      Thanks for your comment, it gave me a couple of things to think about.

      I completely agree that staff engagement and satisfaction is a core part of good CSR, so you’re right, there is a bit of confusion in my post. To clarify, I didn’t mean to say that these individuals were incapable of carrying out CSR activities. Many even volunteer and give to charity..

      Instead, I would say that they aren’t ready to take a strategic and holistic approach to the concept. They aren’t ready to turn social responsibility into something that differentiates them, something that defines them, and something that motivates their major business decisions. They aren’t ready to analyze the positive and negative impacts caused by their companies and commit to continuously improving. And they most definitely aren’t ready to genuinely communicate these things to customers, employees, and the community.

      Hope that clears up my position a bit.

      And you’re completely right about the need for small wins and for being careful with the terminology we use when working with SMEs. I agree that Responsible Business is a superior term, and it’d be nice to see this usage grow.

      Nick

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  5. Freddy

    Hi, sorry for this offtopic question but i dont find the RSS Feed Link to add this Blog to my Feedreader. Could you please give me the URL? Thanks a lot.

    Greetings from Switzerland

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  6. 360current

    One thing I think is important to remember from an SME perspective is that many are struggling, especially the young companies. They want to do the right thing, and they want to make the mortgage payment. However, the latter will normally be their first concern (unless they are individually wealthy.)

    The key, I think, is what behavioral psychologists might call “social norming.” In other words, I agree with your opinion about working with the companies who do get it, with the goal of using their examples to define “success.”

    We are all influenced to a strong degree by the people we view as leaders in our field. When those leaders are the ones making social responsibility a priority in their companies, others will follow, even if it cuts into the bottom line.

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    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Jim

      I can’t explain how well I empathise with the struggle to do the right thing and pay the mortgage, after all I’m an SME owner myself. I pull my rapidly graying hair out almost daily knowing there are many quick wins available to smaller businesses that can deliver tangible returns across short and medium terms. The problem is the lack of adequate support, and as you rightly state the inertia of ‘social norming’ – if SME peer networks aren’t exploiting CSR opportunities then there must be something bad to avoid – if they were ever aware in the first place.

      I have advocating a peer approach to encouraging CSR amongst SMEs and had far too much of my time wasted by public sector agencies appearing to understand to only not follow through. I can only work with a small amount of businesses at any one time but hopefully plant seeds and allow them to grow and to beging to encourage those who ‘get it’ to work on those who don’t. I have a few plans in the pipeline and hopefully kick star a self-supporting initiative that can evolve. Just need an extra two days adding to each week😉

      David

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