15 ways to Engage Your CEO on CSR


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15 ways to engage your CE

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15 ways to Engage Your CEO on CSR

  1. 1. Columnist: Toby Webb50update on ways companies are“commercialising sustainability”6) Pitch it as a governance issue.Few heads of corporate responsi-bility do this well. It should be aneasy win. Make it clear to yourboard/bosses that badly managedcompanies trade at a discount, andthat transparency and engagementis clearly linked to better manage-ment by investors.7) Link it with where they aregoing next. Let’s say your CEO isn’ta lifer. Most are not. It’s quitehelpful to plant a seed that meanswherever they work next, this stuffis going to matter there too. There’snot an industry or organisation thatwon’t expect some knowledge ofthe responsibility agenda.8) Pick an issue and offer a lead-ership opportunity. Note how someCEOs jumped on the UN CEOwater mandate some years ago andmade the issue their own. Whatelse is moving up the agenda? ThePlastics Disclosure Project is a newone gaining traction. Why not useit, or something else?9) Evoke the competitive spirit.The idea of keeping up with peers,and overtaking them, is vital to geta CEO motivated on corporateresponsibility. Competition shouldbe framed in ways they can under-stand: less truck miles per tonne,lower power costs, better employeeengagement.10) Use a bucket of cold water.This is a serious point. Shock tacticsare risky, but some can work. Bringin a couple of outside voices (notconsultants) who can tell a businessleaders’ meeting some home truthsabout the competition. This mustbe followed quickly by a focus onthe opportunity to catch up andovertake.11) Send them into the supplychain. Back in 2010, I travelled toGhana to visit cocoa farms with theUK CEO of Kraft, Nick Bunker. Hewas clearly very affected by whatwe saw. There’s nothing likemeeting a smallholder farmer ontwo dollars a day to convince aCEO of the moral and logical case.12) Put them in front of somecritical stakeholders. CEOs mustunderstand how others see them.Middle age male (mostly) delusionis a big problem. One-on-onemeetings with a conservation NGOcould be followed up with a non-tame stakeholder meeting wherethe CEO must stay quiet(ish).13) Show them just how thereally unfortunate live. It’s a simpleidea. Take your board or some ofthem, and show them the povertythat exists so close to top financialcentres all over the world. Justbecause it’s old school doesn’t meanit can’t be effective.14) Demonstrate how moti-vating responsible business is foremployees. Relying on the employeeannual or quarterly survey is notenough. Use proper studies, books,credible sources, and tell stories.Create annual individual sustain-ability innovation awards and makethe board judge them.15) Take out the jargon. CEOshate to feel left behind. That mayinvoke a reaction of retreat. Take outthe acronyms and talk the languageof simple business improvements. IToby Webb is founder of Ethical Corporation andStakeholder Intelligence. He blogs daily attobywebb.blogspot.co.uk.Business strategyGet the boss on boardwith sustainabilityToby Webb has 15 ideas your chief executive won’t be able to resistHmm. Sustainability you say…?Transparencyand engagementis clearly linkedto bettermanagementby investorsCOLUMNIST:TOBY WEBBPHOTODISCEthical Corporation • May 2013Convincing senior leadershipthat sustainable businessmatters remains a major challenge.Here’s a few proven ways of doingso, in no particular order.1) Get a non-executive/indepen-dent director on your side. Find theone most amenable to the agenda,and have them tabling boardagenda questions and adding somesteel to your corporate responsi-bility committee meetings. Investsome personal time and ask them tomentor you. Flattery works.2) Lay the breadcrumb trail. Yourideas don’t matter. Your CEO’s, ofcourse, do. So find smart ways toplant seeds that may take a year ortwo to take root. Then when yourCEO summons you to hear “their”idea, put your pre-prepared planinto action quickly.3) Map out board roles andtasks, based on personal interest.What does your CFO like to do inhis/her spare time? How about yourlegal director? This can beconnected to the responsibilityagenda specifically or in general.Map out roles and tasks/speechesfor the board aligned with theirinterests.4) Use the family. As creepy asthis sounds, it can work. Gap’s pres-ident, Paul Pressler, said in 2004 thatwhen he joined the company fromDisney, his daughter asked, “don’tthey run sweatshops?” and thepath was set for disclosure leader-ship. I can’t tell you exactly how todo this, but kids count.5) Present your CEO with solidcase studies of opportunity. Yes,this is blindingly obvious. But toomany heads of corporate responsi-bility let CEOs find shaky MichaelPorter Harvard Business Reviewarticles on their own. Why leave itto chance? Create a quarterly CEOECM May 2013_Layout 1 29/04/2013 10:33 Page 50