What Is Corporate Responsibility And Why Is It Important?
Although Joe Kenner, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yonkers, N.Y.-based Greyston Foundation, is not overly fond of the term “corporate social responsibility,” (CSR) he nevertheless subscribes to the practice of it, and at Greyston, in an important and meaningful way.
“I really don’t like the term ‘corporate responsibility,’” says Kenner, “because it is traditionally considered a program or a department within an organization. At Greyston, it’s part of our DNA. It is part of our mission and purpose and imbues our human capital and business strategy.”
Kenner describes what he calls Greyston’s “more expansive” corporate responsibility strategy but says it’s up to business leaders to develop CSR programs that meet sustainable development goals as they are applicable to their businesses.
“Any CSR discussion leads to a philosophical discussion of stakeholder versus shareholder primacy,” Kenner notes. “Our view is more expansive. Though we don’t have shareholders per se, we certainly need profits in order to be sustainable and make the necessary investments in our people, production capacity and Foundation work. No one piece is more important than the other.”
“But corporate responsibility must be defined by each individual organization. I don’t think every organization can try and boil the ocean and solve every single issue, but each organization can find its role in positively contributing to society in some form, i.e., increase wealth in communities of color, employing returning citizens, innovating production capabilities in a social and environmentally sustainable way.”
What Is The Most Effective Corporate Responsibility?
Kenner was asked if there is a particularly effective CSR strategy. “We believe – and we say in our mission statement – that inclusive employment is a very effective means of corporate social responsibility,” he said. “But I don’t want what we do to be seen as a CSR program or the latest business fad. What we employ is a human capital business strategy that says we believe in the power of human potential, especially for the person who has resolved that they want to work and be successful. That potential can be unleased in a truly dynamic and powerful way.”
At the end of the day, Kenner notes, a responsible business sees many positive social impacts that an effective CSR strategy has on the local community as well as on the bottom line. “A job affords a person the dignity of work. They provide for themselves and their families. This builds toward a thriving employment trajectory and contributes to their communities by extension, and long term to society as a whole.”