This week’s commentry comes from Allan Poot , Energy Management Consultant at the Cavell Group.
The Economist carries a story this week (May 19th 2012) about CSR having a “hard-earned reputation for flakiness” which is a pity, but perhaps not untrue. The Economist then goes on to conclude that perhaps its time has come, and to quote one reason: “It is encouraging business to become more frugal in their use of resources”.
But let’s have a look at this “flakiness” – I think I can pinpoint a reason that the Economist doesn’t touch on. In the narrow field of energy management I have found a strange decision making process, or rather, lack of decision making process. The CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer) recognises the value of having real-time data on energy use – it is often the fastest growing expense and the most wasted commodity purchased. It is also needed for CSR reporting and enabling CO2 reduction programs to be planned and monitored. However, the CSO needs to convince the ICT department to implement a program to gather this data and enable a power management solution. But the ICT department isn’t the immediate beneficiary – and they are also (currently) not held responsible for their energy costs. That aspect is the responsibility of the CFO, who normally has no idea of where the energy is being used (and wasted) in the first place and little understanding of how much can be saved using energy management solutions. You see the catch 22 here?
At least three different department heads (I didn’t mention facilities management yet!) need to work together and recognise the mutual benefits that can be achieved – and that is where the flakiness appears. They have to recognise the larger benefit in order to benefit themselves – and this doesn’t happen much. In my experience the companies that are benefiting from good CSR (and energy management solutions) are those companies whose CEO’s understand these concepts and get involved in driving the decision making processes. And while this is infrequent, it is becoming more prevalent.
So perhaps the Economist is right – rising from a flaky start, CSR’s time has come, and it will become recognised as a serious business component.