How to plan an impactful CSR programme

In our digitised and interconnected world, organisations with a global presence are in a unique position to take actions that have a profound impact on human progress. From this perspective, corporate social responsibility can play an essential role in supporting people and communities.

It used to be that corporate social responsibility (CSR) meant adopting internal mechanisms and plans to have a positive impact, and to mitigate any potentially negative effects of a company’s operations. In a manufacturing context, an example might be environmental pollution caused by the extensive use of fossil fuels in factory operations. Plans to tackle this, coupled with initiatives to make philanthropic and charitable contributions, help communities and promote volunteering, might form the bulk of CSR planning.

But is this enough? Can we still approach CSR as a secondary consideration, rather than an integral part of corporate culture that is baked into every aspect of our operations?

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We need a new approach to CSR

At Dell Technologies, we do not just sell sophisticated hardware systems and technology solutions: we create the digital fabric on which humanity weaves its very future. CSR is hugely important in the context of a technology vendor, as more and more operations in everyday life rely on technology solutions. The level of involvement of intelligent and automated systems in domains that used to be exclusively under human supervision has brought with it enormous financial and societal implications. Any highly sophisticated digital technology must be applied with extreme caution, and within a robust and carefully considered ethical framework.

The academic expression of a new, evolved CSR framework is best described in Wayne Visser’s acclaimed book The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business. In this excellent essay, Visser analyses past failures and misguided corporate practices that relegated CSR to an ineffective part of an enterprise’s planning.

Several negative factors characterise the old CSR model: greed and unsustainable growth; opaque and unregulated economic and productive practices; less than ideal environments for inclusion and diversity; and very little care for environmental impact. But no business operates in a vacuum. That is why the author suggests a new and more ‘enlightened’ CSR philosophy, in which we transcend our traditional limitations and turn the page to make room for innovations through openness, transparency, efficiency, and responsible and sustainable growth.

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The parameters of our strategic plans

Visser suggests a new business DNA and ‘CSR 2.0’ culture. I believe that, at Dell Technologies, we have recognised this updated and impactful framework. Our 2030 Progress Made Real Public Policy roadmap actively supports public policies that drive our desired outcomes by advancing sustainability, cultivating inclusion, transforming lives, and upholding ethics and privacy. This roadmap is shaped around our vision for the next decade of economy, work, connected living, human-machine partnerships, business practices and governance.

Four main pillars of societal impact support our comprehensive and ambitious – but vital – strategy.

The first is advancing sustainability. We have set a target of reusing or recycling one equivalent product for every product a customer buys by 2030. By the end of this decade, 100% of our packaging will be made from recycled or renewable material. Besides packaging, more than half of our product content will be made from recycled or renewable material as well.

Sustainability is a significant contributor to the broader issue of a circular model of economic and productive process. More efficient methods, no wasted resources, and the reclamation and recycling of materials means nothing is wasted and everything is used to its maximum potential.

This issue was the focal point of our strategy, established in 2012, when we set our goals in our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. That plan included 21 structural goals, guaranteeing that the positive impact of our technology, both socially and environmentally, is 10x more valuable than the resources we used to create and use it.

Inclusion and gender equality are a second important goal. We have set our sights on ensuring that, by 2030, 50% of our global workforce and 40% of our people-leaders will be women. We are also strengthening our corporate culture to create a safe and welcoming space for people from all backgrounds, in which different identities and perspectives are respected.

The third goal involves leveraging our technological prowess and scale to advance healtheducation and economic-opportunity initiatives to deliver effective and long-lasting outcomes for 1 billion people, in countries and communities that have difficulties accessing the benefits of modern technology.

Lastly, we are accelerating our efforts to achieve unprecedented levels of transparency, high ethical standards and absolute respect for privacy by fully automating our data-control processes, making it easy for our customers to control their personal data.

About the Author: David Spruyt