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News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

Communicating corporate social responsibility to a cynical publicND


Illia et. al., MIT Sloan Management Review, 21 February 2013

Given that corporations are increasingly engaging in CSR activities, it makes sense to communicate those achievements to stakeholders. However, in publicising CSR achievements, especially if they do so aggressively, corporations risk achieving the opposite result from what they intended — a so-called “boomerang response”. A key challenge for managers, then, is to minimise stakeholder skepticism and communicate CSR achievements without being accused of 'greenwashing'. Based on an investigation into the CSR communication practices of the largest (in terms of revenue) 251 European corporations and interviews with 69 managers handling CSR communications, this article outlines seven strategies to mitigate this risk. These are: 'don't be afraid of the media', 'don't underestimate the public', 'address big issues head-on', 'don't present a picture perfect company', 'control the conditions', 'use the whole company' and 'do what you say'. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Board governance depends on where you sitND


William George, McKinsey Quarterly, 19 February 2013

One’s perspective about a board’s governance is strongly influenced by the seat one holds —independent director, chair and CEO, CEO only, or chair only. The diversity of perspectives that board members bring to the role can be a considerable strength for the companies they serve. In order to make the most of it, organisations should do three things. First, the board should acknowledge that no single structure works in all cases. Boards must be pragmatic enough to adapt to the individuals involved rather than put a rigid structure in place. Second, all parties, but especially CEOs, should acknowledge different points of view and work to minimise the conflicts that inevitably arise from them. Third, all directors, but especially CEOs, can benefit from holding different positions, either within the company or on other companies’ boards. Nominating committees should seek out prospective board members with diverse experiences. For more information see www.mckinseyquartertly.com

7 new rules for prospecting in the age of the customerND


Jim Blasingame, Forbes, 18 February 2013

Control of the primary elements of the business relationship has shifted as the Age of the Seller is being replaced by the Age of the Customer. The customer, leaving sellers with control of just the product, now controls the buying decisions and access to information about how to make those decisions. This shift has created many disruptions, especially with entrenched Age of the Seller sales practices, but perhaps none more than business-to-business prospecting. Now, prospects are essentially ruling competitors in or out before first contact, often before the business knows the prospect even exists. Getting in front of a prospect for a first meeting, which once was almost automatic, now requires addressing the new Age of the Customer rules of prospecting. Some of rules these include: prospect research must be conducted, networking – in person and online – is essential, and relevance and values must be demonstrated. For more information see www.forbes.com

Why businesses fail on corporate social responsibilityND


Myrian Robin, Leading Company, 14 February 2013

Given the size and influence that a lot of companies have, they have the potential to sway government policy. However, to be a responsible organisation, businesses should not be working against government policy, but should instead do what they can to help governments lead. While businesses are entitled to lobby, they shouldn’t use their clout to negatively influence policies that are designed to aid the public interest, such as the recent ban on sugary soft drinks instigated by the New York City mayor last year. Instead, good corporate social responsibility policies should be designed to ensure that businesses limit their involvement in public policy. For more information see www.leadingcompany.com.au

CEOs’ passive/aggressive approach to social mediaND


Robert Berkman, MIT Sloan Management Review, 12 February 2013

When it comes to Twitter, CEOs would rather lead than read. They tweet more than they follow. But on blogs, YouTube and Web forums, CEOs engage differently. For those social media forums, CEOs spend less time creating content and more time simply viewing and reading. Examining how CEOs — and other senior management — engage with social media was the focus of a study conducted in April 2012. The study found that for professional and business uses, the overall percentage of CEOs using social media is to 70.8%. But both for personal and professional uses, CEOs were much more likely to be passive users (e.g. Reading blogs, watching videos, reading discussion boards and rating sites). Perhaps the explanation is that may not want to spend much time reading the tweets of others, but see value for their company in posting tweets themselves. Blogs may be seen as potentially more substantive, valuable for both reading and posting. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

The boffins digging for nuggets of gold in big dataND


Paul Rubens, BBC News, 8 March 2013

There is an emerging market for companies offering the service of collecting and analysing large amounts of online data to find small pieces of information that offer other companies a huge competitive advantage. These companies analyse what is called ‘big data’ – e.g. messages posted on social media websites, videos being watched – and use complex algorithms to produce answers to specific business questions. An example of a company using big data to secure a competitive advantage is Bloomreach, who used big data to understand the language that consumers used when making purchasers, and then adjusted their websites to ensure that it was in line with the way that people searched. For more information see www.bbc.co.uk

Ten steps to making CSR strategicND


Richard Welford, CSR Asia, 6 February 2013

Many people are now recognising the strong business case for CSR, but struggle to know how to make CSR strategic and embed it into the organisation. CSR has to move beyond and “add-on” to business practices and should become part of the overarching strategy for a business. As a start, CSR practitioners should think about the following ten priorities: link your CSR strategy to brand, reputation and trust; build strong relationships with stakeholders; base all CSR activities on your most material issues; create effective management systems; ensure sufficient resources are invested in CSR; embed CSR into the whole organisation; invest in innovative CSR programs; as you plan your CSR strategies, put in place key performance indicators and where appropriate link these to reward systems; create a cycle of continuous improvement where management and staff are encouraged to experiment; and develop strategic communications. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

Six social-media skills every leader needsND


Roland Deiser and Sylvain Newton, McKinsey Quarterly, February 2013

McKinsey has drawn on interviews with GE officers of various businesses and regions to illustrate the six-dimensional set of skills and organisational capabilities leaders must build to create an enterprise level of media literacy. The six competencies are: creating compelling content, leveraging dissemination dynamics, managing communication overflow, driving strategic social media utilisation, creating an enabling organisational infrastructure and staying ahead of the curve. Social-media engagement will confront leaders with the shortcomings of traditional organisational designs. Leaders who address these shortcomings will learn how to develop the enabling infrastructure that fosters the truly strategic use of social technologies. When organisations and their leaders embrace the call to social-media literacy, they will initiate a positive loop allowing them to capitalise on the opportunities and disruptions that come with the new connectivity of a networked society. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

The social sector needs to take more risk and accept failureND


Sir Ronald Cohen and William A. Sahlman, Harvard Business Review, 5 February 2013

Across the sector, there is a grave fear of failure and a low appetite for risk. There are social entrepreneurs that refuse to take even small risks as they start their ventures. It is visible it in the philanthropic institutions that fund them and expect predictability and nothing less. For social impact organisations to scale in the same way entrepreneurial tech companies do, investors need to increase their tolerance for non-moral failure. They need to foster a culture of innovation and risk-taking. The social sector needs to embark on an era of experimentation and innovation if it is to identify better ways of addressing social issues. Failure is inevitable and healthy. Impact investing needs to become the same. This is the only way foundations and other funders can maximize the social benefit from their assets, and move the needle on solving persistent social issues. For more information see www.blogs.hbr.org

Making time management the organization’s priorityND


McKinsey Quarterly, January 2013

Time scarcity is getting worse: always-on communications, organisational complexity, and unrelenting economic pressures are compounding an age-old challenge. With almost 50 percent of executives saying that they’re not spending enough time on strategic priorities, time challenges are a concern for companies, not just individuals. Key solutions to 'time scarcity' are as follows: 1) treat time management as an institutional issue rather than primarily an individual one, 2) establish a time budget and limit new initiatives when the human capital runs out, 3) beware of becoming so lean that you overwhelm managers; don’t stint on high-quality assistants to help manage executive time, 4) measure the time executives spend on strategic priorities and set explicit time-based metrics, and 5) use a master calendar to root out time-wasting meetings. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

What’s next for China?ND


McKinsey Quarterly, January 2013

China’s economy is shifting to a more consumption and service-driven model that should help sustain the country’s growth, albeit at a slower rate, over the next decade and beyond. New government policies will favour household income growth, improve the social safety net, and support the expansion of the service sector and private enterprises, especially small and midsize businesses. In particular, the accelerated rise of smaller cities will make a key contribution to growth: during the next two decades, the dozens of cities with current populations of less than 1.5 million will contribute 40 percent of the total increase in urban GDP. Cities with 1.5 million to 5.0 million inhabitants will contribute about 25 percent and existing megacities the balance. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

Entrepreneurial philanthropyND


Philo Alto, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 28 January 2013

The premise of the entrepreneurial philanthropy approach is distinguishing between your intended impact, which is personal, and social issues that can be objectively studied and addressed. The idea is that a more 'business-like' approach to philanthropy is more likely to efficiently address social issues than a personalised, perhaps more quixotic approach. In implementing such a methodology there are six steps to take: 1) study the social issue - it’s important to study how factors feeding into an issue interplay with each other and to identify their underlying causes before acting, 2) decide how to get involved - this involves several considerations, one of which is distinguishing causes from symptoms, 3) assess your time horizon of impact (i.e. long or short term) - this hones in the range of viable options available to you, 4) identify tipping points i.e. the likely triggers for public support, 5) decide what resources to employ, and 6) track your progress. For more information see www.ssireview.org

Trust building, the emergence of NGOs and purpose in AsiaND


Alan Vandermolen, Edelman, 27 January 2013

Edelman has released the Asia Pacific results of the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer. One long-term trend that has continued is the increasing trust in NGOs in Asia. Since 2008, trust in NGOs in China has gone up from 48 percent to 81 percent. In addition, Asian markets (China, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore) have four of the five highest trust ratings for NGOs globally. Among the factors driving the steady increase in trust for NGOs across Asia since 2008 are the following: increased recognition for – and greatly improved governance of – home-grown Asian NGOs, a much expanded middle class with plenty of choice in which brands they purchase and with expectations for how businesses and brands behave, and savvy use of social media by NGOs and consumers to drive dialogue on issues important to them. For more information see www.edelman.com

How banks should finance the social sectorND


John Canady, Harvard Business Review, 22 January 2012

Most traditional financial intermediaries, like banks, are focused on short-term returns and deem unsecured lending to charities and social enterprises to be too risky. As a result, charities and social enterprises do not have the cushion of external financing to manage their various capital requirements. But instead of trying to develop a convincing business case to provide unsecured lending to higher-risk charities, there are other models that could address this market failure. One such model would involve donor's philanthropic capital being "recycled" in the form of loans to different charities thereby achieving exponential impact over a one-off donation. 'Donations' are used to make an unsecured loan to a charity, and then once the charity has paid the money back, the same amount is then loaned out again to another charity. Hence, instead of making a one-off donation, if you invest through this model, donations are 'recycled' over and over and achieve a much greater impact. For more information see www.hbr.org

Even if it enrages your boss, social net speech is protected ND


Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, 21 January 2012

As Facebook and Twitter become as central to workplace conversation as the company cafeteria, federal regulators are ordering employers to scale back policies that limit what workers can say online. Employers often seek to discourage comments that paint them in a negative light, and violations can be a firing offense. But in a series of recent rulings and advisories, labor regulators have declared many such blanket restrictions illegal. The decisions come amid a broader debate over what constitutes appropriate discussion on Facebook and other social networks. Lewis L. Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, said social media rights were looming larger in the workplace. “No one should be fired for anything they post that’s legal, off-duty and not job-related,” Mr. Maltby said. For more information see www.nytimes.com

Redesigning knowledge workND


Martin Dewhurst, Bryan Hancock and Diana Ellsworth, Harvard Business Review, 16 January 2013

In today’s knowledge economy, competitive advantage is increasingly coming from the particular, hard-to-duplicate know-how of a company’s most skilled people: talented (and highly paid) engineers, salespeople, scientists, and other professionals. The problem is that across the private, public, and social sectors there aren’t enough knowledge workers to go around. In response, some firms are taking steps to expand the talent pool—for example, by investing in apprenticeships and other training programs. But a number of companies are going further: They are redefining the jobs of their experts, transferring some of their tasks to lower-skill people inside or outside their organisations, and outsourcing work that requires scarce skills but is not strategically important. The process involves several basic steps: identifying the gap between the talent your firm has and what it will need; creating narrower, more-focused job descriptions in areas where talent is scarce; choosing from various options for filling the skills gap; and rewiring processes for talent and knowledge management. For more information see www.hbr.org

Biggest kids on the block becoming bigger fans of social mediaND


Robert Berkman, MIT Sloan Management Review, 7 January 2012

The very largest corporations in America are showing “the first signs of really embracing a range of social media tools”, according to a new study undertaken at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The research examined how companies from the 2012 Fortune 500 list were using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. A total of 139 companies, or 28% of the Fortune 500, had blogs. Those in the telecommunications industry had the most (40%); followed by commercial banks, specialty retail and utilities (25-30%). A total of 365 companies, or 73%, were found to have a corporate Twitter account. The food/consumer products industry had the most, with 93% of its firms on Twitter. A total of 330 companies, or 66%, had a Facebook account. That represents an 8% increase over the previous year. Industries with the greatest presence on Facebook were specialty retail (89%); consumer products (86%); and telecom (80%). For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

How to create brand engagement on FacebookND


Arvind Malhotra, Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra and Alan See, MIT Sloan Management Review, December 18 2012

A recent study of 98 global brands identifies factors that increase — or decrease — the chances of consumers “liking” commenting on or sharing a company’s Facebook posts. The research identifies eight ways brand managers can increase the number of likes a post receives, as well as five common mistakes that prevent messages from being liked. One technique that drove comments to wall posts was posing questions. When brands asked, people answered. There was a sense of talking back to the brand. The report concludes that Facebook is becoming a critical element of any organisation’s marketing strategy, and that there are clear techniques that exist to leverage wall posts more effectively to generate greater propagation and richer conversation — and to convert more consumers into brand advocates. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Breaking down corporate philanthropyND


Katarina Persic, Pro Bono Australia, 12 December 2012

Corporate philanthropy must satisfy three key stakeholder groups: the local community, employees and shareholders. Toyota Australia has designed a model of philanthropy that is based on this design. As such, it manages three distinct investment funds for each stakeholder group. It's Social Investment Fund, for which the key stakeholder it identifies as the Toyota Motor Corporation parent company, requires Toyota factories to contribute to Not For Profits in the areas of environment, traffic safety and education. Then there is the Disaster Relief Fund / Workplace giving fund, which encourages employees (key stakeholder) to make a private choice of what charity they want to support. Third, there is the Local Council and Community Fund, which states that each Toyota factory must contribute to their local community in the way that they believe is appropriate for their circumstance. For more information see www.probonoaustralia.com

Profits and CSR closely linked - reportND


Pro Bono Australia, 12 December 2012

A global survey of corporate social responsibility executives within the Fortune 1000 organisations has revealed that profits and CSR are closely linked, and many businesses evaluate the relationship between these two variables when developing strategy. When evaluating motivations behind CSR policy, results signal that the primary motivation behind CSR initiatives lies in the company’s reputation (88%), followed by the company’s competitive positioning and social consciousness (71%). Significantly, profitability (38%) and pending or existing legislation (32%) were determined to be motivating factors. The study also sought to determine the level of importance of the views of specific audiences, both internal and external, when creating and measuring the results of CSR strategies, as well as specific issues that CSR initiatives often focus on. For more information see www.probonoaustralia.com

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