Knowledge Centre:
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:

Fire revealed a gap in safety for global brandsND


Jim Yardley, The New York Times, 6 December 2012

112 workers were killed in a blaze last month in Bangladesh that has exposed a disconnect among global clothing brands, the monitoring system used to protect workers and the factories actually filling the orders. After the fire, Walmart, Sears and other retailers admitted that they did not know that Tazreen Fashions - the company who operated in the factory - was making their clothing. For more information see www.nytimes.com

How to help employees ‘get’ strategy ND


Charles Galunic, Harvard Business Review, December 2012

Embedding company strategy in employees is an important aspect of employee engagement. A study conducted for the purpose of determining what strategies best embed company strategy with employees examined 60 000 responses to an employee satisfaction survey. There were some intuitive findings - for example that senior employees are more likely to understand and agree with company strategy. However, the study also concluded that long-term employees don’t necessarily have a better understanding of company strategy. It was found that the most important factor in embedding business strategy amongst employees was the perception of and trust in top management, which suggests that business leaders need to make efforts to engage frequently with their employees. For more information see www.hrb.org

Capturing business value with social technologiesND


Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and James Manyika, McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012

This study examined the use of social technologies in hundreds of organisations around the world to provide a basis for modeling potential improvements across the value chain. One of the key findings was that using social technologies to improve collaboration and communication within and across companies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent. In the area of 'consumer packaged goods', it was found that interactive product campaigns that deploy social technologies can increase the productivity of advertising expenditures by as much as 30 to 60 per cent. It was also estimated that the professional services and advanced manufacturing could yield significant productivity and efficiency gains from greater use of social technologies. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

How ‘social intelligence’ can guide decisionsND


Martin Harrysson, Estelle Metayer, and Hugo Sarrazin, McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012

This article explores four distinct ways social technologies can augment the intelligence-gathering approaches of companies. While the impact of social media on 'identifying priorities for exploration and decision-making' is relatively limited, the study suggests that the areas of the 'intelligence cycle' affected significantly are: gathering data, synthesizing and analysing data, and communicating data. It concludes that the information that companies need to meet competitive challenges is moving quickly from published and proprietary sources to the open, chaotic world of social platforms, and that navigating this new environment effectively will require new skills and a willingness to engage in social conversations rather than merely assemble information. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

New ways to engage employees, suppliers and competitors in CSRND


Betsy Blaisdell (Timberland Llc), Interviewed By Nina Kruschwitz, MIT Sloan Management Review, November 2012

Betsy Blaisdell is senior manager of environmental stewardship for Timberland LLC. In a conversation with MIT SMR’s managing editor and special projects manager Nina Kruschwitz, Blaisdell talks about the company’s “Voices of Challenge” website area, the environment “nutrition label” it’s developed for its footwear, and its partnership with 60 plus apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers and NGOs to develop a an environmental index called the Higg Index. The interview touches on the development of, as well as measurement and reporting of sustainability and CSR metrics. In integrating a sustainability focus into the company, Blaisdell discusses the importance of considering the 'triple bottom line' - environmental, sustainable and financial. Within social and environmental responsibility, Blaisdell's approach is to focus on the 'four pillars' - corporate footprint, product footprint, community service and building sustainable environments. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Why boards need to changeND


Edward Lawler and Christopher Worley, MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2012

The authors argue that corporate boards are not able to provide the leadership required for companies to be successful in their sustainability and CSR endeavours. Boards need executives who understand the impact of organisations on its stakeholders, environment and society, rather than just recruiting those who are knowledgeable about financial performance. Boards also need more information in order to lead and evaluate sustainability performance. Shareholders also need more information. Performance goals should be set so that the board can hold management accountable. Boards might also consider changes to committee structures, such as has occurred at Unilever where there is a corporate responsibility and reputation committee that has oversight of the company’s efforts and reputation. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Think twice before tweetingND


Ian Sanders, Financial Times, 31 October 2012

The average executive has a growing array of digital options to communicate with their organisation, clients and other audiences. Senior executives increasingly feel under pressure to become adept at rapid digital communication, from dealing with emails to responding to tweets. The problem for executives is not just the speediness demanded by electronic communication, but the number of platforms on which brands and businesses need to get their messages out fast. Online campaigns, Facebook brand pages and viral videos must be conceived, created and delivered in hours or days just to keep pace. That creates greater pressure for diligence in a rapid production process. In the rush to communicate digitally, executives need to remind themselves that a sloppily produced report, presentation or blog post can detract from the message. For more information see www.ft.com

The digital capabilities your company needsND


George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee, MIT Sloan Management, 29 October 2012

The authors interviewed 157 executives in 50 large companies and found that the most fundamental technology requirement for digital transformation is a core set of four digital capabilities. The first capability is having a 'united digital platform', which essentially means data integration across the different areas of the company. The second capability is 'solution delivery', which means the ability to modify their processes or build new methods onto the data and process platform. Third is 'analytic capabilities', referring to the ability to combine integrated data with powerful analysis tools. The fourth capability identified is 'business and IT integration', which stresses the importance of a strong relationship between business executives and IT executives. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Dodgy social media: buying followers, and why it may not always be a bad ideaND


Patrick Stafford, SmartCompany, 25 October 2012

Companies have been hiring the services of businesses and individuals to artificially inflate their follower numbers. Whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook, “likes” or “followers” are simply another commodity ready to be sold or traded. There’s a clear benefit to buying social media followers quicker than your normal timeline would allow: speeding up the process by putting the page in front of people who may be interested. But social media experts argue these followers are never going to be as engaged with your brand had they found your company organically. If someone visits your page and notices your high follower count, it won’t mean a thing if you don’t have many conversations happening on your page or feed. Fake ‘likes’ might add a sense of legitimacy or popularity, but probably will not stimulate engagement with the brand. For more information see www.smartcompany.com.au

Integrity pays dividends: the case for minding your own businessND


Timothe Devinney, The Conversation, 25 October 2012

The author argues that in order to achieve the benefits of 'corporate' social responsibility (CSR), organisations need to redefine the concept in terms of “individual social responsibility” (ISR). The idea is that corporations can be socially responsible only in proportion to which the individuals who are party to the corporation − customers, employees, investors, managers, and so on − are themselves socially responsible. Organisations that are made up of individuals possessing integrity are more productive and efficient, and individuals possessing more integrity will be more likely to have economic and social opportunities open up to them. The key to more social responsibility may not lie in more standards and regulations meant to demarcate ‘good’ from ‘bad’ behaviour, but the ability to get more individuals to behave with integrity. For more information see www.theconversation.edu.au

Managing successfully in the Asian centuryND


Rachel Nickless, Australian Financial Review, 17 October 2012

As Australia seeks further regional economic integration, it will become increasingly important for Australian companies and executives to become ‘Asia-literate’ – understanding certain cultural and behavioural difference between the Australian and Asian workplaces. Among the lessons that Australians will need to learn include adapting to an inter-cultural workplace, recognising that Australian banter isn’t always appropriate, and the value of informal meetings as opposed to boardroom meetings. Additionally, Australians will need to recognise the fact that employee benefits are highly valued in China, and that contracts are not necessarily the end point of negotiations. For more information see www.afr.com

Why measuring user engagement is harder than you thinkND


Mathew Ingram, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12 October 2012

Measuring online engagement is important because its allows companies to determine which channels they should be focusing on. However tracking engagement may be easier said than done – as there is increasing evidence that people are engaging through difficult to trace channels such as emails and instant messaging, or what is called ‘dark social engagement’. While there may be software that can shed light on some of these difficult to track engagement channels, the broader implications for attracting larger online engagement is that it’s not necessarily the channel that is used, but more the message that is being conveyed. For more information see www.businessweek.com

No good deed goes unpunishedND


Doug Pinkham, Public Affairs Council, 3 October 2012

Many business executives believe that commitment to developing a stronger reputation will protect a company during a crisis. However, a new study from Northwestern University concludes that the perception that reputation can act like 'insurance' against activist challenges may be wrong. Key findings include: that firms with the highest reputation rankings are more likely to be targeted for boycotts; firms that do lots of CSR-related media outreach are more likely to be targeted; and firms that regularly engage the media are also more likely to be targeted. Lessons from the research include: that investing in a good reputation is not a one-time expense; that activists trying to garner attention are most likely to target large, well-known firms; and that being a good corporate citizen doesn’t mean you get a free pass when you do something controversial. For more information see www.pac.org

Success factors in CSR integrationND


Claudia Woo, CSR Asia, 3 October 2012

The author identifies several factors as particularly important for full CSR integration. The first element for success is 'leadership and corporate tone'. The author suggests that management should explicitly set a clear CSR vision for the entire company. The importance of engaging line managers is also stressed, as they may enjoy higher levels of trust than senior management. It is also suggested that CSR is embedded into Human Resource Management, and that it is crucial to incorporate CSR into the code of conduct, employee recruitment policy, training, and remuneration and performance appraisal systems. In measuring CSR, it is suggested that companies need to analyse the list of material issues (as defined by stakeholders, including the company’s strongest critics,) categorise them, and select meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

Retailers fail to find a friend in FacebookND


Chris Zappone, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2012

Nearly half of Australia's retailers have shrugged off the need for a Facebook page. Roughly one third of retailers do have a Facebook page, though 47 per cent don't have one and don't plan to get one within the next year, according to data compiled by Experian. More than half, 54 per cent, don't use Twitter and don't plan to in the next year, either. Pinterest is of particularly little interest to retailers, with 72 per cent saying they have no interest in the site. Many retailers are unwilling to walk away from earlier investments geared towards a non-online environment, said Experian Marketing Services general manager Matt Glasner. “In our experience retailers are most hesitant to abandon their legacy infrastructure investments," he said. For more information see www.smh.com.au

The role of corporate citizenship in high performance organisationsND


Vimal L. Kumar, CSR Asia, 26 September 2012

Increasing stakeholder expectations, the tightening of laws and regulations as well as media scrutiny over the past decade can now make a major integrity lapse potentially devastating to an organisation. Combining high performance with high integrity can help address the pressures that are regularly felt by those within high performance cultures and therefore help manage risk exposure. But it’s not only about managing risk. Ensuring that the highest standards of integrity exist within high performance organisations fosters “corporate citizenship”. When properly managed this can create corporate benefits, both internal and external. Internally it empowers employees to speak up on performance and integrity issues while helping attract and retain high caliber talent. The organisation's reputation is then viewed positively by society at large, and can result in the potential for greater thought leadership in public policy debates. For more information see www.csr-asia.net

Companies that invest in sustainability do better financiallyND


Gerrit Heyns, Harvard Business Review, 19 September 2012

According to the author, it is a common misconception that sustainable investments result in diminished investment returns. Data on corporate sustainability collected over the last decade shows that resource efficient companies — those that use less energy and water and create less waste in generating a unit of revenue — tend to produce higher investment returns than their less resource-efficient rivals. Resource-efficient companies also display high levels of innovation and entrepreneurship pushing core value metrics above the average large cap global business. An investment strategy based on resource efficiency not only produces returns in excess of global benchmarks, it also identifies management teams that are forward thinking, aware of the economic imperatives brought about by resource constraint. For more information see www.blogs.hbr.org

Financial sector development: thinking outside the box to reach Myanmar’s unbankedND


Alyson Slater, CSR Asia, 9 September 2012

One piece of vital infrastructure that is missing in Myanmar is a stable and accessible financial system. Financial sector development is a priority for the Myanmar government, but the author suggests it will require a medium to long-term process of reform and implementation. A further challenge will be to educate people, especially those with low incomes in rural locations, about financial services and how to safely and responsibly participate in the formal financial sector. The author suggests some business models that have been proven successful in reaching poor, rural clients in other markets could be adaptable for implementation in Myanmar. These include: 'banking beyond branches' in rural areas, for example using local shops as surrogate branches; micro-insurance for small businesses, implementing new 'mobile money' technologies; and introducing simple savings accounts with no minimum balance requirements and reasonable transaction fees. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

The digital you at work: what to considerND


Renee Boucher Ferguson, MIT Sloan Review, 9 September 2012

Employee interaction with their employers' social media is increasingly being analysed by employers, using data analytics tools to determine employees' value, influence or motivation within and outside an organisation. There is now software available which builds a digital character for each employee that is mapped against a model of the organisation’s normal behaviour, and any deviations from normality are detected. This can produce a variety of findings, from who the really skilled managers are to who is involved in risky behaviour. The author suggests that employees and candidates should actively and carefully build a 'digital persona'. In fact, survey data shows that online personas may be costing candidates job opportunities, as a third of the HR respondents surveyed said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate. For more information see http://sloanreview.mit.edu

Risky (social) businessND


Robert Berkman, MIT Sloan Management Review, 30 August 2012

The most commonly identified social media risk is that it may leave one's organisation vulnerable to posts, discussions and unauthorised information releases that could be potentially damaging. Findings of a new study into social media risk mitigation by Altimeter include: two thirds of companies surveyed say that social media is a significant or critical risk to their brand reputation; the biggest concerns revolve around brand reputation; and the major sources of risk that companies say they are most concerned about are the “big three”: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The research was based on interviews with professional in the functions such social media managers, compliance officers, lawyers and chief security officers. In general terms, the suggested risk mitigation process involves identifying, assessing, managing and then monitoring the risks. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

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