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Dump CSR Departments, Says BP’s Ex-Chief

Companies should get rid of their corporate social responsibility and public relations departments, according to Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP.

As PR Week reports, Browne was promoting his soon-to-be published book, Connect, on Radio 4’s Today program. The book says managers should take responsibility for their companies and not hide behind PRs and CSR departments.

In addition to saying firms should “probably, yes,” ditch their PR departments, Browne said CRS departments had become “divorced” from what their company actually does: “One of the props that people have relied upon is corporate social responsibility, and that’s allowed a lot of companies to detach the activity of communicating and being involved with stakeholders almost into a side pocket.”

Although 82 percent of Americans expect companies to report on the progress of their social and environmental efforts, only 17 percent of Americans say they have read a CSR report in the past 12 months, according to the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study.

 

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5 thoughts on “Dump CSR Departments, Says BP’s Ex-Chief

  1. I’m sorry but this is lazy journalism.
    Yes he said businesses should get rid of their CSR departments but he said that because he believes business should take more responsibility for their role.
    As he says “”Businesses are there to co-operate, to work with society. Businesses have to be engaged very radically with everybody who is affected by them – [and] tell the truth.”

    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34195308

  2. Very revealing that Mr Browne conflates CSR and PR as if corporate responsibility is all about ‘looking good’. Ironic too, coming from the former head of a company in an industry that needs more than most others to act responsibly. Of course, many companies in many sectors have long since moved from ‘CSR’ to ‘sustainability’ and are embedding this in their core business. If the oil companies are still using CSR to distract their stakeholders and the population at large from their lack of real commitment to the climate and our environment, then I would agree with him, they need to dump the ‘talk’ and start ‘walking the walk’… Scrapping the CSR depts. won’t make them any more sustainable however (does Mr Browne think this will happen spontaneously from within?) and oil companies will need to transition them (as fast as possible!) to strategic corporate functions that can drive real CR and sustainability into their business models.

  3. In some respects Mr Browne is correct, if not hypocritical, if businesses operated ethically and responsible: however, his company and his own performance seems to suggest a classic example of “do what I say, not what I do”. Similarly, using his logic we should get rid of all the other bureaucratic, irritating and expensive overheads such as Health & Safety teams (we should all work safely), financial scrutiny and ethics teams (businesses should operate responsible and legally), and security teams (people should operate with utmost integrity), internal and external audit teams, etc. Unfortunately, businesses need these checks and balances because of the way businesses operate, incentive bizarre behaviours, and worship the ‘maximum profit today and to hell with tomorrow and any consequences’ infinite economic growth delusion. He is correct in that many don’t read CSR reports because CSR is still viewed as an ‘inconvenient add on’ with most businesses and a small internal cottage industry divorced from normal business NDA. CSR is too niche a view of business (should be sustainability and resilience) and rarely linked to informing the business on what is should be doing responsible, sustainably and for longterm business risk reduction and resilience. Integrated Reporting should demonstrate how sustainability (including CSR) is tangibly and funtionally embedded within a company’s NDA, ethos, normal business development, product/service design and delivery, and long term risk management. When sustainability performance is directly linked to a company’s financial, other ‘business drivers’ and performance and risk management in a single report, then perhaps we might be getting there. Much CSR activity is too ‘touchy feely’ propaganda and smoke and mirrors, focused on ‘talking the talk’, not ‘walking the talk’. Until, a company’s Chief Sustainability Officer has equal status, remuneration, say, influence and votes in the C Suite, sustainable, responsible, and resilient business activity remains a side show based on compliance, not business enabling and embedded ethos.

  4. CSR and PR are somewhat linked from my experience with big corporations. Some want the ‘show’ and not the tell as it should be told and CSR is a good vehicle to hide behind. There is little context around delivery eg what they have said they have done often is not related to timeframe or % improvement related to their business and what their real current position is. Things are stated as going to happen but the time frame and the milestones are often missing as is the comparative objectives and milestones for the past 3-5 years and how often they were on target for the previous 5 years of milestones. CSR can make us warm and fussy on the inside but effective PR can pull the wool over the communities eyes and reduction in footprint claimed from yr 1 as what was achieved in yr 3 and yr 5 is absent and/or not independently verified. It is not cynical it is human behaviour too under report what matters and over report what is not verified. So why would we be surprised someone is challenging CSR effectiveness 15 years on. Irrespective of the source of the challenge to CSR. We need objectivity. I believe there are 4 basic things need to done in one page by companies.
    What you said? PAST The objective ,milestones 5 years out achieved in % improvement and verified raw data improvements
    What you going to do next? FUTURE. The objective, milestones
    What technologies to achieve? INNOVATION
    How realistic is your success rate likely given your previous 5 years level of success. Single page report card or doubled sided page to explain any definitions and anomlies etc Then SUBMISSION to an independent body /or Govt Dept to asses corporations on their CSR status.
    Keep it simple and clear for engaging and rising community trust factor. Final measurement maybe a community survey

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