The Socially Responsible Leader


When we read the companies` reports, we look for the core subjects, the governance framework, the principles and the financial integrated numbers. Assuming the transparency principle is respected and the reporting follows guidance such as  GRI[1], ISO26000 [2] , we may conclude that the respective company is responsible. This is when the fiscal year has ended, the reports are published and the plans for the following year are ready. Is this enough for the sustainability? The cycle of innovation brings new business opportunities. The company embraces change and is well prepared to bring products first, to respond to competition and to satisfy its customers. The thought leader of the market has a strong relationship with its stakeholders and it is ready to incorporate their feedback in the business strategy. Can something go wrong in the public perception with all these positive assumptions? Yes, and the plan for crisis situation should be immediately applied. If the risk for financial damages could be insured, the public perception damage cannot. What can be done, though, is to always act as a socially responsible leader. And this would attenuate the damages and can increase credibility of the communication.

What do we mean by “socially responsible leader”? People, first. Because company cannot make decision. People can. So, “leader” means the top people responsible with running the company. The Governance framework is about accountability and transparency. Social responsibility principles should be core to the culture of the organization. The known saying “the fish rots from the head” explains it well. If the top people in the company are not living the values of the organization in everyday life and are not making the decision based on agreed principles, the company is exposed. No matter the double-digit growth numbers, the money invested in CSR campaigns and the number of trees planted in the spring. Forget all of these.  Start with the governance framework and make sure everything in the company is run accordingly.

In the first section of General Standard Disclosure (GRI4) it is stated that the sustainability report should “Provide a statement from the most senior decision-maker of the organization (such as CEO, chair, or equivalent senior position) about the relevance of sustainability to the organization and the organization’s strategy for addressing sustainability.

This statement should not be seen as a PR exercise. The guidance for sustainability reporting specifies the content of the statement: „the overall vision and strategy for the short term, medium term, and long term, particularly with regard to managing the significant economic, environmental and social impacts that the organization causes and contributes to, or the impacts that can be linked to its activities as a result of relationships with others (such as suppliers, people or organizations in local communities).” So, each time you read a company report and find the photos of the CxO people, judge it on this compliance criterion. The executive education curricula include now sustainability modules and this is about to shift the perception of what corporate social responsible is all about. The CSR discussion is moved in the boardroom.


[1] Global Reporting Initiative

[2] International Organization for Standardization


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