ICCR Sets the Bar for Community and Stakeholder Engagement
Since the early 1970s, when a group of faith-based organizations with investments in companies that conducted business with apartheid South Africa urged those companies to divest from that country, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has helped shaped corporate policy on a bevy of environmental and social issues. With 300 organizations that have assets over US$100 billion, the ICCR has set the gold standard for socially responsible investing (SRI). To that end, the organization has just issued a study, Building Sustainable Communities through Multi-Party Collaboration. This study is a must-read for anyone working on a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and wants to ensure stakeholder engagement. Of particular interest is the section improving collaborative multi-party and multi-sector engagement. Marcy Murninghan, editor of the Murninghan Post, wrote the thoughtful chapter. She discusses the tension between the qualitative and quantitative data, with the latter often the focus of multinational companies. Because the social dimension of sustainability is difficult to analyze, CSR projects have got to lay out a concise road map for the engagement (i.e. "buy-in") of local individuals, community groups, and other organizations in order for them to be successful (not to mention genuine). For example, she writes:
. . . Because companies are making social investments with increasing frequency, it is in their interest, as well as all stakeholders to better understand how well these investments are doing. Qualitative and quantitative benchmarks for gauging progress, as well as collaborative processes for mutual learning and performance improvement are needed.The good intentions of the corporate headquarters may overlook the need of local stakeholders, and Murninghan offers a compelling framework for addressing such issues. Again, you can read the study here. Speaking of sustainability, the time has come to include the leaders of religious groups and faith-based organizations within this conversation.