CSR is breaking down the corporate silos

Yesterday I had the
opportunity to participate in a roundtable on Corporate Social Responsibility
(CSR) hosted by PR Week magazine here in New York.  Joining me around the table were my
counterparts at some of world’s leading brands – including McDonald’s; Chevron;
Campbell’s; P & G; and L’Oreal.   The
often lively discussion covered a range of the usual topics you’d expect such
as CSR reporting, employee engagement, stakeholder engagement etc. But we also
discussed one of those issues that we often overlook; namely the role CSR plays
in breaking down silos within corporations.

I often refer to CSR as a
horizontal issue in a vertical world.  By
that I mean, CSR within a large, global company like Microsoft spans different product
and business groups.  When you think
about operational issues like supply chain management, human rights and
environmental sustainability you quickly realize that these issues – really
corporate functions- require a cross group, companywide approach.  I spend a lot of time here at Microsoft
working with my colleagues in our product and business groups on these issues –
developing consistent policies – based on our corporate mission – our corporate
values and Citizenship mission and commitments. 

There was a robust
discussion yesterday about how CSR actually helps breakdown silos within
companies.  I know a lot of people across
Microsoft – in many different groups – not because I am particularly outgoing
or social but because it is my job!  How
can I do my job if I don’t know my colleagues in our global corporate procurement
group – working hand in hand with them on supply chain management issues?  How can I do my job if I don’t know my
colleagues in our online privacy group and work with them on issues related to
free expression and the protection of human rights?

While the specific issues
may differ significantly from company to company, each of us talked about our horizontal work.  In fact, our conversation led me to think
about some research Chris Pinney did for the Center for Corporate Citizenship
at Boston College on CSR competencies. 
While the work highlighted a number of “core” competencies for people
working in CSR, for me one of the most important is what I will call the collaboration competency.

Everyone around the table
agreed that CSR can and does break down silos within an organization.  Furthermore there was consensus that that
cross company collaboration is key to driving successful CSR programs.  None of us would have been on the panel today
if we weren’t effective collaborators within our organizations. 

So, if you happen to be reading
this because you are interested in “having my job” – here is a bit of advice – the
collaboration competency is key and essential for successful, sustained CSR.