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For those new to EngineerChic, I have previously been heavily involved in development work as a student with Engineers without Borders. Now working, I try to stay up to date with my Company is doing in the way of CSR and sustainable development. As an Engineer, we have a responsibility to Society to add value to it whilst protecting the environment (yes it does say that in the Engineers Code of Ethics), so this is a topic of personal interest for me.

This is something I have asked myself many times. Considering giant corporate multinationals with a glossy sustainability reports and CSR initiatives, one becomes a little curious on whether the content of those reports are really nothing more than cover-ups for what the Company extracts from Society rather than a true reflection on what they are doing for Society.  One has to ask oneself if there is real value to Society in a Company’s CSR initiatives.

Beyond CSR: Integrated External Engagement

This McKinsey Quarterly article got me thinking along a completely new line which now seems so obvious to me.  A Company engages with and contributes to Society in so many ways which don’t seem immediately obvious to external observers.  Firstly, it hires people – people who make up the individual cells of Society who depend on the Company for their livelihoods and happiness – along with that of their families. A company creates products or services for Society which add value to people’s lives.  A company can influence the economy or legislation of a Country and in some cases, have been known to change the political climate of a country, or the levels of corruption, debt or tax citizen’s of that country have to endure. In fact, a company influences Society a great deal more than many of us think they do.

Now I’m not saying that all of the companies with the ability to influence Society in the ways above are all adding positive value to Society. But as the McKinsey article argues, if a Company were to think deeply about how their normal operations and functions influence Society and then stream them in order to deliver the maximum positive value to Society, they for one would be able to make a far greater contribution, and also be able to show this in their glossy reports to keep the inevitable negative critics at bay.

So in conclusion, I say continue with the yearly party at the soup kitchen or orphanage, but also think about employment principles that truly support gender equality, mission statements that include environmental upliftment and company policies geared at weeding out corruption not only internally, but also within the framework of the country you are operating in. All this can easily be achieved without sacrificing shareholder value – in fact, they might even thank you for improving the company’s image…