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Monitoring CSR: three tips & tricks for professionalisation

Corporate social responsibility is an increasingly important issue for many organisations and businesses. Stakeholders and regulators are demanding more transparency and accountability. And consumers, investors, stakeholders and potential employees take CSR performance into account in their decision-making – a tendency all the more visible in younger generations. But publishing your CSR performance can be tricky, especially if your organisation has traditionally focused solely on financial results. How do you select effective CSR goals and KPIs? And how do you integrate CSR fully into your organisation’s day-to-day efforts? In this blog, Bizaline presents three tips for organisations looking to professionalise their CSR monitoring.

Publishing your CSR performance can be tricky, especially if your organisation has traditionally focused solely on financial results.

1. Don’t fixate (only) on financial goals 

Many organisations tend to focus on their bottom line, while CSR and sustainability often require a rather different perspective. That leads some organisations to decide not to monitor their CSR projects or evaluate on a purely qualitative basis. However, to be certain that your CSR measures are effective and relevant, it’s essential to design a solid monitoring process. There are multiple ways to do this, as author Carola suggests in her book MVO doe je ZO (2016). You could use specific CSR measuring instruments, like standardised Life Cycle Analyses, to quantify the environmental impact of your business. You could also use measurements or assessments by third parties. Another possibility is to use the standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or Integrated Reporting (IR) for your annual reports. Finally, it’s possible to express the positive and negative externalities of your business financially, integrating the previously discrete financial and sustainability-focused reports.

It’s very important to pick KPIs that are actually within your control.

2. Pick your KPI's carefully

To conduct effective CSR policy, you will need management information allowing you to adjust your efforts as you go, as well as to be accountable to your stakeholders. Without such management information, it becomes very difficult to demonstrate the effectiveness of your measures. That’s why CSR goals should be linked to clear, measurable KPIs that allow for adjustment as you go. One significant pitfall, Carola Wijdoogen argues, is the selection of goals and KPIs that don’t give you much influence. This can occur when you pick KPIs that are strongly determined by factors outside of the scope of CSR projects. As an example: a CSR project can contribute positively to an organisation’s reputation. But that same reputation can be damaged by issues that are unrelated to CSR – from operational performance to negative media coverage. For that reason, it’s very important to pick KPIs that are actually within your control, for example by accelerating the implementation of measures or the expansion of the project to deliver your goals.

Link your CSR plans to the vision, mission and strategies of the business as a whole – revealing the cohesive logic that connects everything your organisation does.

3. Integrate your CSR monitoring in your business plan cycle and/or OGSMs.

To ensure that CSR and sustainability get the attention they deserve and are not treated as an afterthought, your CSR plans should be integrated fully in your organisation’s business plan cycle. An effective way to link CSR and operational goals is by using OGSM: a methodology that summarises your entire business plan on a single page. This way, you will link your CSR plans to the vision, mission and strategies of the business as a whole – revealing the cohesive logic that connects everything your organisation does. The next step could be to use OGSM software to automate the monitoring process and enable dynamic adjustments on the go. We’ll tell you more about how that works in part 2 of this blog series – but if you can’t wait, go ahead and shoot us an e-mail!

Bizaline is a consultancy and software developer for programme management, contract management, risk, governance and compliance in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Our passion is to help businesses and governments realise their goals for a better world. Curious? We’d love to hear from you. Don’t hestitate to send us an e-mail at info@bizaline.com. 

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Antoinette Wieman

Managing Partner

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