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7 CSR buzzwords to make you look brilliant

By Amanda J. Ponzar

CSR I thought I'd have to write something profound about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) "2010 Global Corporate Citizenship Conference: Frontier Markets. Global Partnerships. Local Solutions." (And yes, that's a 19-word title) Sept. 27-29, but BCLC's bloggers beat me to it.

So, rather than re-hash what's been hashed, here are 7 hot CSR terms you can use so everyone thinks you're a genius:

  • strategic -- such as "strategic corporate partnerships"
  • sustainability
  • scalability
  • replicable (replicability??)
  • outcome-based -- such as "strategic, outcome-based proposal aligned with business mission"
  • investment -- such as "not philanthropy but investment"
  • stakeholder -- such as "the multi-stakeholder participatory approach" (and yes, these are quotes from the conference)

If you use all these terms in one sentence (plus toss in "social entrepreneurs" and "intellectual capital"), you'll probably end up with a $1M grant, the Nobel Peace Prize, or at the very least BCLC's corporate citizenship award.

Globe in hands

A few key conference highlights:

  • Microsoft’s Senior Director of Community Affairs Akhtar Badshah chaired the conference with his usual poise and even calmly conversed with a stealth activist who commandeered the mic and launched into an environmental tirade, bashing one of the corporate panelists. (She’d registered under a fake name to get in; and she got tossed out.) Very exciting!

  • Dr. Al Hammond, CEO of HealthPoint promoted bottom of the pyramid business strategies in developing markets. His E Health Point centers provide diagnostic tests for $0.50, telemedical consultations for $.80, and clean drinking water for about $.05 per household per day to prevent against water-borne illness in rural villages. Apparently businesses CAN make a profit and help people. Go figure. It’s called market-based solutions to poverty. Al’s also written “Serving the world’s poor profitably” in Harvard Business Review on Corporate Social Responsibility.

  • Doc Handley, one of CNN's heroes and founder of Wine to Water, was a bartender and self-described “tattooed keg-tapper” who now digs wells around the world to help the 1 billion people without clean drinking water. His common-sense (but uncommon) solutions include building wells or water filters with parts the villagers have on hand and empowering locals to solve problems on their own, create their own businesses, etc. Now THAT is strategic sustainability!  

  • AnaMaria Irazabal, director of marketing for Pepsi’s Refresh Project, spoke about their new crowd-sourced approach to giving away money. Interestingly, it's created debate. As David Hessekiel of the Cause Marketing Forum says: “The buzz around Pepsi Refresh and the American Express Members Project has led some to wonder whether all CM should soon be crowd-sourced. The Cone research indicates NO. Sixty-one percent of consumers say they would prefer to see a company make a long-term commitment to a focused issue vs. 39% who would rather the company allow them to vote on monthly or yearly cause selections.”

  • Ann Bernstein, executive director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise, not only wrote a book on biz development, but also made controversial statements. She said philanthropic investments are up, outputs down. The real way to help the poor? Companies doing business for the public good, not CSR which is “mostly Band-aids”. She’s against the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. Instead, she wants to create an enabling environment for business and effective government. And she said corporate-NGO partnerships were “murky,” full of “well-meaning CSR” but “with dubious impact.” Gotta love that.

  • Stephen Jordan, BCLC’s top dog, recapped it all in his blog. I liked his point on “mission creep” and how we should stick to core competencies rather than try to do everything and do none of it well.

Hope you feel more strategic after reading this! Comment and add YOUR brilliant buzzwords.


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