CSO not CSR. Corporate Social Opportunity not Corporate Social Responsibility. I heard this at a recent conference I attended in east London and it struck me as a powerful concept. CSO is about changing the mind set of people and organisations and the way we view our existence. It’s about understanding how we contribute to society and realise the causes and effects of our actions on the world around us. It’s about seeing the opportunity to improve our impact and support our businesses long-term.
Lynn Forester de Rothschild said in a recent interview with the Evening Standard: “the business of business is not to solve society’s problems. But it is a problem for business when society views business as a problem, not a force for change.” I agree but I think there is more. It is true that certain issues can only be solved by government, philanthropy and charity, yet every business, big or small, has an impact on the community it serves and its immediate environment. So it has an opportunity to make that impact positive and constructive and, as a result, contribute to solving society’s problems.
If a training business provides training to those that cannot afford it will not only help communities, it will create future customers for itself. If a grocer delivers a Food Bank, it will reduce wastage, help communities and grow its business. CEOs come and go as do their CSR projects and strategies, that is the problem. If CSR is a nice thing to do alongside the main business it will always be a marketing tool not really engaging beyond the bottom line.
The role of government and individuals alike is to foster socially aware businesses and help more businesses embrace social change within their remit. CSO is not the domain of large corporates alone. All business should be a force for change as it’s intrinsically connected to society, communities, prosperity and well-being. Being socially aware, linking and growing communities, and supporting social change is everyone’s business and ultimately is good for business.
What happened since we published this blog… Housing and the Social Economy