A good article on Bloomberg (by Albuquerque's own Steve McKee) looks at the kinds of decisions and assessments companies need to consider in their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategies.
Do you want your business to become known for its commitment to corporate social responsibility? If so, you’re going to have to be thoughtful in managing trade-offs, balancing short-term and long-term interests, and assessing possible unintended consequences. Differing audiences (or interest groups) will judge the choices you make based on their differing perspectives. Your task is to sort through the issues and determine the best course of action for your organization. That’s where it can get dicey if you don’t keep first things first.
Every company has limited resources with which to pursue its mission. It’s possible for corporate social responsibility initiatives to lead to the unintentional neglect of the responsibilities to which company leaders have already committed by virtue of their roles: advancing the interests of the organization.
Think about the basic definition of what a company is: a collection of people who come together to embark on a defined enterprise. As a company leader, your first responsibility is to the enterprise and its stakeholders—the investors who have entrusted their resources to help it grow and prosper and the employees who invest in the company their time and professional reputations. Their expectations are properly that you will do everything in your power to accomplish the goals of the enterprise.
That said, all business leaders must continually conduct clear-eyed analyses of their companies’ roles in the world and impacts on society. The actions of a company color the perceptions, behavior, and well-being of its customers, prospects, and the community at large, affecting its own health as well as that of the world around it. As a conscientious entrepreneur, you have the responsibility to consider the implications of every decision you make on your company’s business and reputation.
You also have the responsibility not to risk the assets of your stakeholders on diversions, no matter how worthy they may be in the broader social context. While nobody is for world hunger or against family farms, even such popular issues can become a distraction. As a general rule, the less directly an issue is linked to a company’s core expertise and interests, the less willing the company should be to take it on.