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In 2013, the Procurement Leaders Network (PLN) correctly anticipated that—COVID-19 aside—corporate social responsibility (CSR) would be “the most influential megatrend affecting the procurement function in 2020.” Now, as the business case for diversity and inclusion (D&I) grows stronger and organizations of all types are increasingly called on to enact social change, CSR initiatives are uniquely positioned to influence corporate decision-making processes and promote D&I from the inside out.

Socially responsible organizations aim to improve their accountability to their stakeholders, employees and patrons by positively contributing to society and the environment. However, the truest and most successful CSR initiatives start from within; lasting organizational (and societal) change requires the careful alignment and integration of CSR initiatives with an organization’s broader vision, mission and goals. To help procurement and other professionals wade through the vast amount of literature surrounding CSR’s role in business and society, ProcurementIQ has compiled a list of best practices for pursuing D&I through CSR.

1. Hone your organizational vision, mission and goals

Just as CSR has earned attention and recognition from executive leadership worldwide, the concept has earned a spot in any modern organization’s goals, vision and mission statements. Work with your organization’s executive leadership to develop a strong, wide-reaching corporate social position that supports D&I initiatives within the organization and externally. Clarify internal and external dialogue surrounding what the organization believes in and why.

2. Define baseline and outcome metrics 

A mature corporate approach to CSR necessitates the creation of a defined set of metrics that can be used to evaluate the organization’s progress. Baseline metrics serve as a basis of analysis for evaluating CSR outcomes, whereas outcome metrics capture an organization’s impact resulting from CSR initiatives. ProcurementIQ recommends that procurement professionals tailor a set of baseline and outcome metrics to measure the procurement department and broader organization’s contributions to the advancement of society. Although metrics should be business- and project-specific, consider using some of the following CSR metrics:

  • Employee volunteer hours
    • Encourage and track employees’ time spent volunteering for minority-owned non-profit organizations and organizations that support underserved communities. Consider offering employees paid time off for company-sponsored volunteer activities.
  • Emissions per revenue dollar
    • Track and reduce your organization’s contributions to climate change. Climate change furthers inequality in society by disproportionately hurting underserved communities that are more likely to suffer in the event of natural disasters and environmental hazards.
  • Number of internal and external grievances against the organization
    • Closely track D&I-related complaints, lawsuits, judgements and infractions. Take the appropriate steps to determine the root cause of the grievance, rectify the problem and prevent future grievances against the organization.
  • Rate of participation in diversity and inclusion training programs
  • Supplier diversity figures
  • Value of corporate philanthropic contributions
    • Encourage philanthropic efforts on behalf of your organization. Track the causes and organizations that corporate funds flow to and ensure they are sufficiently allocated to minority-owned non-profit organizations and organizations that support underserved communities.
  • Value of reused or recycled materials

Focus on collecting metrics that are critical to your organization’s vision, mission and goals. Additionally, try to utilize D&I metrics that are part of existing standards and certifications before attempting to create your own. Examples include the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) Social Responsibility family of standards (ISO 26000), Social Accountability International’s (SAI) SA 8000 standard and AccountAbility’s AA 1000 series of standards.

3. Audit resource allocation 

Although the relationship between CSR and profitability remains unclear, business leaders generally agree that CSR can positively impact an organization’s profitability, even if only on a project-by-project basis. Still, organizations tend to devote more resources to projects that are expected or guaranteed to be profitable in the short-term. As such, procurement professionals must take care to ensure the availability of resources for CSR-oriented activities that typically present greater nonfinancial than financial value. Remind your organization that its resource allocation may not always align with every competitive, economic, cultural, regulatory or other pressure it faces. See ProcurementIQ’s Supplier Diversity: What’s In It For You? and Workplace Diversity Spotlight: 6 Steps to Supplier Diversity for procurement-oriented D&I resources and strategies.

4. Foster inclusivity across products and services 

Work toward representing and addressing all members of the organization’s audience in some way; namely, champion diversity and inclusion throughout all stages of product and service deployment, from the initial design to the marketing campaign to the end-use cases. These efforts should not only cater to the organization’s target audience but extend to underrepresented consumer segments as well.

5. Support socially responsible organizations 

Supporting organizations that publicly promote diversity and inclusion across society can strengthen your organization’s foundations and principles, as well as the public’s perception of your organization. Consider the following methods of supporting socially responsible organizations:

  • Raising awareness of the organization
  • Donating funds and materials to the organization
  • Establishing corporate partnerships with the organization
  • Volunteering for or with the organization

6. Engage with your community 

Evaluating the success of CSR initiatives involves engaging in conversations within your organization and community about your organization’s impact. Be sure to regularly communicate your progress toward CSR initiatives with shareholders, employees and customers. Additionally, ask yourself what more your organization can be doing to promote D&I through socially responsible activities. What types of social issues do your shareholders, employees and customers care most about? How many employees believe your organization is positively contributing to D&I in society? How many customers? Responses to these types of questions can help provide reassurance on your organization’s progress and impact and will help guide your organization to implement successful CSR-oriented strategies moving forward.


By: Ayanna Leaphart

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