Towards a European Competency Framework for CSR and Sustainable Development

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1 Towards a European Competency Framework for CSR and Sustainable Development Andrew Wilson Director, Ashridge Centre for Business and Society Brussels 11 December 2003 The first question to ask is why a competency framework for CSR and sustainable development? In short, the answer is that most world class organisations use competences to DEFINE AND DRIVE high performance. Defining competences allows managers, and those responsible for their development, to grasp what is required to reach improved levels of excellence and performance by providing a common framework which articulates the skills, knowledge and attitudes relevant to successful business practice. 1

2 Scope of Presentation Draw on work from Belgium, France, Netherlands and the UK Explore what is meant by CSR competences Discuss how they might be applied and developed Claire Boasson on behalf of CSR Europe (France) who most recently has conducted work in this area among 13 leading French companies Niko Roorda, Dutch Committee on Sustainable Higher Education (Netherlands) who was one of the lead authors of an Auditing Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education Pieter Tratsaert, Catholic High School of Leuven (Belgium) who has applied the AISHE framework and has been working with a number of companies on this issue to build CSR competences into all existing courses. 2

3 What are Competences? KNOWLEDGE Technical expertise Sustainable development Commercial awareness ATTITUDES Integrity Open minded Adaptability Responsible business behaviour SKILLS Problem solving Decision making Handling complexity Starting point is that much research into this area identifies management competences as comprising three separate but closely inter-related elements (which are entirely in line with the findings from Claire s work with the French companies and the AISHE paper): - Knowledge and understanding - Skills and abilities - Personal qualities, values and attitudes. These three components complement each other and it is the combination of each which gives rise to key behaviours demonstrated by people. We need to be aware of the relations between each of the three elements in trying to understand and describe management activity. Worth saying at this stage that some of these things can be taught, others can only be learned slowly over time. It is easier to design development interventions to increase knowledge and develop new skills; it is much more difficult to change people s values and attitudes. 3

4 CSR Specialist or Generalist? KNOWLEDGE ALL LEVELS ATTITUDES ALL FUNCTIONS ALL SECTORS SKILLS The analysis is predicated on the notion that CSR is a voluntary activity over and above the legal requirements of business. As such, it is a convergence of new ideas and practices (behaviours) that are impacting on management practice. According to this view, CSR is a concept that applies to all the decision-making processes and systems in a business. Hence, developing a CSR competency framework must involve the decisions, actions and behaviours of all people at all levels throughout an organisation from senior management to the shop floor; across all functions; and in companies in all sectors. The end point should be a CSR competency framework that is applicable to specialist and non-specialist alike. This point of how CSR competences might be applied is something I will return to in a moment. 4

5 Culture and Environment BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT KNOWLEDGE KNOWLEDGE ATTITUDES ATTITUDES Responsible Responsible business business behaviour behaviour SKILLS SKILLS ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE However, in order to understand how CSR competences might be applied in a specific organisation, one must consider both the organisational culture and the nature of the business environment in which it operates. Organisational culture relates to the strategy and vision of the company, its business goals and its willingness to embrace notions of broader corporate social and environmental responsibilities. It will also concern the degree of transparency within a company and its ability to involve all workers in the management change process necessary to embrace CSR. Business environment relates to such factors as prevailing economic conditions, the stage of business development (start-up or mature) the complexity of business relations etc. 5

6 Defining CSR Competences KNOWLEDGE CSR CHARACTERISTICS Questioning business as usual Understanding society Building partnerships Stakeholder relations ATTITUDES Respecting diversity Strategic vision SKILLS The research in the UK, involved a process of extensive consultation, including four workshops and a questionnaire survey that together reached some 500 key stakeholders. We identified the core characteristics that describe the way in which all managers need to act if they are to integrate responsible business decision-making into day-to-day operations. These core characteristics are a mixture of skills, attitudes and knowledge sets. In broad terms, they centre on the following themes: Questioning business as usual by being open to new ideas and challenging others to adopt new ways of working. Understanding the role of each player in society (government, business, SOCIAL PARTNERS, nongovernmental organisations and civil society) and how they interact with each other. Building internal and external partnerships by taking a multi-disciplinary approach and creating strategic networks and alliances. Identifying stakeholders, building relations with internal and external stakeholders, engaging in dialogue and balancing competing demands. Understanding difference, respecting diversity and adjusting one s approach to different situations. Taking a strategic view of the business environment. The six Core Characteristics are NECESSARY to implement CSR, so define what is different about this management practice. But they are also REQUIRED by managers in ALL functions so are general in nature. At this stage in its development the model describes the high-level characteristics required by all managers seeking to implement CSR within organisations. These characteristics could in time be supplemented with a more comprehensive list of business skills, knowledge sets and behaviours. 6

7 Applying CSR Competences CSR CHARACTERISTIC Stakeholder relations LEVEL OF APPLICATION Awareness Understanding DEMONSTRATED BEHAVIOUR Application Integration Change agent While the six core CSR characteristics identified in this analysis represent the overarching principles, each of these principles could be supplemented with more detailed statements explaining how the principles translate into management actions. For each of the core CSR characteristics it is possible to imagine how they translate into demonstrated behaviour at different levels and across the business. These levels of application could relate to: Different functions within the company Different levels of seniority Different requirements in various sectors The model does recognise and allow for different levels of understanding of the core CSR characteristics relevant to different managers in different circumstances. 7

8 Applying CSR Competences CSR CHARACTERISTIC Stakeholder relations LEVEL OF APPLICATION Awareness Understanding Application Integration Change agent DEMONSTRATED BEHAVIOUR Is aware that businesses need to maintain good relations with a wide range of stakeholders Recognises the key stakeholders of the organisation and responds accordingly Actively involved in building and maintaining relations with stakeholder representatives Responsible for management decisions that respond appropriately to legitimate stakeholder concerns Develops business strategy that balances the potentially competing demands of stakeholder groups This is as far as the work in the UK has progressed. Need to populate a series of such matrices for each of the six core CSR characteristics. 8

9 Integrating CSR in Higher Education AISHE: Need to look at the PROCESS as well as the CONTENT Acquiring KNOWLEDGE and insight into sustainable development Training in SKILLS and techniques Developing an ATTITUDE which appreciates the importance of sustainable development The AISHE paper clearly demonstrates that CSR is not simply about the content of a competence framework, but is also about the process in which it is applied. AISHE model recognises the mix of knowledge, skills and attitudes. The AISHE tool is based on the EFQM business excellence model in that it has five stages of development, corresponding to the degree to which SD is integrated into the curriculum. 9

10 Key Lessons Business is operating in an increasingly complex and global environment There is emerging consensus on the competences required to operate successfully in this new environment CSR competences are not necessarily new It is not only about individual development, but also organisational development The is a growing need for managers to: - Balance the short and long term - Asses the potential impact of future changes on the business - Communicate effectively to different audiences - Understand the wider relations of business in society. CSR competences do not necessarily involve the creation of entirely new management approaches. Many of the skills and abilities described in a CSR competences framework are aligned with existing good management practice. What is different are the knowledge sets required (new areas include environmental impacts, human rights, non-financial performance measurement) and the personal qualities (e.g. a willingness to question business as usual). Important not to forget the organisational dimension this is not just about developing individuals. 10

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