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When CSR is not Just About CSR, but Also Talent Retention and Business Innovation

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Can CSR as we know it be reimagined in an enterprise context? Can we redefine the rules in such a way as to integrate CSR, business models, and talent retention?


As someone who interacts with people all the time, I constantly look for new ideas in talent engagement. And one of my recent sources of new ideas was the book 'Building Social Business', written by Mohammed Yunus of the Grameen Bank fame. And the book was nothing short of a revelation.

The book got me thinking: can CSR as we know it be reimagined in an enterprise context? Can we redefine the rules in such a way as to integrate CSR, business models, and talent retention? The book did have some of the answers.

Yunus demonstrated an amazingly high level of business acumen in his experiments with his two social businesses - Grameen Danone and Grameen Veolia. These two experiments made dairy and drinking water available in rural areas of Bangladesh with a sustainable business model.

Don't underestimate the power of good news
One of the surprising benefits of the programs was the dramatic impact on their employees in developed countries. As word spread that the companies were experimenting in these progressive areas, employees developed a new sense of pride in their organizations. The initiatives of companies became water cooler conversations.

There was a big rush of volunteers from different levels of the company to become part of these experiments -- a reaction that enterprises did not see coming. Yunus' book became a necessary reading material before major meetings of executives in these organizations.

CSR can impact your bottom line too
The book also talks about how Danone realized considerable cost savings in Europe from the lessons they learnt from their Bangladesh venture in designing lean storage.

Another lesson that I took away was that all social business or CSR initiatives can deliver results to the parent company when aligned to the company's core strengths. For example, a technology company can think of designing technology solutions for a section of the society that cannot afford it. In the process of breaking these constraints, they may have to innovate. The innovation can then be ploughed back into the business of the company.

In a sense, the path to success and excellence need not be linear. Can you think of innovative ways to leverage CSR activities to engage your talent and rethink your business models? Do share your views.

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