The 5-Step Primer: Culture, CSR, and Globalization

This post also appeared in CSRWire Talkback.


What then would a glocal approach to CSR entail? Here’s a 5-step primer:

  1. It delegates authority in corporations more efficiently.Multinational corporations, while overseeing the larger CSR goals, need to give subsidiaries greater autonomy to plan local efforts. At the same time, these subsidiaries need to be held more accountable by the parent company.
  2. Grassroots community consultation is required, rather than top-down communication from the company or NGO at hand. CSR teams need to interact with the communities they work with, and have a sufficiently mid- or long-term focus. The emphasis changes from ‘doing good’ to ‘empowering to do well’. Let’s realize that even environment-focused CSR projects need to recognize the community as stakeholder:  engaging local communities in conservation makes the project both more sustainable, and helps the company hone its corporate image and hopefully distribute costs.
  3. The glocal approach includes process in CSR evaluation, not just outcomes. Outcomes are still important – we want to know whether a project has been successful or not – but the process and local context also need to be considered. This is especially true when deciding to replicate (with suitable modifications) successful projects elsewhere.
  4. A more diffuse system of ‘standards’ comes into play. Networked communities of interest play an important role in setting these standards, in addition to international and State agencies. Continuous recording and sharing of Information across domestic/international networks as crucial. Admittedly, though we have the required technology, the biggest drawback (at the moment) is coordination. Greater stakeholder connection across local contexts is vital. So if an MNC has one subsidiary doing a great CSR job, while the other is irresponsibly derelict, stakeholder connections should kick in and pressure the MNC at all its locations on the dereliction. A glocal approach thus calls for a concerted effort on all fronts.
  5. Finally, it requires companies to re-think their social role in the global/local contexts. For instance, while State regulation has often been anathema to companies, several prominent socially responsible firms now realized the need for active State intervention to create a level playing ground for ethical companies. Companies operating in emerging economies like Brazil, China and India also need to keep in mind what their local (both actual and potential) customers, employees and other stakeholders expect of them. This involves a more open approach to not just delegation of autonomy, but also sharing information on CSR practices, problems and mandates with the larger community, the media, NGOs and the State.

While glocalization is largely understood as ‘think global, act local’, we need to think locally and acting globally, as well.


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