Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time speaking with corporate social responsibility leaders, both at larger organizations as well as startups. Social responsibility today has parallels that remind me of social media in its early days: it’s a tectonic shift in culture, it will reach every employee, has widespread organizational consequences, and it’s going to change how organizations measures success.

And yet corporate responsibility also feels equally nebulous – if it touches people is it HR’s responsibility? If it’s framing the message doesn’t that fall to communications or brand? Or if, like many companies, the largest source of environmental footprint is the product itself, shouldn’t operations be leading the charge?

Yes, is my answer. The responsibility (small pun intended) sits with all of them.

To illustrate these responsibility relationships more clearly, I’ve started using a new CSR framework I’m calling 4P: People, Products, Places, and Power.

4P Corporate Social Responsibility Framework

People

People are the lifeblood and heart of your organization. They need to be healthy, happy, diverse, inclusive, and consistently engaging in purposeful work. It’s also very important to think about their safety and environmental footprint, particularly how (and how often) they commute and travel.

Products

What does your business actually make and sell? If it’s a physical product, this will be an important (and likely significant) component of your business’s environmental footprint. Where and how are your products made? How are they transported? Packaged? What happens post-use? What can be recycled? How circular is your supply chain?

Places

How distributed is your organization? Where do your people work? How do they commute? How often do they need to drive and/or fly for business or to work with one another? How energy efficient are your buildings?

Power

How much energy does your business consume? How much can you reduce? How much of the rest can you offset?

Taken together, P4 is a framework to see corporate social responsibility in big picture terms, and can act as a catalyst for asking the right questions about your organization’s purpose, priorities, and policies (more P’s 🙂).

It’s also the framework we’re using at Brightest to help our customers and partners quantify and empower their corporate responsibility investments.

As an individual leader – and depending on your organization – your mileage may vary on how to prioritize and where to focus first. But to me, P4 outlines the playing field and rules of engagement.

Plan, act, measure, and improve along those four dimensions, and you’re working toward elevating your brand, improving employee productivity, wellness, and retention, and quite possibly raising revenue growth – all while also improving the most important metric of all: the quality of the future for the people in our lives we care about the most.

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