3 Ways to Help Your CFO Overcome CSR Doubts

Dec 2, 2010   //   by Bradley Short   //   Accounting & Finance, Blog, Company Culture, Investors & Stakeholders, Leadership  //  No Comments

Are you having trouble getting executive buy-in for corporate social responsibility (CSR)? Converting doubters to believers is difficult, even more so with analytically-minded CFOs. However, the strong financial leadership of a CFO will spread the impact and support of your CSR project throughout the company and community.

CFOs on CSR: Discover the Root of Their Doubts

The key to gaining CSR converts is uncovering the root cause of their doubts.  In today’s post, we’ll look at three objections a CFO might have and suggest some ways you can help them overcome their resistance.  In future posts, we’ll take a look at issues that your colleagues in other job functions may have.

Objection #1 – “I’m not sure that investing in CSR initiatives is a good use of the company’s money.  Can it really be profitable?”

Response -  Encourage your CFO to look at long-term cost analyses and see the savings that social and environmental stewardship can have for your company.  On top of saving money through efficiency, responsibility is a good investment because consumers care about it.  Burt’s Bees is an example of a company that has implemented a strong CSR program and is reaping its benefits.

Making a business act more responsibly also opens the door for innovations that can generate even more revenues for the firm.  For example, cradle-to-cradle design and recycling allows companies to sell or utilize materials which would have been previously considered waste.  Newer, more efficient processes that your company creates can also be sold to other companies.

Objection #2 – “‘Corporate Responsibility’ is just a marketing tactic.  It has nothing to do with me.”

Response – “Corporate Responsibility” is just that…corporate.  It is an overarching business strategy that needs to permeate every bit of a company to be as successful as it can be.

In order to reap the full benefits of a CSR program, CFOs need to understand how their commitment to environmental and social responsibility is crucial.  They need to be willing to “put their money where their mouth is.”  An ongoing plan that involves setting aside significant investment capital for responsible innovation will require strong financial leadership from the top.  Just like any business venture, CSR programs need financial guidance to succeed.

Talk to your CFO using terms they understand.  Help them determine key performance indicators (KPIs) so that they will be able to confidently measure the program’s benefits.  Work with them to make success more easily quantifiable.

Objection #3 – “Our investors/shareholders won’t really care about CSR.”

Response - Do your investors care about risk management?  Recruiting?  Loyal employees?  Efficiency?  Innovation?  If so, then they ALREADY care about CSR.

Environmental responsibility and efficiency protects your company from spikes in resource costs and ever-changing governmental regulations.  It also minimizes the risk that your company causes an environmental disaster which can destroy an ecosystem and take your stock price with it.  (Think of what the BP oil spill did to stock prices.)

Younger employees maintain that they are more loyal to companies that care about societal issues and allow them to work towards improving the world around them.  They seek out companies that allow them to be fulfilled by solving social problems in their everyday work.  When you consider the resources it takes to train good employees, the importance to your investors becomes pretty clear.

Moving past CSR objections and working together

CFOs need you to translate corporate responsibility into their language.  At BusinessEarth, we believe that once leaders realize that corporate responsibility offers solutions for what they already value, they will be much more likely to support and contribute to your CSR program.

What objections have you faced from financial leaders inside of YOUR company?  How did you help them see the light?