Don't Let the Crisis Kill Corporate Social Responsibility

Last Updated Aug 4, 2009 9:52 AM EDT

The report cards aren't quite in yet, but it's clear companies have cut back on philanthropy efforts. And that's not a bad thing -- as long as the cuts are done intelligently and with a view to long-term success.

That's the word from one of the academic pioneers in the corporate social responsibility world, Harvard Business School professor V. Kasturi "Kash" Rangan.

He tells HBS Working Knowledge that the key is for companies to use the crisis to take stock and cut ineffective programs while consolidating those that are synergistic to their business.

But above all, he adds, CSR should not be treated as one-off or otherwise unique programs, but rather as a business discipline practiced with the same professionalism and rigor as other aspects of a firm's strategy.

"For example, many of the programs that come under the umbrella of 'climate change' have the potential to benefit the environment as well as a company's bottom line," Rangan says.
Has your company's CSR program been altered by the current environment? Are they being protected?
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.