In the past few years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become one of the most frequently tossed around phrases in business. Designed to help businesses become better corporate citizens (and glean the positive publicity and consumer interest such initiatives attract), CSR programs and departments are becoming increasingly popular across a wide swath of industries. From Starbucks’ championing of fair trade coffee to Exxon Mobil’s educational campaigns in Egypt to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, CSR can take a lot of different forms and, depending on the company’s motivation and specific causes, actually change the company’s way of conducting business. This, in turn, can serve to protect the company during downturns and against allegations of illegal or unethical practices.
So what does this have to do with ERP? Well, simply put, CSR programs generate a lot of data. Data about impact, data about funding, data about employees, data about risk and risk management, data about decision-making, data about ethical standards and so on. And the more a company actually integrates the data being driven by its CSR policies and programs, the more the company (and conceivably the society) will benefit from the policies and programs. Perhaps more importantly (if you’re Milton Friedman), the integration of data will ultimately help protect corporate stakeholders by proving the company has good interests at heart. In the case of corporations being eviscerated for anti-trust activities, unfair labor activities, human rights violations, environmental misdeeds and so on, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have irrefutable documentation of social responsibility. And an ERP system is the natural holding ground of this documentation.
There is no specific ERP system recommended for this function. Rather, a company in the ERP software selection process must ensure that its chosen software can provide functionality with CSR activity tracking. Activity tracking can run the gamut from the most basic (e.g., documentation of a worker’s age and safety training) to more complicated (e.g., documentation of corporate decision-making and risk management processes) to even more complicated (actually keeping track of environmental impacts or the ethical stewardship of third-party vendors or other members of its supply chain). Not only must ERP systems have the capabilities to manage all of this information, but employees must be trained in the tracking, analysis and proper use of the data. Since many out-of-the-box ERP systems are not as robust as these sorts of programs demand, companies may have to implement third-party modules to help integrate systems.
CSR offers strategic benefits beyond just a press release or two but designing, implementing and following up on CSR initiatives is no small task. In order to reap the most benefits, the efforts must be both company-wide and solution-wide and be integrative in every sense of the word. If your company is struggling with streamlining its data and documentation, contact us. Our independent ERP consultants can help choose, implement and train employees on the best ERP software for your purposes and make sure you’re able to benefit from all the good a CSR program can create.