Let your people go surfing!

Neil Smith, managing partner of SmithOBrien, a management consulting firm that specializes in corporate responsibility strategy development asks: “Does a commitment to corporate responsibility provide cover for bad corporate behavior”? He argues that a CSR strategy must be backed up with the right corporate culture (i.e. “the underlying values and norms that tell employees and managers ‘the way we do things around here'”) and uses the cases of BP, Apple and GlaxoSmithKline to illustrate the importance of the CEO and the board of directors in getting the corporate culture right. He concludes:

These three stories are common in the corporate world. Anyone who has worked for a large company can quickly recognize the mixed messages that come from those above. While people at the top, with their sights set on becoming the CEO, will mimic their boss’ behavior, those at the bottom, where most of the best operational solutions come from, grow disillusioned and cynical, and start looking elsewhere for an employer whose values more closely match their own. … Yet the role of the CEO as a leader and model for others in building and sustaining a truly responsible and transparent organization should take center stage. Equally important: a board of directors that insists the company doesn’t just pay occasional lip service to integrity and ethical behavior. The board should hold itself and the company’s top executives, to the highest standards of corporate responsibility.

Where is the connection to clothing? Yves Chouinhard, CEO of Patagonia, might illustrate well the role of a CEO in getting the corporate culture right.



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