Wohoo! Folks over at Global Compact Critics blog about a research paper submitted in early 2007 on the contribution of the UN Global Compact to CSR strategies in the telecommunications industry (published in a recent edition of the Journal of Business Ethics). While we are always supportive of CSR research, the logistics of publishing in peer-reviewed journals on the fast-evolving CSR discipline often creates a disconnect between data at the time of collection and the status of initiatives today (for instance, the number of GC business participants now stands at 5,100, compared to the 2,900 mentioned in the paper).
Another issue: while the qualitative work of Runhaar and Lafferty is commendable, the ability to apply findings based on three frontrunner telecommunication companies to the GC’s 119 telecommunication participants (adding fixed-line and mobile, for the record) is questionable*. This concession is made by the authors who indicate:
“It is quite reasonable to assume that competitors with less articulated CSR strategies could derive more value from the Global Compact. This would be in line with the results of the survey by McKinsey and Company (2004), which reveals relatively large CSR differences between companies from OECD and non-OECD countries.”
(Yes, we actually did read the whole paper.)
We have never disputed that companies joining the GC with existing CSR codes and initiatives inherently have different motivations and expectations than those who require direction and assistance to reach the same degree of CSR engagement. But much has happened since Runhaar and Lafferty’s research, and the notion that “the GC could have more impact if explicitly aimed at stimulating frontrunner companies to perform better” has actually been one of the drivers to launch more specific leadership platforms such as Caring for Climate or The CEO Water Mandate. They reflect an ongoing effort to advance good and emerging practices while providing guidance to those that are new to the issues.
* This degree of external validity requires replication with additional telecommunication companies and corresponding research that explores the same questions using alternate methodological approaches.