CR Strategy & Organization

“Strategy & organization” refers to conceptual, organizational and operational positioning in order to meet the requirements associated with sustainability and make the organization fit for the future.

The first step should include a thorough assessment of the status quo and be complemented with an outline regarding mid-term trends for the company and its industry.

We support you in:

  • Identifying, analyzing, and prioritizing relevant sustainability issues (materiality analysis)
  • Defining strategic CR objectives for the corporate strategy
  • Deriving appropriate measures
  • Defining responsibilities/ organizational structures and reporting lines
  • Creating and implementing policies such as an Employee Code of Conduct.

Materiality analysis

Companies today are exposed to an abundance of sustainability issues; at the same time, they are constrained by limited resources committed to this topic.

The core question is which issues the company should prioritize to excel in the market. Furthermore, it is of crucial importance to identify which issues do not need to be addressed; and thus, consequently can free up resources.

The materiality analysis is a tool used to prioritize the relevant sustainability issues.

By focusing on the issues that are of high priority to the company from an internal, as well as external perspective, resources can be used more efficiently, employees can be convinced of the necessity of new measures, and external stakeholders can be informed more effectively.

The S&C method, which we have developed over the course of 40 completed materiality analyses, includes:

  1. an assessment of the current status within the company
  2. a market and trend analysis
  3. a competitors benchmark
  4. a stakeholder survey
  5. a materiality workshop, including the participation of persons responsible, to prioritize issues and derive the need for action

re. 1. Assessment of the current status within the company

Discussions with decision makers allow us to determine the status quo, make an inventory of current measures, identify barriers and success factors, and plan out next steps.

re. 2. Market and trend analysis

In this step, we use a well-proven S&C method to acquire as complete of an overview as possible about sustainability trends and issues in the target markets and regions.

re. 3. Competitors benchmark

By analyzing direct competitors, as well as other companies in similar industries, we gather Best Practice examples and show how they address critical sustainability issues. Through these results, we can identify the minimum requirements within the industry.

Key questions to be answered:

  • Which companies stand out in the industry due to their professional CR management?
  • With regard to which CR aspects do these companies perform especially well?
  • Which sustainability issues and to what extent are they addressed by these companies?
  • How do they use their position of leadership in order to differentiate themselves in the market?
  • Which approaches could serve as examples for your company?

Over the years, S&C has developed a method that produces resilient performance, communication, and issue benchmarks of companies.

re. 4. Stakeholder survey

A dialogue with relevant stakeholders is a fundamental building block for a resilient integration of sustainability into the company’s core business; it allows a company to gather external expectations and perceptions regarding their sustainability performance. Similar to market research, this serves as a way to identify a company’s own strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify risks and opportunities in the market. Additionally, it sends an important message to stakeholders that the company is willing to engage in a dialogue with them.

Key questions to be answered:

  • Who are the relevant stakeholders and what type and degree of influence do they have on the company?
  • What issues that are specific to the company and industry, do these stakeholders care about?
  • What are their expectations?
  • How do these stakeholders perceive the relevance of the company- and industry-specific sustainability issues?
  • What questions do stakeholders believe are especially important?

S&C’s experience is based on having conducted dozens of stakeholder surveys as a basis for strategy and report development projects since 2002. We conduct these surveys via telephone, in person, and through an online platform (qualitative as well as quantitative). Our S&C team is able to conduct the surveys in English, German, Cantonese, Dutch, French, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. With our partners, we can also conduct these surveys in additional languages.

re. 5. Materiality Workshop

In one or more materiality workshops, which we moderate, we will discuss the results with you and the relevant functions in the company, and derive the need for action. Amongst other things, a key result is the materiality matrix, which is essential for defining strategic objectives and identifying relevant and necessary measures.

Defining strategic CR objectives and measures

We believe that a company’s Corporate Responsibility approach can only be successful today if it is integrated into the corporate strategy. The corporate strategy must comprise specific, ambitious, realistic, and not least measurable CR objectives, which are backed by the necessary measures.

This includes a systematic, multi-step process, in which all the relevant staff and line functions of the company are involved. The results of the materiality analysis are the starting point for deriving strategic objectives.

Key questions to be answered:

  • Which sustainability issues does the company need to address?
  • What is the company’s performance with regard to these issues and where is there need for improvement?
  • How important are the issues and how urgently do they need to be addressed?
  • Which qualitative and/or quantitative performance indicators are suited to measure the progress towards achieving an objective?
  • How can one ensure that the strategic CR objectives and the corporate strategy are compatible with one another?
  • Who needs to be involved in the process so that a strategy, objectives and measures are accepted and effectively implemented?
  • How does this need to be communicated internally?
  • What resources are required?

S&C supports you by tailoring a process to develop a strategy, involve the relevant persons, and identify process owners. Additionally, we accompany you throughout this entire journey and help you on each individual step. From experience, strategy workshops in which the status quo and need for action is critically examined, should be moderated by third-parties. S&C has extensive experience in moderating such workshops and meetings.

Defining responsibilities

The implementation of strategic CR objectives is contingent upon fulfilling certain requirements in organizational and operational structure before.

In the intermediate-term, every employee should understand CR measures as a part of their individual responsibilities and not as additional voluntary work, as this often leads to the tasks being left undone. In order to achieve this, specific CR objectives and measures should be defined for each job description. Moreover, the progress towards achieving the objectives should be monitored and reviewed by an appropriate function within the company. In general, this type of integration takes time as all parties must reach a thorough understanding. Additionally, it presupposes that various departments are willing and able to work more closely together.

Since sustainability issues often affect several departments within the company, we recommend establishing a competence center (in Groups) or the appointment of a CR responsible (in SMEs). These functions should report directly to the Board. The job description ranges from (further) development of the strategy to regular controlling of the progress on operational objectives at the site level. Additionally, it is recommended to establish a committee in which the main business areas and cross-cutting functions are represented and which meets on a regular basis with a fixed agenda.

Furthermore, an efficient reporting system is required through which the relevant performance indicators and information can be collected and analyzed at different levels of aggregation.

Key questions to be answered:

  • What are the exact responsibilities for the CR functions and what competencies must they have?
  • What type of background and experience should a candidate have for such a function?
  • How can one define the interaction with relevant corporate functions?
  • Where in the organizational structure should the CR function be located and to which board member should it report to? What staff and line functions should be included in a CR committee?
  • What agenda should the CR committee work with?

Development and implementation of policies (Code of Conduct)

As part of the operationalization of the strategic CR objectives, all managers and employees need to be aware of and to understand the sustainability fields of action and the objectives. Additionally, all employees must have an accurate understanding of what actions are desired in their respective areas of responsibility, what is accepted and what must absolutely be avoided. A Code of Conduct for managers and employees, which is specific to the company, should define these rules in detail.

Key questions to be answered:

  • For what issues, functions, and business processes do specific rules of conduct need to be defined?
  • How can one ensure that all employees have sufficient knowledge about the Code of Conduct and correctly apply it in their daily work?
  • What training measures are necessary and how is the application of the Code of Conduct checked regularly?
  • How can the grievance procedure be defined so that violations can be reported without any risks to the whistleblower?
  • What actions should be taken in the event of a violation?