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Strandberg Consulting - Solutions for a Sustainable World

June 2011

Hello Friends,

I went to law school recently - to teach but, as often happens in life, I ended up learning. I was invited to talk about trends and practices in CSR governance to Osgoode Hall Law School's professional development program for lawyers. What I learned is how CSR has taken root in the legal profession through the evolution of "soft law."

Soft law is the term given to quasi-legal instruments that are non-binding, including codes of conduct and voluntary standards such as the UN Global Compact or the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The panel moderator was Ed Waitzer, former chair of the Ontario Securities Commission and a partner at Stikeman Elliott (recently acclaimed one of the country's top 30 green employers) in Toronto. He explained that these soft law instruments, or rules of conduct, "have become the basis on which firms can be held legally accountable, thereby morphing into hard law."

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This is good news for CSR/sustainability practitioners who understand the importance of holding firms accountable to credible standards – and of using those standards to fuel the adoption of CSR/sustainability practices.

It is gratifying to see how the CSR/sustainability business case has emerged over the past few decades. CSR and sustainability governance has moved from mid-management, to the C-suite and more recently to the board of directors. I refer to this as a trend to the CSR fiduciary.

The CSR Guidelines I took to Osgoode Hall are a collaborative project with Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR). They were funded by Industry Canada and are posted on their website. In addition to my trip to Osgoode Hall, I presented the guidelines recently in a webinar along with CBSR for the Directors College, Canada's first university-accredited corporate director development program. I also applied the Guidelines to CSR board governance reviews and training for a number of firms. All of this is evidence of the emergent trend but there is still work to do. I often find the following typical governance gaps:

  • Limited oversight over CSR performance against goals, objectives and targets
  • Limited oversight over CSR policy compliance and compliance with CSR codes and agreements
  • Limited monitoring of CSR risks and lack of quality CSR information systems
  • Limited ability to understand CSR implications of decisions
  • CSR not built into performance compensation
  • CSR not included in director recruitment, orientation, education and evaluation
  • No oversight over stakeholder relations
  • Limited involvement with CSR accountability reporting
  • Lack of diversity

As CSR becomes more and more mainstream, boards will tackle these questions – and it’s our job to make sure they get asked.

Since my last newsletter I’ve added the following posts to my blog. I welcome your thoughts on:

  1. Tools for sustainable events

    The Royal Wedding – a sustainable event?
    When Kate and Will tied the knot last month, it was a family wedding, a production of The Firm and an international public-and-broadcast event all rolled into one. What interests me most about the Royal Wedding are the associated social and environmental considerations. [...]

  2. The business case for CSR

    Wake Up – the state of the planet is just as urgent as you think!
    I feel an increasing sense of urgency about the state of our planet. Thank goodness I’m not alone. A lot of people my age and older realize things have to change, and fast. Many of us have invested much of our lives in trying to turn the tide; yet there is so much more to do. [...]

  3. How trade associations can advance sustainability

    Catalyzing the Power of the Collective to Fuel Sustainability
    Here’s an idea. I have a lot of confidence in the power of one, the power that each of us has to expand to the limits of our potential and make a difference in the world. However in my work with business, I strive to catalyze the power of the collective and its ability to fuel the power of one. [...]

  4. Sustainability accounting systems

    Why sustainability accounting systems are like daffodils
    Apologies to those of you buried in snow – here in Vancouver, I see the first signs of spring. As I watch tender green daffodil shoots push up through the cold earth, I am reminded of how difficult it can be to break ground and how important it is to nurture emerging ideas. [...]

All the best to you and yours,


Strandberg Consulting - Solutions for a Sustainable World
Coro Strandberg - Principal
6336 Burns Street - Burnaby, BC V5E 1T2 | T 604.433.7339
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