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Corporate Responsibility: It’s Not Just A Pretty Face
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Corporate Responsibility: It’s Not Just A Pretty Face - Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: It’s Not Just A Pretty Face

Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: It’s Not Just A Pretty Face

John Scott is a hockey player in the National Hockey League, and unless you’re a fan of the sport, it would be easy to have missed his recurrence in the news these past few weeks. Even mainstream, all-day sports media streams tend to pay little attention to hockey, and John Scott is not one of the game’s superstars. He’s an “enforcer” or a “goon,” unofficial names given to a player whose primary role is to get into fights. When things get a bit contentious between teams, and a message (or payback) needs to be delivered, an enforcer is sent into the game to deliver the message, and then to take the penalty minutes, so that a team’s stars are kept out of the fray and in the game. Every team has one.

When the NHL invited fans to elect team captains for its all-star game this year, someone initiated a campaign for John Scott. In ten years of professional hockey, Scott has scored only five goals, while accruing more than 500 penalty minutes. Scott admitted on a national sports talk radio program that at first, he was personally hurt by the campaign: no professional wants to be thought of as a joke. But a conversation with his wife changed his attitude, and he embraced the attention. Whatever the original intention may have been, he was going to turn it into a positive experience as captain of the Pacific Division’s team.

Then the NHL asked Scott not to participate in the game. And he was traded to a team in another division. And demoted to that team’s minor-league affiliate. Not only was Scott no longer on the team he was elected to represent, he was no longer in the league itself, and the outcry from fans was immediate. When it looked like Scott might be prevented from playing, the NHL reversed its course, and announced that Scott would indeed take his spot on the all-star roster as captain of the Pacific Division this weekend.

During a nationally broadcast radio interview, Scott jokingly agreed to get into a fight during the all-star game. The interviewer said it only made sense, as getting into fights is Scott’s role in the league, an unofficial but generally acknowledged fact of his sport. Then, what started as yet another joke turned into yet another campaign--someone set up a crowdfunding campaign to donate money, if Scott got into a fight, to a leading brain-injury research facility. As the radio host pointed out multiple ironies in the situation, his producer was in conference with his corporate employers about whether or not this conversation should be allowed on the air. The host heard whispers of “CSR” as a concern.

“Corporate Social Responsibility,” the producer explained on the air. “The broadcast corporation is not sure this campaign is in keeping with those values.”

It is true that one part of CSR is adhering to regulations and ethics, but it's too easy to think of CSR as simply putting forward the face of conscience. “We follow all the rules, and we don’t pay men to beat each other up” is a weak catchphrase, for either the sports network or the professional league, but this is the trap so many organizations fall into, simply doing the required things while avoiding the distasteful things. Compliance is responsible, but it’s neither proactive nor progressive, and this is what CSR, at its best, strives for.

On their surfaces, both the sports talk radio program and the NHL make every effort to put on their best faces, but it is in their best interests, if their sights are set on true responsibility, to hold up the magnifying glass for others to look through, so that the needs of the corporations and all their stakeholders--customers, employees, and communities--have some kind of input toward a product that’s beneficial to all. CSR is not merely putting out a pretty face for the camera, but pointing it at itself even on bad hair days.


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Corporate Responsibility: It’s Not Just A Pretty Face - Executive Leadership Articles

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