Profile: Dr Wayne Visser

Profile: Dr Wayne Visser

The challenge now is to admit past
failure and to make CSR 2.0 – weaving the strands of sustainability and
responsibility – into the new DNA of business. As the Founder and Director of
CSR International,  Dr Visser is the
keynote speaker at Singapore Compact’s CSR Summit 5 & 6 September, when he
will address the question: “Sustainability, the next Megatrend: How True and
how to Respond?” He is also one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders,
along with four other luminaries, speaking at the summit. Read More

In the May 2010 issue of Harvard
Business Review the article titled ‘The Sustainability Imperative’ by David
Lubin from the Sustainability Network and Daniel Esty from Yale University, was
the first to argue that sustainability
is the next transformational business megatrend
comparable to mass
production, manufacturing quality movement, IT revolution, and globalization.

The DNA Model of CSR 2.0

Value Creation, Good Governance,
Societal Contribution and Ecological Integrity

By Wayne Visser

I believe that CSR 2.0 – or
Transformative CSR (I also sometimes call it Systemic CSR, Radical CSR or
Holistic CSR, so use whichever you prefer) – represents a new holistic model of
CSR. The essence of the CSR 2.0 DNA model are the four DNA Responsibility
Bases, which are like the four nitrogenous bases of biological DNA (adenine,
cytosine, guanine, and thymine), sometimes abbreviated to the four-letters GCTA
(which was the inspiration for the 1997 science fiction film GATTACA). In the
case of CSR 2.0, the DNA Responsibility Bases are Value creation, Good
governance, Societal contribution and Environmental integrity.

Hence, if we look at Value
Creation, it is clear we are talking about more than financial profitability.
The goal is economic development, which means not only contributing to the
enrichment of shareholders and executives, but improving the economic context
in which a company operates, including investing in infrastructure, creating
jobs, providing skills development and so on. There can be any number of KPIs,
but I want to highlight two that I believe are essential: beneficial products
and inclusive business. Does the company’s products and services really improve
our quality of life, or do they cause harm or add to the low-quality junk of
what Charles Handy calls the ‘chindogu society’. And how are the economic
benefits shared? Does wealth trickle up or down; are employees, SMEs in the
supply chain and poor communities genuinely empowered?

Good Governance is another area
that is not new, but in my view has failed to be properly recognised or
integrated in CSR circles. The goal of institutional effectiveness is as
important as more lofty social and environmental ideals. After all, if the institution
fails, or is not transparent and fair, this undermines everything else that CSR
is trying to accomplish. Trends in reporting, but also other forms of
transparency like social media and brand- or product-linked public databases of
CSR performance, will be increasingly important indicators of success,
alongside embedding ethical conduct in the culture of companies. Tools like
Goodguide, KPMG’s Integrity Thermometer and Covalence’s EthicalQuote ranking
will become more prevalent.

Societal Contribution is an area
that CSR is traditionally more used to addressing, with its goal of stakeholder
orientation. This gives philanthropy its rightful place in CSR – as one tile in
a larger mosaic – while also providing a spotlight for the importance of fair
labour practices. It is simply unacceptable that there are more people in
slavery today than there were before it was officially abolished in the 1800s,
just as regular exposures of high-brand companies for the use of child-labour
are despicable. This area of stakeholder engagement, community participation
and supply chain integrity remains one of the most vexing and critical elements
of CSR.

Finally, Environmental Integrity
sets the bar way higher than minimising damage and rather aims at maintaining
and improving ecosystem sustainability. The KPIs give some sense of the
ambition required here – 100% renewable energy and zero waste. We cannot
continue the same practices that have, according to WWF’s Living Planet Index,
caused us to lose a third of the biodiversity on the planet since they began
monitoring 1970. Nor can we continue to gamble with prospect of dangerous – and
perhaps catastrophic and irreversible – climate change.

A final point to make is that CSR
2.0 – standing for corporate sustainability and responsibility – also proposes
a new interpretation for these terms. Like two intertwined strands of DNA,
sustainability and responsibility can be thought of as different, yet
complementary elements of CSR. Hence, sustainability can be conceived as the
destination – the challenges, vision, strategy and goals, i.e. what we are
aiming for – while responsibility is more about the journey – our solutions,
responses, management and actions, i.e. how we get there. The challenge now is
to admit that CSR 1.0 has failed, and to make CSR 2.0 – weaving the strands of
sustainability and responsibility – into the new DNA of business.


Table 5: DNA Model of CSR 2.0

DNA Code           Strategic Goals         Key Indicators

Value creation    Economic development

  • Capital investment (financial, manufacturing,
    social, human & natural capital)
  • Beneficial products (sustainable &
    responsible goods & services
  • Inclusive business (wealth distribution, bottom
    of the pyramid markets)

Good governance   Institutional effectiveness

  • Leadership (strategic commitment to
    sustainability & responsibility)
  • Transparency (sustainability &
    responsibility reporting, government payments)
  • Ethical practices (bribery & corruption
    prevention, values in business)

Societal contribution     Stakeholder orientation

  • Philanthropy (charitable donations, provision of
    public goods & services)
  • Fair labour practices (working conditions,
    employee rights, health & safety)
  • Supply chain integrity (SME empowerment, labour
    & environmental standards)

Environmental integrity         Sustainable ecosystems

  • Ecosystem protection (biodiversity conservation
    & ecosystem restoration)
  • Renewable resources (tackling climate change,
    renewable energy & materials)
  • Zero waste production (cradle-to-cradle
    processes, waste elimination)

Article reference

Visser, W. (2011) The DNA Model
of CSR 2.0: Value Creation, Good Governance, Societal Contribution and
Ecological Integrity, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 9.

For the full article go to the
CSR International website where it is free to join and download up to five
articles a month. A longer 10 page article “The Ages and Stages of CSR: Towards
the Future with CSR 2.0” is also available.


In addition, Wayne is Senior
Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability
Leadership, Visiting Professor of Sustainability at Magna Carta College,
Oxford, and Birmingham Graduate School and of CSR at La Trobe Graduate School
of Management, Australia. Before getting his PhD in Corporate Social
Responsibility (Nottingham University, UK), Wayne was Director of
Sustainability Services for KPMG and Strategy Analyst for Cap Gemini in South

His other qualifications include
an MSc in Human Ecology (Edinburgh University, UK) and a Bachelor of Business
Science with Honours in Marketing (Cape Town University, South Africa). Wayne
lives in London, UK, and enjoys art, writing poetry, spending time outdoors and
travelling in his home continent of Africa.

In 2010, Wayne completed a 20
country ‘CSR Quest’ World Tour, to share best practices in corporate
sustainability and responsibility. A full biography and much of his writing and
art is on


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