CSR should be more 'client-centered' — Deloitte executive

Deloitte employees volunteer to build and paint benches during their Impact Day. Corporate social responsibility should also be about listening to what the "clients" need, according to Deloitte chief sustainability officer. Photo by: City Year / CC BY-NC-ND

How can private companies go about doing good?

A good example is Deloitte’s Humanitarian Innovation Program aims to help partner organizations come up with innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

The program recently announced two collaborations, one with the International Organization for Migration to create a systems model to better manage refugee migration and coordinate relief, and another with AtrocityWatch to help develop application to use large amounts of social media and other data to detect potential mass atrocities.

Those collaborations came out of an application and consultation process that could serve as a more client-centered model for corporate social responsibility programs, according to David Pearson, Deloitte’s chief sustainability officer.

“I think some of the pro-bono sector, how companies engage, doesn’t necessarily treat these organizations as strategic clients the way we do,” Pearson told Devex. “We are treating these organizations like our largest and most important clients.”

He added: “What does that mean? It means you’re listening. It means you’re in an iterative process to find out what is really the underlying problem.” he said. “We want to be going to the core of the problem — and that takes time — but we spend that time with these organization to make sure we do that.”

How it works

During the application process, NGOs presented Deloitte with innovative ideas and a proposal for how the firm could bring its private expertise to help the organization develop solutions.The application was the beginning of a consultative process to develop solutions that would bring the firm’s skills to bear on the problem, what the company calls co-creating solutions.

“It’s not Deloitte going in with a solution, it’s not us being a supplier, we are working hand in hand with these organizations to try to develop the solutions,” said Pearson.

The program itself came out of a broad consultation with organizations across the humanitarian sector to identify areas for collaboration with the private sector, and had previously collaborated with Save the Children to improve the organizations ability to scale up and scale down operations and with the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on leadership development.

Deloitte will be sharing the results of the most recent collaborations by next summer. A new application round for NGOs interested in collaborating with Deloitte will likely be announced in late spring. Pearson however hopes the impact will go beyond specific collaborations.

“We’re not trying to create a winner out of this process, we’re trying to help an organization, but ultimately that solution is going to be shared and scaled as much as possible across the rest of the sector,” he said.

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About the author

  • Paul Stephens

    Paul Stephens is a former Devex staff writer based in Washington, D.C. As a multimedia journalist, editor and producer, Paul has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, CBS Evening News, GlobalPost, and the United Nations magazine, among other outlets. He's won a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a 5-month, in-depth reporting project in Yemen after two stints in Georgia: one as a Peace Corps volunteer and another as a communications coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.