My thesis further strengthened the idea that there are no right or wrong methods for responsibility work. Instead, responsibility work is the sum of many variables. However, there are certain phases that should be included in each organisation’s responsibility work – or that are at least worth considering.
1) Put together a diverse team
Resources allocated to responsibility work vary between organisations. However, it is clear that relying on a single operator rarely produces the desired result. The development of responsibility calls for a communal effort and the ability to network and create dialogue. The other party in this dialogue does not need to be a sustainability professional, but a genuine interest in responsibility aspects is key.
2) Involve internally
In the development of responsibility, thought should be given to which parts of the organisation should be involved. The answer is simple: the entire organisation. An extensive approach will be rewarded later when it is time to take practical measures within the organisation. If responsibility plans are prepared by a small group of people, their conversion into action is much more challenging than that of more inclusive plans in which a large group of people have been involved since the planning stage.
3) Analyse the operating environment
In analysing the operating environment, answers should be sought to the following questions: What are the key internal and external stakeholders? What are their expectations and impacts in terms of responsibility? Attention should also be paid to phenomena related to responsibility in the operating environment and on a larger scale. In addition, the more diverse the group developing responsibility is, the more likely it is that ideas from outside the organisation can be taken into account, as networks and contacts vary according to the job description.
4) Identify strengths
Responsibility is a multifaceted and broad topic, which often causes uncertainty and confusion in the initial stages of responsibility work. Identifying strengths is a good way to build self-confidence to get a good start on promoting responsibility work. Strengths are sometimes claimed to be a way of hiding reality. However, identifying strengths also serves weaknesses: special attention can be paid to operational weaknesses when there is no need to pay equal attention to what already works well.
5) See the big picture
The development of responsibility gives rise to a wide range of considerations, and their key message must be expressed in a comprehensible form. It is important to keep in mind the role of responsibility in the big picture – in relation to the organisation’s strategy, for example. This is the best way to ensure that the outcomes of developing responsibility can be justified at management level. Responsibility also challenges existing models in which decisions are routinely made on financial grounds, for example. Taking responsibility into account should not be seen as a factor that excludes profitability. Instead, responsibility helps the organisation to update the scope of profitable operations.
Responsibility should not be made more complicated than it actually is. Common sense and genuine enthusiasm go a long way when the goal is to do things better for the economy, people and the environment.
The writer is a service advisor in Financial Services at the National Land Survey of Finland and a member of its responsibility network.