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[Herald Interview] ‘CSR is crucial to sustainable growth’

Korean companies need to take a strategic approach to their corporate social responsibility-related activities to link them to sustainable growth for the company, the head of a global CSR strategy consultancy said.

“CSR is not a matter of how enterprises spend their money. It’s about how they earn money,” Lee Yoon-suk, founder and CEO of InnoCSR Group, said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Lee, 36, emphasized the high correlation between a company’s CSR and sustainable growth.

“Companies should integrate every strategic pillar of CSR ― social, environmental, human rights and consumer concerns ― into their business operations and core strategy,” Lee said.

Established in 2008, InnoCSR Group has been operating as a global CSR strategy consulting firm, initially focusing on Northeast Asia ― China, Japan and Korea. Currently, the company has three offices, in Shanghai, Seoul and Manila. 
InnoCSR Group CEO Lee Yoon-suk. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
InnoCSR Group CEO Lee Yoon-suk. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

The consulting firm advises some 20 enterprises a year on CSR-related strategies and more than 80 percent of these are Fortune 50 corporations, according to the CEO.

Lee, who dealt with corporate partnerships and corporate engagements at the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, found “a great mindset gap of what corporates and nongovernmental organizations think corporate social responsibility is.”

“I thought I could set up a company that plays a role as a bridge between them,” he said.

Lee warned that a companys’ management should change the way they regard social responsibility activities as an “extra cost.”

“If the companies spend a bottomless pit of money on CSR programs and events, they could be caught in their own trap of philanthropy,” Lee said.

For that reason, InnoCSR will focus on consulting companies to implement ISO 26000, guidelines for social responsibility launched by the International Organization for Standardization in 2010.

The guideline aims to contribute to global sustainable development, by encouraging business and other organizations to practice social responsibility to improve their impact on their workers, their natural surroundings and their communities.

“The comprehensive standard enables large conglomerates to save their budget on CRS audits and reforming or creating their own codes of ethics while subcontractors just need to comply with the global standard without adopting different kinds of systems from various buyers,” Lee said.

To gain stronger footholds, the group will further give an impetus to its subsidiaries Inno Global Institute, which concentrates on education, research and consulting activities, and Wegoodit, a social media and e-commerce platform connecting brands, NGOs and consumers, he added.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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