Geri Stengel

 
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Five Reasons To Be Optimistic About Corporate Social Responsibility

When a report comes out advising big corporations to ignore social responsibility and focus only on profit, I could get depressed.

The report argues that creating jobs is all the social responsibility that businesses need do; everything else will take care of itself if people have jobs. The report does not mention living wages or health benefits but that’s another issue.

corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, corporate volunteerism, impact investingI’ve always been an optimist so instead of getting depressed, I’ll focus on the abundance of reports showing that smart businesses think long term and long term means sustainable, socially responsible decisions.

The big guys themselves are producing these reports that show social and environmental responsibility are good for businesses.

Let me share some of the good news:

  • A survey by accounting firm Deloitte finds that corporate volunteerism is a strategic business initiative, not just something that is nice to do. Employees who participate in corporate-sponsored volunteer programs are more loyal, engaged, and satisfied. The report also notes that “the affinity that employees feel toward an employer has the power to create a competitive advantage that can be hard to imitate, and is inextricably linked to organizational performance.”
  • Unilever has announced a Sustainable Living Plan under which it will cut environmental impacts in half by 2020. The plan includes the whole supply line plus consumer education to reduce demand for resources, such as water for long showers.  “[The future] will be a world all of things we take for granted today, whether that's food or water or energy, will be in very scarce supply, and therefore will have a high cost,” Gavin Neath, senior vice president for sustainability at Unilever, told ClimateBiz.
  • Greenbiz.com reports that major corporations made major commitments to sustainability and the environment in 2010. Commitments include reduced energy use for Proctor & Gamble and sourcing more fresh, local produce at Walmart.
  • Small businesses have found that making your business greener is a good way to save money. Reducing energy used and waste created are both big money savers and can often be started without major investments. In fact, inexpensive software can help a business save money by putting computers in sleep mode when not in use, which reduces energy consumption.
  • Research by Goldman Sachs has found that companies that are leaders in environmental, social and governance  policies lead in stock performance by an average of 25 percent. As a result, Goldman Sachs has set up GS SUSTAIN, an investment list of companies that excel in non-financial environmental, social (workforce and society issues), and corporate governance. The investment option is based on the idea that these non-financial measures are key to long-term sustainability in industries such as energy and health care.

H-m-m. On balance, I think my Pollyanna view of the world is justified. Despite those pining for the bad old days, a good new day may be dawning. 

Is corporate social responsibility good for business? Do you think corporate social responsibility is expanding or is it a losing battle?