03 April 2011

The Business of Virtue: Corporate (Social) Sustainability & Responsibility?

"For many business people, CSR was just a case of BDF: babies, dolphins and forests."
Stefan Stern

Is that so? Are CSR activities really just about being a 'good person' with a social interest in humanity, or is CSR the way we need to go?

The importance of corporate social responsibility is undeniable: CSR activities are, if planned out well, desirable solutions for everyone involved. They only bring advantages rather than problems and with the current situation of the world, in terms of climate, finances and human social interest, it is essential for future business developments in all sectors.

CSR is defiantly much more than just 'babies, dolphins and forest'. Globalisation, aging population, scarcity of resources, climate change and change of behaviors are just a few areas CSR engages in. So essentially, CSR activities are not just important to the business and their stakeholders, but to everyone.

Sustainability within business is important in times of low resources and global problems. If companies develop sustainable practices within their operations, it benefits them on several levels. It improves brand reputation and allows them to position themselves as future-thinking companies. It also allows for future business opportunities from sustainable solutions. This can be implemented within their supply chain and eventually lead to operational efficiency, which creates cost savings and less usage of energy.

CSR activities make companies transparent. In an age of social media and high investigation through 'citizen journalism', transparency is key with any organization. It allows to get to know the brand better and see how their products, services or causes are developed. This insight creates strong bonds of trust, which brings stakeholders closer together. This bond may lead to increased awareness of the brand and eventually support for their operations (sales, participant in causes, etc).

Benefits may not be seen at first, due to the financial impact CSR activities may have. That is why CSR activities may seem out of place with senior management and financial advisors of corporates. But if we take a closer look what CSR does to the brand reputation and sustainability, benefits can be earned in near time. The benefits of well prepared CSR activities do not only add value to the organization, but to everyone involved with the organization. Therefor are CSR activities key if we wish to avoid future conflicts on resources, power and equality amongst humanity. Organizations give us the jobs we need to live and it is their responsibility to be sustainable to make a good impact on society on several levels.

CSR should not be questioned but fully integrated in any organization. It should not be used 'just to be part of the solution' and not actively and honestly engaging it, but fully enforcing it on all levels of any organization. CSR brings benefits to everyone involved and makes the world a better place. Besides the benefits, consumers demand CSR activities in times of massive distrust in large organizations.

Below you will find a very interesting presentation by Wayne Visser, who discusses the development of CSR over the past few decades.

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