I’m sitting in an open space area at Hub King’s Cross in London reflecting on Ethical Corp’s Responsible Business Summit which ended last night. How can I sum-up two packed days of interactions between corporate responsibility practitioners? Here’s my early assessment of key trends in the industry.
Top 2011 CSR trends:
- CSR practitioners rejoice! Studies from half a dozen large consultancy firms in the last year indicate a continued growing importance of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability.
- Full life cycle analysis to assess the environmental impact of products is becoming widespread.
- The “social” aspect of CSR is often neglected at the expense of the “environmental” agenda. Yet, studies are showing that social initiatives contribute more to a positive brand image than greening enterprises (Goodbrand).
- China will be the place to experiment better ways to be sustainable over the next few years: they are building several new “sustainable cities” from scratch. Companies like TNT are hoping to test novel ideas there first and then, bring them back to the western world.
- Corporations will continue to judge CSR investments based on “good business practices”- meaning: it has to generate a positive financial return.
- Sustainability is becoming more and more integral to business. CSR reporting is being done within the annual report (instead of a separate report) to show full integration with corporate strategy.
- Building trust is a chief driver of CSR.
- CR reporting is becoming more sophisticated: balance must be achieved between comprehensiveness and readability.
- Leading companies are taking the responsibility for helping consumers reduce utilization of resources (water, pollutants, energy…).
- Companies are increasingly engaging with stakeholders for all aspects of their operations: CSR reporting, new product design, social impact initiatives, investment decisions, foreign plant working conditions…
- Technology will play an important role in making the world more sustainable. (this is a bonus trend!)
Implications for leaders: These trends will require new skills from leaders. They must have a longer time horizon, think more broadly in terms of value creation (read Porter on Creating Shared Value), learn to work more collaboratively and communicate with more transparency.
I invite other participants at the summit to offer additional comments or perspectives.