This Week in Sustainability: The Future of Corporate Social Responsibility and Its Benefits

| Josh Henretig

hardhatsThis week, The Guardian Sustainable Business looked at how sustainability professionals can learn from the values-based management approach used to make workplace safety so important in the business world. As the piece points out, in 1970, improved workplace practices and training sessions were responsible for on-the-job fatalities dropping from as high as 14,000 in 1970 to 4,340 in 2009. Taking a page from workplace safety campaigns, corporate sustainability professionals have a similar opportunity to make sustainability a part of the business world’s common vocabulary. While substantial progress has already been made in corporate sustainability, those successes need to be passed onto the workforce so that everyone sees sustainability as a “value” of the company. Aishwarya Nair, an environmental consultant and author of the article, notes that this can be achieved by effecting behavior change and engaging employees. As she points out, “we don’t have 40 years for sustainability to become an embedded value. This has to start now, and with everyone.”

How do you convince the business world that CSR practices are beneficial? Environmental Leader offered an answer to just that looking at a study on corporate sustainability measures. According to the study by Clark University researchers, firms that implemented “sustainable supply chain management” saw “‘marked upgrades’ in their fiscal returns” while those who only implemented “half of a strategy” did not see the same financial rewards. The piece notes that financial benefits do not come immediately, and may take as long as two years to appear. Even so, if financial motivations aren’t enough, research done by Cone Communications offers even more encouragement. The research found that 93 percent of consumers expect companies to take CSR beyond just money, but only 16 percent actually believe companies have made a positive impact. That’s a sign that as more companies embrace the value of CSR, they can win the affection of both their shareholders and their customers.

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