In the world today, corporate social responsibility departments are shifting towards sustainability departments — as are all the academics and consultants. Some suggest that we have achieved nothing more than two decades of buzzwords, meaningless statistics, imitation tactics, greenwashing, PR and the world is over it — people can see right through it. This is why we must make sustainability a key part of any business strategy. CSR is an outdated term and does not represent what is required from businesses in the 21st century.
Formerly, companies and their CEOs used to see corporate social responsibility departments as a medium to mitigate reputational risk. They would have their CSR team put out continuous reports with heartwarming stories and boring statistics. The aforementioned actions help to insulate the organization against any government inquiry, bad media or community concern that might come about as they continued to profit from, and even increase their unsustainable business models and practices. That routine just won’t work in future.
Consumers, the media, governments and local communities are beginning to demand CSR authenticity. Nowadays, the world is too transparent. The media, consumers, governments and even local communities require authenticity and look at traditional CSR communications sceptically. What was once an asset to the corporation is fast becoming a liability, a cost, and a casualty of an unpredictable and complex world.
We are at the dawn of the era of sustainability as a strategy. Businesses that are still drawing a difference between CSR strategy and their business strategy are behind the times. This is bad and unwise segregation as the era of not having a sustainability strategy is over.
The CSR/Sustainability community has a unique skill set, experiences and points of view that companies will require going forward to develop a sustainable business strategy. Strategic thinkers, eclectic stakeholder relationships, nontraditional partners all have the ability to see not only risk but the opportunity with the opportunity offered by creators, communicators, connectors and culturally competent collaborators.
Sustainability in business is not just about being a good corporate citizen; it is also about creating new business models and income streams. We see these practices nowadays in everything from new business models that apply circular economic policies to state regulations such as China enacting new Blue Sky environmental legislation,
Some companies like Bayer and Coca Cola are part of a movement toward integrated reporting and actual, measurable sustainability goals. Bayer began to combine its sustainability and financial reporting in 2013 and made it explicit that sustainability was established at the board level, linking the Board of Management member responsible for Human Resources, Technology and Sustainability.
The objective of Coca Cola is to safely return to nature by 2020 an amount of water equal to what they use in production. The company announced that it had returned approximately 126.7 billion litres of water utilised in its production processes back to communities and environment through treated wastewater by 2014.
DSM stated that its integrated annual report breaks down how the company is doing to meet its internal sustainability goals. From 2016 to 2017, the company has raised purchases of electricity from renewable sources by 21%, reduced its greenhouse emissions by 26% and improved energy efficiency by 3%. The very first company in The UK to be certified (b) sustainable Skipton Building Society have aligned their Sustainability goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are the world’s best plan to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030. Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the SDGs are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the environment.
A total of 63 of the world’s 100 largest economic entities are companies, not countries. With such economic power comes great responsibility. We need to change the way companies operate in a responsible way. All the C-level administrators afraid to change their business model to future-proof their businesses, might want to consider the huge opportunities this brings.