Two decades ago the UN published the first global definition of sustainable development. At the time, the Millennium Development Goals were not yet in the making, businesses appeared unconcerned and NGOs had yet to discover the power of global action.
Today, thousands of companies have signed up to the UN’s global compact and report to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Business leaders are involved in negotiations about climate change because they recognise that the perception of responsibility has changed. It is important to contribute to “green” growth, adopt sustainable processes, push innovation for new technologies and adapt products and services for low emissions.
The strategic value of Corporate Responsibility (CR) is important, and can transform a company’s reputation, as seen with BPs transformation to ‘Beyond Petroleum’, and Kraft promising to reduce sat & sugar content in their food products. Not only does this embed values across the organisation, but it also connects with the public.
It is imperative to assert commitment to CR. The financial crisis involved an abundance of corporate irresponsibility, and thus public confidence in CR is much diminished. Employees, shareholders, governments, regulators and customers all need to be reassured. CR ratings & rankings (eg – Dow Jones Sustainability index & FTSE4Good) affect reputation and the value of a business.
How to communicate commitment to CR?
- importance of transparency and disclosure
- make CR relevant to your business
- choose your battles
- be consistently credible (don’t hide motivation, consider difficult issues as opportunities to communicate corporate responsibility)
- Don’t say too much…or too little
IBM smarter planet
IBM wanted to demonstrate how interconnected technologies are changing the way the world works, and how they can provide smart solutions to global problems. An interactive campaign was launched throughout the company and galvanized employees to embrace the concept of ‘green’ computing. The initiative highlights small technologies relating to a range of areas, and invites stakeholders to share their views in transforming a challenge into an opportunity. The CEO Sam Palmosano was invited on behalf of business, to the White House after being interviewed on television, to advise on the US economic recovery plan.
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