It took several years and attempts for European Commission to come up with the definition of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that is clear, self-explanatory and does not require two-page debrief to comprehend philosophy behind; a major contribution to the “concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.”
Several years ago, consulting businesses on mechanisms and stakeholder cooperation was brand new for our environment. Then the discussions were all about definition and understanding CSR basics. It brings smiling memories about workshops for PR agencies, NGOs, or municipality representatives that we delivered on philanthropy and its benefits for business and community. It is good to see that business strategies we put together in 2008 are still working. Nevertheless, we witness rapid changes in global society and business development and it is definitely a time to re-think.
Whatever the economy, there are always reasons not to invest in something as tenuous as CSR. With the current focus on short term results, business decisions would be made with the rationale of having to invest in short term product or service development concurrent with other corporations so as not to miss future opportunities.
Many strategies, trends and players are recognizable on the global scene. We are summing up the 7 Top Trends that are shaping global CSR business community and that we assume will influence also open Slovak economy with its multinational business scene.
1. CSR as a business imperative
In other words, it is no longer a question “if” CSR should be implemented in business strategy but “how”. Business partners are looking for a sustainable company and the reason is wholly practical: to save money via decreased resource consumption and to avoid potential damage by bad publicity.
2. Go green
CSR today is mostly about sustainable business – whether a goal is to lower company´s carbon footprint, conscious energy consumption, recycling programs, eco-friendly products or customer trust, business needs to watch for emerging trends here. Recommendation is to go green, but don´t try to eat the elephant all at once. Green companies have a chance to achieve both economic and social benefit by cost-cutting and obtaining good public relations.
3. Collaboration on CSR efforts
The numerous CSR ratings together with data from the Reputation Institute indicate that CSR is responsible for more than 40% of a company’s reputation. CSR becomes important differentiator but at the same time a driver for collaboration. Some issues on the CSR agenda such as education, gender issues, climatic changes or poverty alleviation are so massive that working together is clearly more effective.
4. Millennials and employee engagement
Millennials are the most socially-conscious consumers to date. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has found out that 88% of Millennials choose employers based on strong CSR values, and 86% would consider leaving if the business CSR values no longer met their expectations. Given the fact that in the 2020 this generation will make up a significant portion of the workforce, it is definitely a time to think about it. CSR is winning its position in recruiting future talents and its role in employee engagement is growing.
5. NGO´s development
As much as we see new opportunities for the private sector to solve many of the society issues, we realise that, even with great innovation, companies do not improve productivity in the value chain, or build the enabling environment alone. Often, NGO partners are required to fill in relationships, knowledge, and resource gaps. In the years ahead, it is expected that NGO landscape will continue its evolution with new issues and organizational models.
6. Communication through social media
These tools are still very new, but it is clear that social media is a game none can afford to sit out. The social media boom has shift communication from static presentation of CSR reports to interactive dialogue with customers and business partners. Social media is changing the face of CSR and bringing new marketing challenges and opportunities for CSR practitioners.
7. The Triumph of Transparency
Transparency is considered a crucial element in CSR. Most companies are not fond of being transparent about their business, particularly by providing comparable data to an independent third party. Very little is known about their HR programs, their impact on the community, and their environmental footprint as a company. In other words, there is no way to tell the difference between a good company and just a good marketing. Well, today´s customers are curious and if companies do not provide information, customers will get it somewhere else.
There is a considerable mind shift influencing CSR tools and management decisions. CSR environment is country-specific and it is good to know what works and what doesn´t. We need to recognize demands of all stakeholders and shift our attention from the application of existing frameworks to ways of improving them. With a growing gap between current focus on short term deliverables and long term sustainability agenda, it is essential to pay attention to CSR products bringing short term benefits but underlying strategic goals.