RECESSION PROOF: Keeping Sustainability Development on Track

The trend continues to build momentum. Despite the state of our world economy, corporate social responsibility (CSR) increasingly dominates news headlines.

This shift toward greater social consciousness represents an important milestone in our history. It is aligning the interests of business and the public, as organizations and communities collaborate on 'Doing Good in Society'.

However, some major gaps still exist which need to be addressed. Trust and confidence in business is still at an all time low, as well as fragmented approaches being adopted toward properly integrating the CSR mandate with reputation management and performance.

Shame on You Financial Institutions

The recent bail-outs of several prominent financial services institutions have further compromised Americans’ confidence.

According to a recent survey by Harrison Group, 63% of wealthy Americans say they have lost faith in financial institutions.

Banks, mortgage companies and credit unions are being forced to do what’s right by revamping their pay/bonus structures, risk management systems, compliance and transparency policies - just to name a few.

While the financial crisis is forcing policy-makers to rethink an overhaul of (and in some cases, return to) market regulation and oversight to benefit the U.S. economy and mitigate risk, organizations continue to cut costs and are laying people off.

They are thinking short- and not long- term.

New ‘Era of Responsibility’ - Culture Shift for America

In parallel, Obama’s leadership comes at a time of change, hope and opportunity for America which can be further embraced via sustainability opportunities. This has further elevated the status of social consciousness within corporations and among the larger communities of stakeholders.This, in turn, will cause significant change in the business and policy environment requiring enhanced leadership from government, legislators, consumers and businesses. President Obama recently announced doling out roughly a half trillion dollars to include ‘green’ projects, from home weatherization to renewable energy.

Advancing community’s interests is becoming ingrained in our purchasing decisions as consumers are demanding that their favorite brands exercise a social consciousness that reflects their own. They are also being held accountable for their contributions to society and impact.

Wal-Mart: Role of Environmental Activist

Announced in The New York Times this week, Wal-Mart Stores affirms its mission to determine the social and environmental impact of every item it puts on its shelves including recruiting scholars, suppliers and environmental groups to help create an indexing system.

World Issues Cannot be Ignored

Water conservation, poverty, access to affordable health care, climate change and environmental issues continue to dominate top global concerns.

‘Checkbook’ philanthropy is a thing of the past, within in-kind products, services and expertise representing more than 60 percent of today’s corporate contributions. Cause alignment and philanthropy are increasingly being linked to value in the sustainability evolution.

However, more than 1.5 million nonprofits now are competing for scarce resources and attention from the public and private donors in the United States. Non-profit organizations are being forced to change the way they do business and address challenges such as leadership, vision and purpose differentiation.

Organizations must continue to embrace long-term sustainability and create more innovative strategies to protect business, improve stakeholder relationships and deeper community mobilization.

Some key long-term benefits for the CSR investment include:

  • Regaining trust with customers, suppliers and business partners
  • Reputation management and performance
  • Opportunities to align and form stronger partnerships with fiscally healthy nonprofit/NGO organizations developing interesting community-driven initiatives in emerging markets around the world
  • Motivating employees and attracting talent
  • With advertising and sponsorships down, opportunities to create longer-term cause-related marketing programs that include grass-roots community education and awareness campaigns
  • An opportunity to be holistic and less ‘silos’ by integrating programs and aligning throughout business and the supply chain
  • Embracing Web 2.0 to mobilize and build stronger stakeholder relationships and community building initiatives /li>

In Conclusion. Our current economic crisis underscores the importance of building a truly sustainable economy for the long term – this not only requires leadership from government, but from for, not-for-profit organizations/NGOs, academia and consumers. Social innovation, sustainable development, trust and transparency are the new currency for tomorrow’s companies success and effectively riding out this recession. By Sam Taylor