Despite the economic turmoil, invigorating the global economy by advancing sustainable business practices was top of the agenda at last month’s Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Conference.
The conference convened representatives from NGOs, academia, government and global leaders from corporations such as GE Capital, IKEA and Levi Strauss & Co, among others.
In fact, a "BSR/Cone 2008 Corporate Responsibility in a New World Survey" of 424 conference participants uncovered that more than two-thirds of the business leaders say that more responsible business practices could have lessened, or even prevented, the current economic downturn.
In parallel, the historic presidential election comes at a time of change, hope and opportunity for America which can be further embraced via sustainability opportunities.
This, in turn, will cause significant change in the business and policy environment requiring enhanced leadership from government, legislators, consumers and businesses. President-elect Obama recently announced intensifying his work on a stimulus plan that would dole out roughly a half trillion dollars to include ‘green’ projects, from home weatherization to renewable energy.
Water conservation, human rights, access to affordable healthcare, climate change and environmental issues continue to dominate top global concerns. Cause alignment and philanthropy are increasingly being linked to value in the sustainability evolution.
We cannot afford to delay or ignore pressing world issues…
The United Nations estimates that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will face periodic and often severe water shortages.
In the midst of jolting world events, continued cost-cutting and job losses, corporations are taking a renewed approach to sustainability and embracing the opportunities as they consider it the right thing to do.
In particular, they are reaffirming their commitment by ensuring proper integration of their programs and alignment throughout their business and operations, including:
- Supply chain
- Transparancy and accountability
- Community – global to local
- Public policy/advocacy
- Employee performance
‘Back to the People’
Meanwhile, a cultural paradigm shift is also taking place. Companies and the ‘public at large’ are seeking deeper and more meaningful connections, embracing community spirit and giving as a way to demonstrate concern and individual action.
In a low trust environment, driving sustainability and its success is routed in its people, connections and regaining their confidence.
Sustainability is advancing to another level by which to engage deeper connections with key stakeholders and address social problems they most care about - particularly human rights and social justice issues.
Opportunities for America’s Volunteer Sector
In conjunction with this paradigm shift, the role and need for volunteers in America is at an all time high and poised for future growth.
According to the Volunteering in America report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, nearly 61 million Americans volunteered in their communities in 2007 giving 8.1 billion hours of service worth more than $158 billion to America’s communities.
Community service has never been stronger, as businesses are forced to commit to their sustainability programs, colleges adopt service-learning, and our new political leaders embrace citizen service.
Establishing volunteering programs and opportunities is a powerful way to empower and motivate employees/consumers.
GE Capital: CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, reiterated that ‘while responsibility programs need to be strategic and a long term commitment towards being competitive and generating profit, it is critical to run a company with trust, proper compliance, regulation and transparency. In order to achieve this, it is critical to engage people, align with culture and values.’
Some key conclusions:
- Regain Trust and Confidence: Restore trust in the private sector by a demonstrated commitment to sustainability and help the business community regain the trust of consumers and investors – for the long term
- Commitment to Causes: Gain consensus on what causes mean the most to key stakeholders and continued focus on addressing key issues such as energy, human rights and disease
- Embrace Community Spirit: Above and beyond the trend of matching employee’s charitable giving, embrace volunteering to motivate and empower employees
- Re-evaluate Philanthropic Activities: As the year-end approaches, assess charitable contributions, accountability and impact in the community. Consider causes that can be supported deep in the communities, beyond ‘giving a check’ and aligned with stakeholders
And most importantly……………..
Stay on track
In a spiraling economy, companies and their non-profit/NGO partners need stay on the sustainability track, advance responsible business and social practices to protect and make our world a better place.
By Samantha Taylor.
-The BSR/Cone survey fact sheet can be located at
-The Volunteering in America report can be located at www.VolunteeringInAmerica.gov