CSR Goes Green

The three main lines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), identified by John Elkington in 1994 as the triple bottom line–the three Ps of people, planet and profit. We have come to view Corporate Social Responsibility as the continuing commitment made by a business to behave ethically.  It has generally indicated an intention to pursue business in a manner which respects the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and society. The point being to create a new type of social contract between the company and the world within which it operates.  This does not mean the business sets aside the profit motive, quite the opposite good CSR seeks to reconcile economic growth with its social responsibility, maximising both. 

As the impact of climate change is increasingly felt, the environmental part of CSR is becoming increasingly important. With each day that passes it is clearer that simply reducing carbon emissions is no longer enough: we need emergency measures that go much further. California governor Jerry Brown recently announced his decision to require 100% of the energy generated and consumed in the Sunshine State to be clean by 2045. Brown has also signed an executive order requiring state agencies to work out how to make the entire economy carbon neutral within the same period. That has placed businesses on notice that they have to go green or go out of business.

Unilever is one of the largest consumer goods businesses in the world. With literally hundreds of brands, including Dove, Hellmann’s/Best Foods, Lipton, Knorr, and Ben & Jerry’s, it’s practically impossible for anyone anywhere to go through the day without coming into contact with a Unilever product. Unilever can also boast of having one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching corporate social responsibility programs of any business on the planet. Through its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever is leveraging its tremendous global influence to grow its business while “decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.”

Environmental CSR initiatives play a key role for major corporations to impact climate change, water use footprint and energy use effectiveness. Some of the leading corporations that have achieved CSR success with environmental initiatives can motivate the competitive landscape of the marketplace to improve operational efficiency, rethink product designs, and seek out new and innovative technology. Effective resource management and energy efficiency are major environmental CSR goals that are relevant for the present participants. This leads to opportunities for cost savings, revenue generation, and can even influence overall brand strength through positive environmental reputation.

Environmental CSR initiatives can affect the following levels of corporate structure: environmental disclosure, environmental policy, environmental impact, and environmental performance. With disclosure, corporations can improve the transparency of internal operations to display improvements that are being implemented across facilities or assets owned. With policy, the CEO’s mandate is to focus internal efforts to incorporate corporate-wide policies and agendas that will direct the corporation toward its environmental goals. Impact deals with defining the effect of environmental initiatives on the environment on the local or national scale. Performance represents a set of key performance indicators defined by the environmental CSR policy as benchmarks of achievement over time.

Doing the right thing environmentally make consumers feel they can trust companies to do the right thing in all situations. When consumers purchase a product, they feel they’re directly responsible for how that product was made — for better or worse. The Diversity Dividend has found that a higher corporate responsibility ranking leads to more supportive consumer behaviours. And this translates to big benefits for brands! The business case is clear so Go Green and start building your reputation in the Diversity Index today.

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