As pressure is added by consumers seeking to make more responsible choices and by the constraints of ever-dwindling natural resources, more companies are incorporating sustainable strategies and adopting more socially responsible practices. Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is the business practice of pursuing social and environmental gains, alongside financial gains. As the push for companies that do good increases, corporations of all sizes are looking for ways to incorporate sustainable business practices into their everyday.
Some of the most popular CSR trends in the area of corporate social responsibility include increased transparency, investment in green technologies, local community and employee engagement, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Definition
CSR Trend: Increased Transparency
Demands for disclosure for companies to reveal what's under the hood of their businesses have become commonplace among consumers. This CSR trend is partly in response to heightened regulatory oversight such as the European Union's noteworthy General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is also partly a result of ever-increasing availability of almost instantaneous information, and consumer and shareholder demands of once behind-the-scenes information. As part of a business model that embraces corporate social responsibility, companies are sharing more environmental, social, and governance disclosures.
Consumers are no longer satisfied with shady business dealings and hidden agendas but are demanding to know more about previously internal matters. For example, even workers at places like Google have openly protested the company's bid on a cloud computing contract with US Customs and Border Protection. Just as nonprofits are subject to rigorous impact reporting, financial transparency, and accountability, increased transparency is a CSR trend that will only grow in coming years.
CSR Trend: Green Technology
Gone are the days of rampant resource usage without any accountability or thought toward replenishment. Climate change continues to drive many conversations in the corporate world, and multiple trends in CSR intersect at this topic. As available natural resources are rapidly depleted and our world reaches a tipping point of a 2-degree rise in average temperature, socially responsible companies are investing in green technologies, reducing their reliance on nonrenewable resources, and looking to more sustainable inputs to do business.
Whether it's fashion companies looking into alternative fabrics such as eucalyptus or recycled water bottles, producing clean emissions through more rigorous machinery emissions tests, or simply getting certifications like LEED for their buildings, green technology will certainly be a growing trend for businesses looking to enhance their corporate social responsibility.
CSR Trend: Global Companies Acting Locally
Localization is in. Even companies that operate on a global level are recognizing the value of local markets and supply chains. This is not only to reduce carbon emissions that might be associated with transportation or supply chain costs (as creating "greener" businesses is also a rising CSR trend mentioned above) but to tap into local talent and solutions. Many companies that also have charitable arms are also prioritizing nonprofit partners that work with local leaders and local talent, rather than "shipping in" cookie-cutter solutions.
Also, corporate social responsibility initiatives actively attempt to engage in activities that benefit their local communities as well as produce profits for the corporation. Not only are there publicity benefits to be gleaned from getting involved in local communities, but it can also boost employee satisfaction. Increasingly, corporations interested in CSR are donating to local nonprofits, funding the construction of things like schools in lower-income neighborhoods, and becoming engaged with civic issues that affect where they do business. Corporate-sanctioned volunteer events, especially during the holidays, is also an emerging CSR trend that allows employees to volunteer their efforts and make positive contributions with minimal time commitments.
CSR Trend: Diversity and Inclusion
As the issue of economic inequality rises to the forefront of many political debates, so does the issue increasingly press upon corporations. Recognition of inequalities in pay and economic burdens of employees is an emerging trend in corporate social responsibility. Pay equity between males and females, measuring the difference in income between the highest-paid and the lowest-paid worker at a company, and making sure that there is a diverse staff base have become key priorities of the best companies in the world.
Corporate social responsibility initiatives such as intentionally recruiting candidates from difficult economic or educational backgrounds ultimately empowers local talent, brings diverse voices to the table, and is a trend that's here to stay.