August 2, 2012, by Maggie

CSR Futures: the practitioner perspective

One of the highlights of CSR Futures was the practitioner panel, who were asked to consider the future of CSR and Sustainability, the following summarises the key points:

Gerry Boyle, Head of Business Relations, Oxfam

  • Emphasised the importance of ensuring that corporate sustainability agendas embrace social as well as environmental impacts.
  • That there remains a need to tackle extant issues such as living wages, decent living standards, gender bias and fair pricing.
  • Questioned whether,  as power shifts to BRIC economies, these emerging economies and the businesses based in these regions have the capacity and the regulatory/third sector drivers to effectively manage their responsibilities in the area of CSR and sustainability.
  • Outlined the need for businesses and regulators to consider their roles in managing and constraining the consumers’ demand for scarce resources.

Vicky Bullivant, Global Head of Sustainability, Rolls-Royce Plc

  • Outlined the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach within businesses and within government – using the example of fuel poverty.
  • Underlined the importance of the sustainability as a core strategy within the business rather than an add-on – using the example of Rolls Royce
  • Predicted that sustainability would surplant CSR as a more tangible issue based concept that would be more amenable to regulation (when compared to CSR and the idea of responsible behaviour).

Justin Keeble, Partner & Leader of their Sustainable Services UK, Accenture

  • Emphasised the urgency of this agenda in the light of population growth resource scarcity.
  • Articulated the impatience of business leaders in the face of corporate inertia and the need to replace the emphasis on monitoring and reporting with delivering progress.
  • Predicted a move to sustainability as a mainstream issue with businesses using core capabilities to tackle the agenda, with sustainability KPIs being used to engage middle managers in addressing sustainability in every day decision making, and an emphasis on delivery and execution.

David Logan, co-Founder & Joint Chair, Corporate Citizenship

  • Outlined how in his view corporations are citizens as are individuals, and with citizenship comes responsibility.
  • Emphasised how the values of a company are critical in guiding decision making, particularly in countries where governments are weak and in providing international systems of governance in the absence of alternatives.
  • Predicted that in developing economies the key issue would be poverty alleviation, rather than sustainability, and that the ambition should not be to reduce consumption, but to enable the emerging middle classes to consume in a sustainable way.

Will Oulton, European Head of Responsible Investment, Mercer

  • Outlined the series of disconnections that characterise the financial sector:
    • Companies investing their pension funds in a way that contradict their position on ESG.
    • Pension funds being managed in the interests of the agents rather than the beneficiary (leading to rent extraction).
    • The short term nature of financial systems and quarterly reporting cycles versus the long term nature of pension fund investment (10-60 years in some cases) or business planning and investment cycles.
  • Highlighted the series of corporate failures and regulatory code developments that have characterised recent years, and emphasised that it is a change in behaviour rather than new regulation, that will have the greatest impact on the financial sector.

Thomas Thomas, Executive Director, Singapore Compact for CSR

  • Provided the ASEAN perspective firstly outlining the challenge of implementing CSR in a region that is as diverse in terms of size, economic strength and democratic development.
  • Provided examples of how CSR is being adopted by specific countries such as Laos where it is seen as a way to attempt to reduce the impact of its rapid development on health and happiness.
  • Anticipated a significant increase in reporting activity in the region since the SGX produced guidelines around sustainability reporting.
  • Outlined that for CSR to thrive in the region the institutions of civil society would need to strengthen and the challenge of corruption would need to be addressed, and he anticipated a key actor in this would be the media.

Presentations were followed by a wide ranging discussion, hopefully the subject of a future blog posting.

By Maggie Royston, Business Development & Centre Manager of the ICCSR, Nottingham University Business School.

Photograph taken by Andrew Hallsworth copyright University of Nottingham

Posted in EVENTS at the ICCSR