Thoughts on the future of CSR, ESG, Responsible Finance and Social Enterprise

This Friday CSR Geneva participants will be sharing their views on the future of this field of practice – what is likely and what we each feel is needed. What follows is an excerpt from my book “The Corporate Responsibility Movement”, published last year. In it I describe the emergence of a movement and suggest that we learn from past movements, and social science scholarship on social movements, to better effect systemic change in society (or, to use the Gladwellian lingo used in the UN Global Compact Summit last month, to reach a “tipping point” in business sustainability).

Read on, and do share your views on the future of CSR, ESG, Responsible Finance and Social Enterprise, especially as it relates to what Geneva-based organisations are or can do, and what CSR Geneva might do in future; via our CSR Geneva Linked In group.

“The key trends in corporate responsibility that can be identified from the events and views chronicled in this volume are:

Standardising. As more people and organisations work in this field, so the need to compare and benchmark performance increases, and new codes and qualifications emerge

Mainstreaming. As the limits of individual corporate action in delivering commercial returns and addressing the scale of societal challenges become apparent, so more executives are looking at how to encourage broader changes in society to allow them to invest more in social and environmental excellence

Integrating. As the commercial and legal relevance of performance on social, environmental and governance issues grows, so does the need to integrate this into the various organisational functions, such as marketing, design, human resources and so on

Levelling. As economic, political and cultural power shifts from the West to the rest of the world, so the CR strategies and performance of Southern corporations becomes more important, not only in the global South, but even in the West, and more CR initiatives emerge from non Western countries with their own values and emphasis

Enterprising. As the limits of existing business models and corporate forms in delivering solutions to societal problems appear, as well as the limits of tradition philanthropy and advocacy, so more companies seek to profit from provision of innovative market-based solutions to societal problems

Yoyoing. As the underlying drivers for corporate responsibility increase, so more societal challenges are translated into matters of corporate responsibility and opportunity, and so various issues yoyo to the top of the corporate agenda and suggest a redefinition of the challenge as one of sustainability, ethics, rights, accountability, governance, innovation, efficiency and so on. In light of such yoyoing, the ‘responsibility’ framework remains useful

If you benefit from mnemonics, the initial letters make this a ‘smiley’—‘:-)’—of emerging corporate responsibility trends. The mainstreaming and enterprising trends, which parallel the emergence of societal leadership and social innovation strategies from companies, show how executives have been learning through their engagement with corporate responsibility and that there is an endogenous desire from within the corporation.”

(from The Corporate Responsibility Movement, Jem Bendell, 2009, Greenleaf Publishing, pg 12-13)

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on the future of CSR, ESG, Responsible Finance and Social Enterprise”

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