Speaking in Lisbon yesterday yet again I was asked the same two questions:
- How will CSR fair in the economic crisis?
- With all the current financial concerns wont CSR be at the top of the list of cost costing exercises?
Perhaps. It certainly was for some of the large banks who in the last few weeks have reduced or eliminated their ESG and SRI (social responsible investing) analysis sections. However I like to think there were other more serious financial drivers in those organizations such as JPMorgan and Citibank (caused by irresponsible industry lending practices).
Personally I think that there never has been a more important time for CSR. But this needs to be a more business focused and organizationally integrated CSR. CSR needs to get out of the CSR department and become an embedded and critical ingredient of every business unit.
Its time for CSR 2.0
CSR needs to evolve from just environmental focus to a complete responsible and sustainable business focus. There are two key business drivers that should be considered in tomorrow’s csr programs
- Sustainable business is good business. As we highlight in our presentation, Sustainability is a key strategy to be used in crisis times. True sustainable businesses are efficient and flexible. They lower operational costs and increase revenues through innovation and adaptation to new trends.
- Trust. Recent polls show a dramatic erosion of faith in business. Three of four Americans trust business less than they did one year ago. Only a third trust business to do the right thing – half what it used to be. Among young people, the loss of confidence is especially marked. Governments and corporations face an important task to address this trust issue and CSR will be a key tool in this process
New Era of Responsibility
To remind us all, a true CSR strategy is not just about the environment as many people believe in our industry. Its all about transparency, accountability, human and labour rights, corruption AND the environment; All things that have suffered under the last 20 years of unstoppable growth. Just as mentioned by Obama in his inauguration speech, its time for a “new era of responsibility”. Its time to restore trust in the administrations and in the corporate world. And its time for the meetings and events industry to consider our role in this big picture.
Global Compact 2.0
In MCI and with various clients we have chosen to become signatories of the UNGlobal Compact. The UN Global Compact is a both a policy platform and a practical framework for companies that are committed to sustainability and responsible business practices.
Today the Secretary General of the United Nations gave an inspiring speech to the world leaders in Davos. To those consumed by the effects of the economic crisis he reminded us of the importance of business to be a part of the new CSR community – something he calls Global Compact 2.0. In his eloquent words;
We stand at a crossroads. It is important that we realize we have a choice. We can choose short-sighted unilateralism and business as usual. Or we can grasp global cooperation and partnership on a scale never before seen. Yes, globalization had lifted many from poverty. Yet the spread of free markets and capital did not raise all boats. In fact, it hurt many of the world’s poorest people.
The Global Compact was our enlightened response. It challenged business to embrace universal principles and to partner with the United Nations on the big issues.Ten years on, the Global Compact stands as the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. We can boast more than 6,000 business participants in more than 130 countries. The Global Compact has become a by-word for corporate responsibility.
Its members have moved far beyond mere philanthropy. They have pioneered new standards of “best practice” in the areas of human rights and labor law. In many countries they work to protect the environment and fight against corruption. They have undertaken hundreds of projects in health, education and infrastructure in countries around the world.
Now, a new set of crises prompts a renewed sense of mission. So today I urge you to join a new phase of the Global Compact.
In the meetings industry there are few signatories to the Global Compact. I think as an industry
“It is time to get off the fence and take up this agenda seriously” – Ban Ki-Moon
The writing is right there on the wall. Without trust, we cannot prosper…
Every downturn is followed by an upturn. If you make the right investments now, you will be laying the foundations to tackle critical longterm issues. You will be in the forefront of a new green economy.
I encourage you to help create a future based on a low-carbon economy – green jobs, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The words have been spoken. Now its our turn to become crusaders of the new CSR. Its time for a new era of responsibility.