What Our Crystal Ball Says – 7 Predictions for CSR in 2011

By Susan McPherson, Fenton

January is a good time to reflect on the year past and to think about trends and movements for the year ahead. Here are the trends/predictions that the Fenton “Good Business” team is forecasting for the coming year in Corporate Social Responsibility.  No longer a nice-to-have, corporate responsibility must have a seat at the C-Suite executive table.   From annual reporting to employee engagement programs, make sure these seven activities are earmarked in your 12-24 month planning.  No time like today to start.

1. The continued growth of cause-marketing programs thanks to the improvement in tracking the ROI of such campaigns. Companies that would have previously been reticent to take on such programs now are more confident in doing so. Many will also engage with leading NGOs to raise significant funds for specific causes ranging from environmental initiatives to global healthcare programs.

2. With the continued explosion of social media and networking, we will see increased collaboration between sustainability professionals as well as the growth in the trade associations and events/conferences that serve these professionals.  Those attending events such as the Justmeans Social Media Technology and Change Conference, BSR’s Annual Conference and the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship will continue to increase. Mainstream business conferences will also add CSR-tracks to their content.

3. CSR reporting by companies of all sizes will continue to grow and personally, I believe that GRI will lead.  This study from PriceWaterhouseCoopers provides much support to this statement. Measurement will continue to be key and senior management will expect data from any sustainability programs established.

4. We’ll also see more mainstream publications dedicating resources to covering CSR, such as Fast Company and the Guardian (UK) in addition to the various print and online journals that already exist.

5. Greenwashing will continue to be on the mind of consumers and with the expected update to the FTC’s rules; we’ll certainly witness companies being more careful when launching marketing campaigns. These will further lead to an overall theme that we’re hoping to see: A theme that embraces the truth and the practice of “good business.”

6. Employee engagement programs will accelerate and be run like traditional advocacy campaigns giving them the opportunity to have real impact. As more corporations witness the benefits that these programs offer, such as increased employee retention, and brighter candidate pools for job openings, they will spread rapidly.  Already, since the first of the year, we have held discussions with several Fortune 500 firms that are in the process of creating global platforms to simplify the process of employees to participate.

7. Sharing the good news.  Previously, companies too often held-back their CSR communications, believing that sharing such info would not serve as an advantage for the company or might even lead to the perception of greenwashing. No more. Companies are wanting to share their results with their customers, partners, employees, shareholders and all other stakeholders.  And there are a host of services out there to help including CSRwire, Businesswire, PR Newswire, 3BL Media, Justmeans and right here on Triple Pundit.

Bottom line:  Going forward, if companies strive to be authentic, truthful, transparent and mindful, consumers, shareholders and employees will benefit. A win-win-win!

Your comments?  Feel free to reach out to us.


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2 responses

  1. Great article and helpful for many large and small size companies and brands to consider. I especially agree with point 7 — Sharing the Good News. It’s important for companies to communicate what they are doing, as it often serves to rally employees, engage consumers on a deeper level and ultimately can create a ripple effect to inspire industry peers. Thanks for this thoughtful article.

  2. Great insight. Thanks for this.

    Interesting and maybe still too esoteric, economist Umair Haque wrote an interesting thought piece about the evolution and direction of sustainability in Fast Company (one of the mainstream pubs you predicted will cover more CSR!). Together with your insight, it’s hopeful stuff.

    “They (companies) will have to prove that they earned returns in next-generation terms, those that flowed into a positive impact and weren’t earned through negative impact.”

    “Creating wealth means adding to our metaphorical buckets, instead of emptying them–whether social, intellectual, human, emotional capital, or beyond.”


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