By Jeff Sutton
In spite of recent advances, the reality of life for many CSR and sustainability officers is still pretty disheartening. Many senior executives and key internal stakeholders still think of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an afterthought – another box to check on the corporate checklist. One recent study found that over 71 percent of companies in the U.S define their CSR spending as in-kind donations and free product giveaways. Another 16 percent define it as cash donations, and the remaining 13 percent as employee volunteering and giving.
The challenge we see for CSR and sustainability teams is the need to sell embedded sustainability programs internally -- convincing their peers and leadership teams that the true benefit of corporate sustainability cannot be unlocked by well-intentioned, but siloed initiatives that focus only on philanthropy and volunteering.
When an organization’s sustainability strategy clearly connects to its mission, vision, ethics and long-term financial goals, it will protect a company’s reputation, drive innovation and employee engagement, satisfy consumers, attract and retain top talent, demonstrate compliance, and lead to market differentiation – all of which are key ingredients for long-term growth and profitability. All of this hinges on a shift in perspective: Sustainability is less about mitigating risk than it is about finding opportunity. And therein lies the rub.
Change isn't an easy process in any organization. But for a large business (with thousands of concerned stakeholders and a P&L with millions of dollars hanging in the balance), sustainability initiatives often don't seem like a sound investment. So, the challenge for many CSOs is getting their boards and corporate leadership to think beyond short-term quarterly and yearly earnings and realize the substantial value that sustainable thinking can have on mid- to long-term growth.
To move this conversation forward, here is a list of seven benefits organizations have seen after integrating sustainability into overall business strategy:
According to the 2015 Meaningful Brands Report from Havas Media, a meaningful brand has a 46 percent higher “share of wallet” (defined as how much a person is willing to spend on a particular product) than a less meaningful brand. This observation holds true on a macro scale too; the top 25 meaningful brands outperform the stock market by 133 percent.
For better or worse, the world is changing and evolving at an unprecedented pace. An embedded sustainability strategy will identify the material issues that impact your business so that you can get ahead of change. By fully embracing external challenges and looking for ways to reduce impact, sustainability strategy can move a business’s outlook for the future from reactive to proactive.
It’s becoming abundantly clear that the next generation of talent are looking beyond financial compensation when choosing a job and seeking out organizations that understand their role in protecting our planet.
Image credit: Pixabay
Jeff Sutton helps businesses and organizations transform for the better with purposeful visions, strategies, and stories. As Vice President of thinkPARALLAX, he works alongside a team of strategists and creatives to cultivate knowledge, spread awareness, and create powerful, connections for businesses and organizations striving to make a positive impact. thinkPARALLAX is a culture driven creative communications consultancy committed to building brands with purpose. They work at the intersection of business strategy, corporate responsibility, and communication. Their focus is to create communication strategies, campaigns, and stories that influence behavior and drive positive change in the world and greater business community.