Corporate Social Responsibility

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ClimateDebt
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Business Needs to Pay Off Its Climate Debt

As the world gears up for a new round of climate talks, companies need to step up and make sustained, multi-year commitments to absolute reductions in their carbon footprints. It’s been calculated that the U.S. business sector needs to reduce emissions by more than 3% per year to avoid the worst climate scenarios — but this option is surprisingly cost-effective. Although many of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases haven’t yet stepped up, Gregory Unruh argues that they must do so now — or face catastrophe.

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Sustainability Reporting As a Tool for Better Risk Management

GRI is an international organization based in Amsterdam with offices around the world. It produces a set of standards used by organizations in over 90 countries and has become the global standard-setter for sustainability reporting. But as the organization’s Chief Executive, Michael Meehan, explains, sustainability reporting is not about writing a report; it’s the process by which organizations identify their risks related to important issues, like human rights, the environment, labor and other social issues.

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Integrated Reporting: Corporate Disclosure for China’s “New Normal”

The “new attitude” in China toward sustainable economic growth depends upon thoughtful management of six types of capital: natural resources, human resources, financial capital, manufacturing infrastructure, intellectual capital, and social relationships. Integrated reporting looks at the performance of all six types of capital and how the performance of each element is related to one another. The challenge for China: developing partnerships with business to make it work.

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MasterCard Pins Down the Cash Economy

When impoverished families in developing nations receive government subsidies in cash, the system is an easy target for abuse, fraud, and theft — and some of the world’s most vulnerable people suffer from economic insecurity as a result. MasterCard seeks to change that by helping governments move to a non-cash system. A 2012 initiative launched in South Africa highlights both short- and long-term benefits of the approach for the company, the government, and some of South Africa’s poorest citizens.

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The Sustainability Insurgency: Missives from the Front Lines, Part 2

In part two of two, Gregory Unruh talks to Emma Stewart, Autodesk’s head of sustainability, about how social intelligence helps CSR advocates in the company to win colleagues’ buy-in. The use of such intelligence supports CSR managers’ ability to create a sustainability business case.

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The Crucial — and Underappreciated — Role of HR in Sustainability

Recent research by the Center for Effective Organizations shows that most companies aren’t relying on HR departments as part of their sustainability focus — yet most think there’s an opportunity for HR to play a major role in the structuring of a company’s sustainability processes, practices and strategies.

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The Sustainability Insurgency: Missives from the Front Lines, Part 1

Emma Stewart, Autodesk’s head of sustainability, says that social intelligence helps CSR advocates in the company win colleagues’ buy-in. “In order to be a legitimized contributor to the business, you have to be as smart or smarter about your customers or other stakeholders as other business units,” Stewart says. The use of social intelligence, such as systematically calling on leading customers and “market-shapers” such as regulators, supports CSR managers’ ability to create a sustainability business case.

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How Sprint Negotiates Sustainability

As the head of corporate social responsibility at Sprint, Amy Hargroves has challenged the telecommunications company to “walk the talk” on sustainability, with significant success. But it hasn’t come easy by any means. In her interview with MIT SMR, Hargroves describes how she has partnered with Sprint’s legal and government affairs team to turn principles into practice.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Wilber Baan.
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The Risks and Responsibilities of Tech Innovation

The introduction of Google’s breakthrough wearable computer, Google Glass, creates numerous possibilities for risky behavior on the part of Glass users. Should companies on the cutting be held responsible for their customers’ poor judgment in using new tech? There are legal and social precedents that say they should, but business and corporate responsibility expert Christine Bader suggests ways companies can combat this problem.

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Sustainability Dialects

All functional areas have their own “language” to express the concepts most important to their roles in a company. In the fourth installment of his series on the Sustainability Insurgency, Gregory Unruh explains how CSR officers can introduce sustainability as part of the conversation in different functions.

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Human Rights: The Next Frontier

It is becoming more and more commonplace for companies to take human rights into account when sourcing materials or manufacturing processes. Guest blogger Olivier Jaeggi of ECOFACT explains why this trend has significance for sustainability — and how corporate standards are increasingly taking the position that paying attention to human rights is a necessity for companies’ risk management strategy, rather than an act of good will.

Image courtesy of the World Economic Forum/Flickr.

Creating Societal Benefits and Corporate Profits

The odds of launching a new business that creates value for both the company and the public can be improved with good planning. An in-depth analysis of how four companies created for-profit initiatives that also have high societal value suggests that each followed a similar step-by-step process to achieve what the researchers call synergistic value creation. Those steps include establishing cross-business incubators and installing multi-perspective monitoring systems.

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Does Your Company Seem Socially Irresponsible?

Public perceptions of corporate irresponsibility are shaped in subjective, yet predictable, ways. “People like tidy stories with a clear villain,” write Nathan T. Washburn of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Donald Lange of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “We lose interest when there are too many factors, extra complexity or too much ambiguity.” That means that powerful negative images can be hard to respond to.

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The Insurance Industry’s Renewed Commitment to Sustainability

Insurers are just beginning to wake up to their role in environmental sustainability, argues Olivier Jaeggi, founder and managing partner at ECOFACT. The most important recent development: the launch of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance in 2012. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, wrote that the Principles provide “a framework for the global insurance industry to address environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities.”

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Why Making Money Is Not Enough

The authors, who include Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Group, argue that that “it is possible to build and lead companies that retain a deeper purpose.” Tata calls for companies to launch “corporate lifeboats” — such as new business experiments in next-generation clean technologies and serious business initiatives in the underserved space at the “base of the pyramid” — to transform their operations for sustainability.

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The Net Positive Strategy: Where Environmental Stewardship Meets Business Innovation

Nick Folland of Kingfisher, one of Europe’s largest home-improvement retailers, discusses the company’s aspirations to create a net positive impact on the environment. Kingfisher was the first business of its size to receive full certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Folland, the group corporate affairs director of Net Positive, is leading the company’s groundbreaking collaborative effort to reduce consumption and introduce “closed-loop” products.

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Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility to a Cynical Public

Companies are increasingly engaging in CSR activities. But unless companies communicate their CSR achievements wisely to stakeholders, they fear being accused of greenwashing. A study of CSR communication practices in 251 European corporations yields seven guidelines for effective CSR communication. The authors conclude that many beliefs about the risks associated with CSR communication are exaggerated, and that companies that communicate honestly about their activities have little to fear.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sam Beebe, Ecotrust.

Why Boards Need to Change

Many companies have initiated sustainability and corporate social responsibility programs that represent good first steps toward improving the impact of their organizations on the environment and society. However, unless boards change, many of the initial sustainability efforts launched in corporations are likely to be temporary. For organizations to achieve sustainable effectiveness, they need a corporate board that is designed to lead in a sustainably effective way.

Image courtesy of Flickr user mmoosa.

Why Kraft Foods Cares About Fair Trade Chocolate

As vice president for sustainability at Kraft Foods, Chris McGrath has been pivotal at guiding the company’s sustainability efforts. With its global reach and massive market shares, the company is setting new standards on how to source through sustainable agriculture and keep packaging out of landfills.

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