Corporate Social Responsibility

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Strategic Sustainability Uses of Life-Cycle Analysis

At its roots, life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to quantify total sustainability impacts — like resource use and environmental damage — over the entire life of a product, from “cradle to grave.” While there is informational value in the basic exercise, the real utility of LCA is comparison — that is, comparing one product’s sustainability impacts with another’s. Given the effort and cost involved, what are the strategic benefits of LCA? And should you be employing such a process?

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The Insurance Industry Wants a World That Is Sustainable and Insurable

Insurance companies are uniquely positioned to address challenges such as climate change and human rights issues in their roles as risk managers, risk carriers, and investors. The Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) initiative launched by the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative in 2012 serves as a global framework for this effort. The PSI are now backed by more than 80 organizations worldwide, representing 20% of world premiums and $14 trillion (USD) in assets.

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Why Boards Must Look Beyond Shareholders

Shareholders are just one audience a board of directors considers when making decisions for the corporation. Others include employees, customers, suppliers, and NGOs. In the face of limited resources, directors must make choices regarding the significance of the corporation’s many audiences. Given obligations to multiple stakeholders, the authors suggest that boards of directors issue an annual “Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality” to identify the company’s significant audiences.


Creating Effective Dialogue About Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility initiatives run the risk of being seen as insincere. However, there are ways that companies can thoughtfully — and effectively — engage with the public about social issues. The authors make four suggestions for companies that are hoping to engage in a credible CSR dialogue with stakeholders. They include cultivating a balance between controlling and cocreating the dialogue, and creating platforms that invite stakeholders to influence the implementation of CSR initiatives.


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Why Sustainability Ratings Matter

The convergence of communications technology, big data and globalized markets make ratings based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance indispensable for B2B and B2C exchanges. Credible, transparent and timely ratings are a powerful enhancement in a fast-moving global economy. As ESG issues are recognized as material to investment decision making, the need for trusted, transparent ESG ratings will intensify.

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To Red-Card Corruption, You Have to Know What a Foul Is

Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, is in crisis over corruption — and MIT Sloan Management Review’s guest editor for Sustainability, Gregory Unruh, says the situation offers a useful case study for corporate social responsibility. By looking at the FIFA scandal, Unruh argues, managers can learn how to identify corruption from a systems perspective — and understand why it harms their business.


Why Corporate Social Responsibility Isn’t a Piece of Cake

Corporate Social Responsibility "is fraught with contradictions, subject to political challenges and demands deep commitment," argue José Carlos Marques and Henry Mintzberg. Responsible corporate behavior, they write, isn't simply “doing well by doing good.” Instead, six changes need to be considered, within and beyond our private institutions. These changes include fostering ethical judgment within the enterprise, rethinking compensation and acknowledging the benefits of regulation.

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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.


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.


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.

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