Companies believe that when they are more open with stakeholders and place social responsibility at the core of their business strategy they will be more competitive, attract and retain the best talent, and gain access to new business opportunities, a new report by IBM titled, Attaining Sustainable Growth Through Corporate Social Responsibility (PDF).
Many companies now see corporate social responsibility as a growth opportunity rather than just a regulatory compliance or philanthropic effort, with 68 percent of those surveyed focused on generating revenue through CSR activities. In addition, 54 percent believe CSR initiatives contribute to giving their corporations a competitive advantage.
Driving these beliefs is the rising influence of customers who, thanks to their ability to research and share information on the Internet, have become highly sensitized to a broad range of issues – everything from concerns about climate change, to product safety issues, to labor practices, to corporate financial accountability, to questions about whether corporations are returning enough of their profits to the community.
While customers are becoming the chief driver of this increased focus on CSR, 76 percent of businesses surveyed admit they don’t truly understand their customers’ CSR concerns. In fact, even businesses that feel they are knowledgeable and prepared to deal with CSR issues may not be. Nearly two-thirds of companies surveyed believe they have sufficient information about the sources behind their products and services to satisfy customer concerns, but half of those admit they don’t understand their customers CSR expectations well.
Fueling the customer focus on CSR, three-quarters of businesses report that the number of advocacy groups collecting and reporting information on them has increased in the last three years as has the amount of information businesses are providing about the sourcing, composition and impact of their products, services and operations.