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Businesses Stay the Course on Sustainability

More than eight in 10, or 84 percent, of survey respondents are somewhat or very optimistic that global businesses will embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR)/sustainability as part of their core strategies and operations over the next five years, despite an uncertain global economy, according to a poll released by BSR.

The report also reveals that 94 percent of the 377 survey respondents, drawn from a majority of BSR’s global network of more than 250 member companies, believe their companies plan to maintain or increase their budgets for CSR/sustainability programs in the year ahead, and nearly 75 percent expect to increase the amount of internal and external CSR/sustainability communications as well.

The report, “BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2010” (PDF), also finds that climate change, workers’ rights and human rights are top priorities. Climate change remains an important focus of these efforts, with 63 percent of respondents selecting it more than any other issue as either a “significant” or “very significant” priority, says BSR.

However, the proportion of respondents who considered it a “very significant” priority declined from 41 percent in 2009 to 27 percent this year, a drop from first on the list to third.

Social issues advanced in the rankings this year, with workers’ rights taking the most notable jump, moving to the top of the list of “very significant” priorities (selected by 32 percent) for companies’ CSR/sustainability efforts in the year ahead, followed by human rights (31 percent), climate change (27 percent), and water quality/availability (19 percent) on the list of “very significant” priorities.

Respondents believe that business continues to experience a lack of trust from the public and identified three actions companies need to take to address this gap: measuring and demonstrating positive social and environmental impacts (selected by 54 percent of respondents), increasing the transparency of business practices, (53 percent), and responding promptly and effectively to accidents, product quality issues, and other incidents (43 percent).

Responses to the questions of which three areas are companies demonstrating the most leadership today, and the three actions that will drive ongoing business success, yielded the same top three responses, says BSR.

These are creating innovative products and business models designed for sustainability (selected by 40 percent for leadership, and 66 percent for business success), followed by measuring and demonstrating positive social and environmental impacts (selected by 39 percent for both), and responding promptly and effectively to accidents, product quality issues, and other incidents (35 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

The survey was released at the start of the BSR Conference 2010.

In other sustainability news, Trucost announced its collaboration with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Supply Chain program that will enable members of the CDP Supply Chain to use Trucost’s environmental data to identify their most carbon intensive suppliers for inclusion in the disclosure process.

CDP Supply Chain currently works with 56 of the largest organizations worldwide, including Wal-mart, PepsiCo and IBM, to help them engage with their suppliers to understand risks and opportunities throughout the supply chain.

More than half (56 percent) of Carbon Disclosure Project members surveyed earlier this year said that in the future they would stop doing business with suppliers that do not manage their carbon.

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