2012's trends in CSR
In recent years increasing numbers of businesses have begun to adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles and practices. This is due in large part to a combination of pressure from consumers, shareholders, and government legislation, but it must be remembered that CSR involves self-regulation by businesses. As a result, it is constantly evolving, which allows the important trends of 2012 to be analysed.
Firstly, it is clear that businesses have become increasingly transparent in terms of their CSR practices, and furthermore this trend looks likely to continue. The new focus on the responsibilities of corporations means that not only must they act appropriately, but equally importantly they must be seen to be acting appropriately. Businesses are generally proud to highlight their CSR initiatives, and more than ever before are releasing sustainability reports. In addition, 2012 saw an increase in “green advertising,” where companies will actually market their products and services based on how socially responsible they are.
It is worth noting that social media has played an important role in 2012 in allowing businesses to inform the public of their CSR efforts. In fact, social media will become even more important, as the information that it provides to both consumers and companies is essential. The fact that it allows for interaction between the two means that companies can easily monitor the effectiveness of their CSR efforts with consumers.
The very nature of what CSR encompasses has shifted in recent years. Key issues such as environmentalism and sustainability still remain, and are very important, but there is now also an emphasis on responsible capitalism. This is quite clearly a reaction to the banking crisis and the less than positive economic outlook. Shareholders are not content to let companies be wasteful with resources, and consumers are now much better informed about the impact of corporate financial practices.
In addition to shareholders and consumers, employees of corporations were better informed of CSR practices in 2012. There has been a real effort to engage employees with social and environmental initiatives. Research has shown that engagement in this way improves employee loyalty, morale, and productivity, as well as building trust.
The continuing focus on CSR has also presented new employment opportunities. Corporations have devoted resources to creating dedicated CSR departments staffed by professional employees with CSR expertise. CSR jobs are not only highly regarded by businesses due to their importance in ensuring compliance with standards, but also by employees due to the skills and training they provide. The increase in the number of CSR jobs is a trend that is sure to continue as corporations focus on their responsibilities.
It is clear that CSR policies and practices are now expected, if not demanded, of large corporations, so much so, in fact, that a business' activity or lack thereof can affect its perceived value. CSR is now a way for corporations to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is important for the people running corporations to understand that their CSR initiatives must be flexible enough to adapt to new concerns. CSR targets can be set, achieved, and then redefined, allowing for trends to emerge on a year by year basis. These trends help to identify what corporations are doing correctly, and where improvements need to be made.