What is CSR?
Corporate sustainability consists of adopting a strategy that enables companies to achieve a balance between the environmental, economic, humanistic and social aspects. Therefore, it produces value by achieving corporate performance in the long term and should be an important part of firms’ actions and philosophy. Rationalizing the consumption of energy, water or reducing waste production for instance can lead to optimizing resources and decreasing the costs. Furthermore, companies that are recognized as practicing sustainability and CSR can open up to new markets create more value for their stakeholders, and recruit more talented employees.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a concept that has gained much attention in the last decades, as it became an important issue of research in social sciences and therefore leading to rich and diverse publications. In fact, CSR has been a growing source of debate as its forms and practices vary significantly between firms and encompass a wide variety of fields. Currently, in addition to ethics, this concept of social responsibility is increasingly considered in the context of healthcare delivery suggesting a new paradigm in hospital governance. Sustainability is another emerging strategic goal for healthcare systems and organizations as their development relies on implementing and strengthening sustainability as a crucial principle driving health sector to create public value and benefits in order to promote both health and wealth for people and society.
Top 10 Trends in CSR for 2021
Searching for the truth
While corporate transparency and disclosure have long been expected by stakeholders, they are no longer good enough. With fake news, alternative facts, and the ability of social media platforms to spread outright lies globally, corporate stakeholders are not only searching for the truth, but demanding it as a requirement for doing business. Expect to see more emphasis placed on external and third-party auditors and reviewers who will be hired to verify the information being shared by companies as both transparent and accurate.
Achieving carbon neutrality
While many companies have made great strides in reducing their carbon emissions and waste, simply reducing the environmental impact of corporate operations is not enough; now, stakeholders are demanding that companies eliminate them all together. More companies are using renewable energy and carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality (which should be independently verified), and the idea of “zero waste” is becoming commonplace in the workplace. Expect to see more companies moving quickly to carbon neutrality and making greater strides toward zero waste in the coming year.
Standing with employees
Increasingly, employees are exercising their voices demanding that their corporate leaders get involved with their communities and causes in ways unheard of just a few years ago. Employees, expect to see more corporate leaders prodded into participating in local and global public policy debates and being held accountable for their actions (or inaction) by their employees.
Pursuing purpose over passion
While passion remains critical for the leadership of companies and civic organizations alike, there’s a growing recognition that passions are sometimes fleeting, but purpose can be enduring. The movement toward creating corporate purpose as a way of inspiring employees and engaging customers is a recognition that purpose can be a long-lasting, and geographically agnostic, guiding force behind a company’s operations and its social responsibility. Expect to see almost universal embracing of purpose as a non-negotiable part of any company’s public portfolio.
Looking for the next big thing
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility has been around since the 1970s, and corporate philanthropy has existed for well over a hundred years. The idea of sustainability is decades old, and the commitment by companies and employees to “give back” by volunteering is equally long-lived. What’s the next big thing? Many investors and insiders tout the idea of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting and “Shared Value,” but these concepts may seem too academic to the average consumer or employee. Expect to see new ways of promoting and describing the idea of companies acting responsibly in the new year.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are front and center
In response to the killing of African American and Black individuals in 2020 and the social unrest that followed, many companies increased their commitments to racial equity with pledges to hire more racial and ethnic minorities, ensure pay equity globally, increase the amount of their spending going to minority and women-owned businesses and target their philanthropic investments to vulnerable communities. These trends will continue and possibly accelerate in 2021 as government officials, investors, employees and customers demand more inclusion and equity from the companies they associate with.
Global Giving is on the rise
Companies are increasingly making contributions to charities and community organizations globally and finding ways to encourage their employees to give and volunteer in their communities. Gone are the days that U.S. companies can claim that charity and corporate philanthropy are unique to the United States – it simply isn’t true, and stakeholders are demanding more local investments all over the world. Expect to see more global gift matching programs, the expansion of corporate volunteer programs, and increasing efforts to engage employees in ESG issues worldwide.
Virtual Volunteering finally finds a footing
While virtual volunteer programs have existed for many years, and organizations such as Catchafire, Taproot Foundation and Strive for College have achieved a number of successes, expect to see this trend grow in 2021. Last year, companies expanded their virtual volunteer efforts, but many of these initiatives were quick fixes or temporary adjustments to the pandemic. But with so many employees expected to be working from home until summer, and many companies contemplating more flexible work arrangements post-COVID, CSR leaders will need to adjust their corporate volunteer programs permanently, and find new ways of encouraging their colleagues to not only work from home, but volunteer from home as well.
Supporting Small Businesses becomes a new philanthropic priority
Because of the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on small businesses worldwide, particularly in vulnerable neighborhoods, more nonprofit organizations are focused on finding ways of helping these important pillars of their communities, and that means that companies will increasingly be asked to assist these endeavors as well. Efforts like the Coalition to Back Black Businesses, an initiative launched by American Express in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and four national Black chambers, will find traction with corporate philanthropy programs that may have shunned such efforts in the past. The importance of small businesses – particularly to hard hit, vulnerable urban centers and rural areas – will help drive more initiatives to prop up these businesses and ensure their sustainability during and post-COVID.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals take on new importance
While the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals have been embraced by many companies, the progress toward achieving these goals has been slower than was expected. The global pandemic has helped to emphasize that global issues can quickly become local ones, so expect to see more companies embrace the SDGs as drivers of their CSR/ESG work through more public-private partnerships and efforts to mobilize resources and actions around them in the coming decade.
Haddiya. I., Janfi. T., and Guedira. M., (2020) ‘Application of the Concepts of Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Ethics to Healthcare Organizations’ https://dx.doi.org/10.2147%2FRMHP.S258984
Forbes, (2020) ‘5 Corporate Social Responsibility Trends To Follow In 2020’ Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/timothyjmcclimon/2020/01/02/5-corporate-social-responsibility-trends-to-follow-in-2020/?sh=61455ab7e69f [Accessed 2 July 2021]
Forbes, (2021) ’10 CSR Trends To Watch In 2021′ Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/timothyjmcclimon/2021/01/05/10-csr-trends-to-watch-in-2021/?sh=4e9510ee5904 [Accessed 2 July 2021]