Published: Jan 10, 2011
As we've seen by many recent year-end posts, 2010 really culminated in a "coming out" party for corporate social responsibility professionals. The industry has indeed gone mainstream, and the sustainability function of businesses is no longer stored in a back hallway, only coming out once per year to express green initiatives and explain the company's carbon footprint to investors.
Sustainability and corporate responsibility have moved to the front page and marketing dollars are now covering more initiatives than the obligatory cause marketing programs. During 2010, we saw major programs unveiled by Marks & Spencer, Target, GE, Timberland, Wal-Mart and P&G. These programs were created with the company's DNA at their centers. Further, a global study by Echo Research, titled, "A World in Trust," that analyzed CSR trends and interviewed business leaders concluded that organizations must make sustainability a top business imperative.
The Global Reporting Index (GRI) and Center for Sustainability & Excellence (CSE) each established beachheads in the U.S. and a study by PWC reported that sustainability reporting is on the rise.
Annual CSR reports increasingly used multimedia to showcase initiatives and advancements. We also saw the CSR community participate and share opinions in the debates over the BP Oil Spill and Toyota's mismanagement of their braking systems.
Also of note, we witnessed more and more corporations developing NGO enmanagemenetttgagement strategies that established sustainable philanthropic programs that go far beyond traditional major gift donations.
A new CSR event popped up almost monthly which led to further discussion and discourse. The stellar and more traditional events such as BSR, NetImpact and Sustainable Brands were filled to the brim with attendees. New events such as the JustMeans Social Media Technology and Change Conference, PR Newswire's CSR Virtual Conference and the Economist brought new and innovative ideas to the conversation.
My firm, Fenton Communications, produced a sold-out webcast on the topic of the state of CSR in business today, featuring the now famous Professor Karnani, along with key pontificators, Chrystia Freeland (ThomsonReuters), Matt Bishop (The Economist), Georg Kell (UN Global Compact), Christine Arena, Bob Corcoran (GE), Dave Stangis (Campbell Soup Co.) and Aron Cramer (BSR).
The Twitter #CSR feed exploded and grew more every day, while top-quality bloggers had their say. Consultants who were once relatively unknown became "must follows," including Elaine Cohen (@elainecohen), Fabian Pattberg (@fabianpattberg), Chris Jarvis (@realizedworth), Julie Urlaub (@TaigaCompany), David Connor (@davidcoethica), Aman Singh (@VaultCSR), Bill Baue (@bbaue), John Friedman (@johnfriedman), Annaliza Humlen (@ADhumlen), Ann Charles (@annbcharles), Olivia Khalili (@OKL), Heather Clancy, (@heathclancy), James Epstein-Reeves (jepsteinreeves), Dave Stangis (@dstangis), Celesa Hovath (celesahorvath), Lis Duarte (@lisduarte), Alice Korngold (@alicekorngold), Dave Meyer (@drmeyer1), and Juan Villamayor (@JuanVillamayor) and so many more.
News organizations @CSRwire, @3BLMedia, @JustMeans, @PRNewswire, @Marketwire and @Businesswire distributed increasingly more content featuring sustainability and green business releases, images and video. Mainstream publications such Fast Company and The Guardian routinely featured exposes on the how businesses are dealing with sustainability reporting, employee engagement and stakeholder relations. Viewership of online media such as GreenBiz, Triple Pundit, Environmental Leader and Huffington Post spiked. Public relations and marketing agencies added CR practices and invested in departments that had already been created.
What's on tap for CSR in 2011? Here at Fenton, we predict:
Bottom line: If companies are indeed authentic, truthful, transparent and mindful, consumers, shareholders and employees will benefit. A win-win-win!
--By Susan McPherson
Susan McPherson is a senior vice president at Fenton, the nation's leading public interest communications firm, where she focuses on corporate responsibility programs for the firm's clientele. She has more than 20 years experience in marketing, strategic business development, public relations and product development. Prior to joining Fenton, McPherson was vice president, CSR services at PR Newswire, a leading provider of electronic news distribution, media targeting, and measurement and multimedia services. She serves on the board of Bpeace, an organization dedicated to assisting women in regions of conflict and post-conflict start businesses. She also is a member of Echoing Green's Social Investment Council, the New York Leadership team for 85Broads and an advisor to the OpEd Project.
Echo Research Study (PDF)
The Complete Series: CSR 2010
CSR 2010, Part XI: The Year Before the Year That HR Woke Up to CSR
CSR 2010, Part X: How to Pursue a Responsible Career in 2011
CSR 2010, Part IX: 3 Ways Corporate India Can Embrace CSR in 2011
CSR 2010, Part VIII: A CEO's Reflections: "It Was The Best of Times; It Was The Worst of Times..."
CSR 2010, Part VII: Holding Up the Mirror to Sustainability in 2010
CSR 2010, Part VI: 5 Reasons Why Sustainability Grew Up in 2010
CSR 2010, Part V: New Times; Old Challenges
CSR 2010, Part IV: Corporate Social Responsibility Shifts From Cubicle to Boardroom
CSR 2010, Part III: Don't Let Your Job Search Define You
CSR 2010, Part II: Emerging Career Choices in Supply Chain & Sustainability
CSR 2010, Part I: The Sudden Explosion of Commentary on Corporate Social Responsibility
CSR 2010: Lasting Impressions From a Volatile Year
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