Businesses Find Case for Social Responsibility

Businesses Find Case for Social Responsibility

Companies are viewing corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a growth opportunity rather than a regulatory-compliance or philanthropic issue, with 68% of firms surveyed focused on generating revenue through CSR activities, according to a study (pdf) by IBM.

Moreover, 54% of those surveyed said CSR initiatives are already giving their companies a competitive advantage.

CSR activities have been most focused on compliance, but other areas – such as creating new revenue streams – are gaining momentum, the study found:

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But the maximum benefit from CSR occurs when companies progress along a “value curve” as part of a cohesive strategy, gaining higher returns as they go, according to IBM:

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Awareness of the issue of businesses’ responsibility has increased in recent years: More than 10,000 new citizen groups devoted to social and political issues have sprung up since 1990, causing an “information explosion,” IBM said.

The number of advocacy groups collecting and reporting information on businesses has increased in the last three years, report 75% of companies surveyed:

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Customer concerns are a chief driver of the increased focus on CSR, the study found. However…

  • 76% of businesses surveyed admit that they don’t truly understand their customers’ CSR concerns.
  • 63% of companies surveyed say they have sufficient information about the sources behind their products and services to satisfy customer concerns, yet even among those 33% admit that they don’t understand their customers’ CSR expectations well.
  • 16% of respondents said they really engage and collaborate with customers regarding CSR activities.

“It’s not only critical for businesses to keep up with the emerging demands of their stakeholders, but to build CSR into the core of their business strategy,” said George Pohle, VP and Global Leader of IBM’s Business Strategy Consulting Practice. “That way CSR is not viewed as a discretionary cost but an investment that will bring financial returns. And since customers are changing buying behavior as a result of CSR, the financial impact can be dramatic.”

About the study: The IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed 250 business executives worldwide to find how well companies understand and manage CSR expectations. The authors of “Attaining Sustainable Growth Through Corporate Social Responsibility” outline the steps that companies can follow to align CSR objectives to core business strategy, using the results of the survey.