Who is driving your CSR agenda? Is it your new hire Millennials? We asked our very own Elliot Hoyle for his thoughts on it.
Noticeably in recent years there has been an increasing emphasis within the public domain, on ‘sustainability’, and I should think it is now something that is on every individual’s radar to some level or another. Now to most, myself included (someone who is passionate about sustainability and the environment and did a degree in Physical Geography), this immediately draws to the issue of environmental sustainability and very current, not to mention important, topics relating to environmental degradation, climate change, human waste and pollutions (single use plastics being the one that sticks in my mind here) to name a few.
Inevitably as the issue of sustainability has crept up and up the public agenda, it has led to more and more action, on both a local and global level. The best example of this is the varying levels of environmental legislation, putting the emphasis on businesses and organisations to take at least some level of environmental responsibility.
Arguably, this has been (and is) driven by the demands of younger generations who feel more needs to be done to protect their future, and that of the next generations. Falling into the bracket of the Millennial’s myself, I would also argue this is a prime case study of the influence social media has as tool for people wanting to take action. Nonetheless, I feel that as the demographic changes, the corporate world is going to see a continuing demand for increasing levels of sustainability in the end products and services that the consumer receives.
Sustainability however, is by no means an environmental term and applies to a number of different spheres when we consider ‘corporate sustainability’. The focus here historically has been economic sustainability, for obvious reasons, you won’t get very far with a business that is economically unsustainable. Corporate sustainability nowadays however, has to include both the environmental and social sustainability (broken down further into social and cultural sustainability) of a business or corporation, in order to ensure long-term value for the stake holders involved.
A current example is the discussion around the issue of the Gender Pay Gap, with a huge public and political drive to make companies and organisations take responsibility for, not only their own gender pay gap, but also their employee diversity (Something Laurence Simons has been hot on previously, see our LS Knowledge Centre). This is only one example, but it highlights, like environmental sustainability, how current a topic corporate social responsibility (CSR) is and will continue to be.
Specifically, when looking at the legal job market, it doesn’t take much to notice a strong gender bias (see our piece recent on #PressforProgress). However, with CSR becoming something for those in senior/hiring positions to consider more and more, is this set to change? Or is change already a foot? Are legal teams and company boards becoming more diverse? From a recruitment perspective for us at Laurence Simons, a company whose CSR policy actively addresses gender and inclusion is a good thing for us to promote to candidates.
For me this is all very synonymous with environmental sustainability, in the fact that the roots lie with public opinion. Environmental regulation has been driven by a demand for companies and organisations to be environmentally responsible, and ensure longevity going into the future. As issues such as workplace diversity are quite rightly brought to the forefront (particularly in the media) there is, and will continue to be an increasing emphasis on corporate responsibility.
My view is that this all ties back to how modern day consumers are increasingly wanting to know the impact of the products they purchase, and how sustainable these purchases are, whether it be groceries, modes of transport, professional services etc. Does it simply tie back to supply and demand? Maybe not perfectly, but there are numerous, products, brands, organisations etc. (think of the Fairtrade movement for example and companies such as the Body Shop) that use their ethical business models as a USP.
In summary, corporate responsibility will have ever increasing implications from a compliance perspective. As corporate sustainability becomes more than just a guideline and elements become increasingly binding by law, legal and compliance teams on one level or another will be on hand to ensure that companies and organisations are adhering to their corporate responsibilities. Furthermore, I personally cannot help but think that surely those companies looking to take on more than just the basic requirements of corporate sustainability/responsibility, will have a lot to gain. From a marketing perspective this will positively improve how clients and consumers might look at a brand externally, linking back to my point about a USP and can be used as a hiring tool to make the company more attractive to us “oh so fussy” Millennials. Equally, internally you would expect it to improve the quality of a work place, if all those stake holders have a sense that they’re working towards something more long- term and sustainable. Win-win – a CSR policy which is engaging and drives engagement and change can only be a positive for all, regardless of age and pay grade. This is nothing new, but it is quite rightly becoming more of a focus.