BSR Survey - View From the Inside
27 November 2006 at 1:43 pm
A survey of 54 sustainable business professionals in the US reveals that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has a high profile inside their companies.
The survey “Sustainable Business & Strategy: Views from the Inside” was presented to the annual 2006 Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Conference in New York this month.
The survey found that there is commitment to CSR at the senior levels within their companies, with 72% of respondents stating that their CEO publicly communicates their company’s commitment to CSR, and the majority of respondents indicating that CSR is discussed at the Board of Directors level.
Moreover, 79% of respondents believe there is a strong connection between their company’s words and action.
The survey says that not only is there top management commitment to and support of CSR, but companies are well down the road in implementing specific actions to advance the CSR agenda, including integrating environmental and social considerations into product design and procurement processes, and collaborating with external stakeholders, such as NGOs.
For the most part the survey found that non-consumer product companies appear to be further along in the implementation of CSR processes than consumer product companies.
However, consumer product companies lead non-consumer product companies in strong measurement systems to assess social impacts and in integrating social considerations into product procurement processes.
It found that company CSR efforts have delivered strong business results, such as process and product improvements. And there is substantial alignment inside companies between business strategy and CSR efforts, with a high degree confidence among respondents that CSR will have even greater impact on business strategy in the future.
Respondents also indicated that CSR progress is routinely tracked and publicly reported.
Companies generally seem to have key performance indicators in place for all aspects of CSR, including employee health and safety, ethics, and environmental, supplier, labour and social practices.
But internal measurement systems to assess social impacts are not as strong as those to assess environmental impacts. And, although CSR progress is publicly reported by the great majority of companies, fewer than half the respondents think that reporting is a valuable business tool.
Finally the survey says respondents indicated that despite all the progress that has been made, there remains room for improvement. CSR performance is not well linked to executive compensation, nor is it adequately tied to brand messaging and marketing.
The respondents came from companies in a broad range of industries. Consumer products companies were the single largest industry group completing the survey (35%). Most respondents (89%) were from companies headquartered in North America. Annual sales of participating companies ranged from $2 million to $95 billion, with an average (mean) of $21 billion.
Respondents were typically at the Vice President (23%) or Director (49%) level.
While 20% of respondents indicated that their companies had a functional area dedicated to CSR, more typically CSR was “owned” by or led by other functions, such as EHS (14%), Public Affairs (12%), or Communications (8%). Most respondents (63%) saw the CSR function becoming more integrated with the EHS function within the next five years.
The BSR Annual Conference is the world’s largest gathering of CSR practitioners, attracting 1,200 people from more than 40 countries. In previous years, speakers have included President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Paul Wolfowitz (as President of the World Bank), and former Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres.
Headquartered in San Francisco and with offices in Europe and China, BSR is a Not for Profit business association that serves its 250 member companies and other Global 1000 enterprises. Through its advisory services and research, BSR works with corporations and concerned stakeholders of all types to create a more just and sustainable global economy. For more information, visit www.bsr.org.