The use of the term corporate social responsibility is declining, says David Bent, head of business strategies at Forum for the Future. The focus has now shifted to sustainable business, he argues: “Corporate social responsibility asked the question ‘what is the impact of this business on the world?’. Sustainable business asks the question ‘what is the impact of the world on this business?’”
This shift in thinking began before the credit crisis struck, but is now gaining momentum. Scott Beaudoin, director of cause marketing at MS&L in Boston, says: “Companies are asking how they can be socially responsible in a way that also moves the business forward. It’s no longer about having one corporate social responsibility guy who is supposed to be the moral compass for the company, like a chaplain in an Army regiment. It’s about making sustainable business the standard operating procedure.”
Sustainable business, Mr. Bent says, looks at how a business can adapt to global social and environmental trends, such as future regulation on carbon output, water shortages, and changing demographics. He adds: “It looks at a company’s survival and future success in a world of limited resources.”
This shift of focus from csr to sustainable business practices seems logical. After all, businesses have a clear purpose – to make business. On the other hand I expect social businesses taking over the work of many of today’s NGO’s. Or: NGO’s becoming social businesses. Why? Because tackling environmental and social problems is no niche anymore but a mainstream issue.
Picture credit: Micha L. Rieser