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Impossible to ignore: the rise of CSR

Companies are investing more and more in their CSR effors. That is the headline finding in a recent report by Dutch NGO MVOnederland, which reveals ten positive trends in the evolution of responsible business practices. Interestingly, it also seems that the business case for responsible and sustainable policies is getting stronger and stronger.

Here are three more trends from the report that we can be proud to be part of:

Trend # 1: companies are focusing more on CSR
From the report: “The focus on CSR continues to grow in companies of all sizes. The main reasons are rising customer demand, opportunities for cost-savings, the scarcity of raw materials, and PR concerns”

See! This is more evidence that pressure from consumers is grabbing brands’ attention. In fact, sustainability has been widely hailed as a “global mega-trend” (google “sustainability megatrend” and you get nearly 50,000 hits). With other trends, such as the scarcity of raw materials, adding to its momentum, “sustainability” looks far more likely to stick around – and to change the world!

So keep voting with your wallet, folks!

Trend #5 The Consumers want sustainability, but are getting more picky

From the report: “Customers are now fussy [when it comes to sustainability, and] meeting basic sustainability standards has become a minimum requirement… For sustainable marketing, this means companies need to offer clear and trustworthy information about the sustainability credentials of their products.”

This also implies that we’re getting more knowledgeable about what sustainability means – and better at spotting greenwashing. But let’s not pat ourselves on our back just yet. If companies are going to start presenting more information, we need to make sure we stay informed about sustainability debates to keep our greenwash alarm on a hair trigger.

Trend #7: Transparency: from compliance to innovation

From the report: “In addition to following guidelines, more attention is being paid to the different ways in which transparency can inform CSR issues. From bringing dilemmas into the open, to kick-starting dialogues between stakeholders, transparency is leading to innovation [in CSR].”

Transparency is usually associated with report-writing, best online casino and not with the actual ‘responsibility’ element of CSR. It’s an approach that emphasises compliance – to following, but not leading – but there is reason to think that it is changing. The MVO has seen that companies are now providing greater insight into the dilemmas they face and the way they make their choices. Companies are increasingly asking other parties to help make their toughest decisions. And it”s certainly no longer good enough to just brag about setting a few targets (which we certainly agree with).

The MVO report provides an interesting case study: ASN Bank is a Dutch bank that is committed to only investing in socially responsible concerns. In 2011, it published a concept version of its investments policy on various internet forums, and invited average joes to offer their feedback. And during the summer, it requested regular input from a range of stakeholders on various dilemmas it faced in the areas of child labour and arms trading.

As transparency increases, their ranking at Rank a Brand automatically increases: no information = zero points.

Click here if you want to see the full report – and can read Dutch. Sorry!

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