The evolution of CSR: From social obligation to business need video transcript

Most larger organisations out there are very aware of the need to be transparent and address concerns around social and environmental responsibility but with recent news events around sustainability programmes, some of the credibility has been undermined. Where do you think we are in that journey of sustainability? Are we getting close to that end point and end goal?

I think quite significant progress has been made. If you think back 25 years for example, businesses didn’t have a sense that sustainability was part of their mandate. It didn’t mean that some weren’t environmentally conscious but I think far more today, it’s been internalised with the help sometimes of organisations like ours and that makes progress not only possible; I think we’re at a very exciting moment notwithstanding some of the issues around testing diesel and so forth, a number of companies have had issues there. But if you look at the bigger picture it’s a path up and I think that’s a very positive development. I think that the big change that we’re seeing is a move away from corporate social responsibility being thought of as an obligation by a corporation to be a good neighbour in a sense. You know we’re going to donate to local events that support the community, we’re going to pay attention to our local environmental footprint, we’re going to recycle because it’s the right thing to do – that’s good. But the move has gone to thinking more about not just what’s the right thing to do as a good neighbour but a recognition that sustainability is necessary from a business perspective. So there is a business need as well as a moral and ethical need, and I think there’s some other things driving that as well – that’s the biggest change we’ve seen. And the positive about that is if you can build on the business need you can have really quite incredible results that move much faster than simply philanthropic or good neighbour kind of approach. Our approach is to bring together all of the different entities that are relevant to a problem and try to find a solution and more and more we’re finding business recognising that it’s in their own economic self-interest to work towards a solution. I can give you some Canadian examples we’ve worked very closely with Loblaw on issues of sustainable seafood. And so we worked with consumers, with Loblaw, with the whole supply chain, with the fishing industry, with distributors and Loblaws goal was that it would be 100% sustainable seafood. And if you spoke to the people at Loblaw, they would say that it made sense for them because 10 or 20 years from now they still need to sell fish and if its not sourced sustainably they won’t have a product. Maybe that example is a bit easier to see in the context of food but it’s true in many industries. And that’s not about corporate social responsibility on it’s own as sort of an add-on because you want to do the right thing, that’s about the core part of your business but I think that kind of analysis and thinking is what we’re going to see more and more of going forward. Coca Cola is a partner with ours. Internationally actually, we’re a wildlife fund and one of the exciting things for me being part of WWF is that we are an international organisation, we’re the world’s largest conservation organisation, and what Coca Cola is working on in particular with us is sustainability issues to do with water. And you can see that is matters to their business of course because it’s a core part of their business and that’s about business sustainability in the long run and about environmental sustainability so we work with them on that project, we also work with them in Canada’s Arctic on a separate project and then work with their employees to help them express their values at work including on some fundraising initiatives to us.

The evolution of CSR: From social obligation to business need video

Back to Defining corporate social responsibility