Sustainability Trends In 2012: Predictions Or Wishful Thinking?
Dear CSR Gang, it’s that time of the year to make some predictions about the state of corporate sustainability and responsibility in 2012. Last week I read Susan McPherson’s ones and they inspired me to take out my crystal ball and see what it says about sustainability trends in the coming year. As you will see, most of the trends will be caused by the huge rise of social media. Here they are:
- Responsiveness of companies will need to be higher, faster. Through twitter, facebook and other social media, companies are more and more exposed to the public. Businesses need to respond to different demands, questions and complaints. They will learn to be fast if they dont want to make their customers angry and frustated. An example, Suchard was recently asked to guarantee that the chocolate they are using in their Spanish Christmas products does not come from children labor. It was a Friday evening and the company did not respond until later in the weekend. Their community manager was probably enjoying the weekend and had an unpleasant surprise when he/she discovered their facebook/twitter site full of messages from demanding customers. Suchard’s first reaction was to delete all messages from their wall, not very clever.
- The end of sustainability reporting (as we know it). This is a trend that has already been happening the last years. Printable or pdf-reports are the past. The present (and the future) are online sustainability reports that can be adapted or filtered according to the needs of each stakeholder group. They will be more interactive and will tend to be search engines rather than monolithic, inflexible documents. Probably you all know the impressive sustainability report of SAP, this could be a model of how a CSR report should look like in the future.
- Increasing role of companies as employability catalysators. Susan McPherson predicts a “continued growth in employee-engagement programs”. I would add that corporations will participate in programs to increase the employability of people at risk of social exclusion, such as minorities or long-term unemployed.
- The rise of a Pan-European CSR approach. The new European communication on CSR and its new definition will boost European initiatives. National frameworks will develop the European communication and this will certainly give a new, more efficient and coordinated approach.
- ISO 26000 will be the new keyword. Already recognised by the European communication on CSR as one of the “universal” frameworks, there will be pressures to make it a certification standard. It is certainly the most complete and universally recognised guide on CSR, for all kind of companies and organisations.
- Stronger relationships with stakeholders. The exposure of companies through social media will strengthen their relationships with their stakeholders. They will not only need to be more responsive, they will find new ways of stakeholder inclusion and innovative channels of dialogue.
- The growing importance of impact management as cornerstone of an efficient and genuine sustainability strategy. As the European Commission says, CSR is “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”.
- And finally, a set of questions rather than a trend. The rising expectations about Integrated Reporting. Will it be the new framework? Is it too much to handle? In an integrated report, will sustainability aspects be eclipsed by financial, economic figures? You might like to read Elaine Cohen’s take on Integrated Reporting, where she makes very good points about the subject.
Dear readers, I wish you merry Christmas/happy holidays and a successful, peaceful and sustainable new year 2012!
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