Despite continuing uncertainty about the world’s economy, more than eight in 10 respondents (84 percent) to the BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2010 are somewhat or very optimistic that global businesses will embrace corporate social responsibility and sustainability as part of their core strategies and operations in the next five years.
Nearly all (94 percent) of the 377 respondents—drawn BSR’s global network of more than 250 member companies—also said that their companies plan to maintain or increase their budgets for CSR/sustainability programs in the year ahead, and nearly three-quarters expect to increase the amount of internal and external CSR/sustainability communications as well.
“When the recession hit with full force two years ago, we urged our members to stick with sustainability as a key to achieving long-term business success,” says Business for Social Responsibility president and CEO Aron Cramer. “It’s very encouraging to see that, even in a world still marked by instability and change, they’re staying the course.”
The business leaders surveyed cite climate change, workers’ rights, and human rights as the top priorities for their companies’ CSR/sustainability efforts in the year ahead. Climate change remains an important focus of these efforts, with 63 percent of respondents selecting it more than any other issue as either a “significant” or “very significant” priority.
However, the urgency around climate change appears to have decreased from last year, when the Copenhagen climate summit was approaching: The proportion of respondents who considered it a “very significant” priority declined from 41 percent in 2009 to 27 percent this year—a drop from first on the list to third.
Social issues advanced in the rankings this year, with workers’ rights taking the most notable jump, moving to the top of the list of “very significant” priorities (selected by 32 percent) for companies’ CSR/sustainability efforts in the year ahead, followed by human rights (31 percent), climate change (27 percent), and water quality/availability (19 percent) on the list of “very significant” priorities. Underscoring the increased attention to social and economic questions, workers’ rights and human rights are the only two issue areas among a list of seven where the proportion of respondents who considered it to be a “very significant priority” has remained stable or increased compared to 2009.
Respondents believe that business continues to experience a lack of trust from the public and identified three important actions companies should take to address this gap: “measuring and demonstrating positive social and environmental impacts” (selected by 54 percent of respondents); “increasing the transparency of business practices” (53 percent); and “responding promptly and effectively to accidents, product quality issues, and other incidents” (43 percent).
Respondents were also asked to pick the three areas where companies are demonstrating the most leadership today, and the three actions that will drive ongoing business success. Both questions yielded the same top three responses: “creating innovative products and business models designed for sustainability” was selected most often (by 40 percent for leadership, and by 66 percent for business success); followed by “measuring and demonstrating positive social and environmental impacts” (selected by 39 percent for both); and “responding promptly and effectively to accidents, product quality issues, and other incidents” (35 percent and 39 percent, respectively).