Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has progressed in the past decade from a nice addition to a strategic priority for many businesses. In 2017, there is the hope that companies go beyond maintaining commitments to sustainability to becoming pioneers of global progress. Forbes reached out to CSR experts, including experts at the Harvard Business Review (HBR), to find out how the new Trump administration will affect corporate sustainability, what trends will emerge in 2017, and how the sustainability industry will continue to evolve.
The 6 CSR trends to watch for in 2017 are:
1. a commitment to sustainability regardless of political changes,
2. corporations stepping up as advocates and problem-solvers,
3. the CSO’s new and rising expectations,
4. a shift from “corporate social responsibility” to “social impact,”
5. the acceleration of transition to the circular economy, and
6. more investment in consumer and employee buy-in.
According to GRI’s chief executive Tim Mohin, sustainability will remain a corporate priority. Mohin has stated that compared to the 1980s, there is a rise in corporate responsibility, where most larger companies are committed to reporting on their environmental and social impacts and continuously improving their performance. Chief responsibility officer Trisa Thompson of Dell believes that corporations will continue in the direction of sustainable production, because “it makes sense and is a business necessity.”
There is a growing consensus that the key driver for a company’s social program should go above and beyond some generic standard of responsibility, according to 21st Century Fox’s SVP of social impact Liba Rubenstein. Intuit’s head of CSR Nicolette van Exel weighed in with an observation that the role of the CSR leader is becoming more sophisticated due to changes in the global socio-economic environment and the focus on purpose-driven business models.
Though 2016 showed promise in incentivizing businesses to increase resource efficiency through government policy, Andrew Winston of the HBR said that there is a huge need to find methods for waste elimination and reuse. In light of that, Sweden has plans to offer tax breaks for repairing items instead of disposing them, and six EU countries have started a four-year project to help enterprises move to circular models. Companies such as H&M want to make sustainable fashion affordable and readily available to people since the fashion industry is too dependent on virgin resources, says their head of sustainability Anna Gedda.
So far, the CSR community seems pretty confident that for 2017, CSR is on a continued path to excellence in how businesses can and will play a crucial leadership role in driving social impact, changing consumer behavior, and raising global standards.