by Guest Blogger – Ane Fernandez

It’s been a long time since the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was mentioned for the first time in the late 1960s.  However, in the last few years, the evolution of CSR has been tremendous and it has moved from a ´value add´ to a ´must do´ element for businesses. Human rights, workers rights, environment, community engagement, supplier relations, etc. can no longer be ignored.

The European Commission defines CSR as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”.  Enterprises “should have in place a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stakeholders”.

Big corporations are also engaging in CSR. As matter of fact, the non-financial reporting of big multinationals has grown exponentially; ten years ago, only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR or sustainability report. Nowadays, more than two-thirds does, disclosing information in relation to their environmental matters, social and employee-related aspects, anti-corruption issues and diversity on the boards of directors.

But why is this important for a business? Why should an enterprise spend time, money and energy on this? Companies can question themselves: What’s in it for me?

These are some of the benefits that a good CSR strategy can bring to the table:

  • Consumer attraction. Consumers are acknowledging that businesses can generate profits while making a positive social and environmental impact and therefore the social and environmental aspects of a business are becoming a relevant factor that a lot of consumers consider when choosing a product or a service.
  • Enhanced corporate reputation and brand image based on distinctive ethical values. This also increases companies’ ability to attract capital, trading partners, etc.
  • Increased employee retention and employee attraction. The numbers speak for themselves: according to a Deloitte survey, 70% of young Millennials, those ages 18 to 26 say a company’s commitment to the community has an influence on their decision to work there.

Although there is still a lot to be done in the CSR and Sustainability space, there has been a clear upward trend in a new context where stakeholders (including clients, service providers, shareholders, community, NGOs…) have higher expectations in terms of the role that the public and private sectors play in the improvement of social and environmental wellbeing.  And in this new context, all of us (as business owners, consumers, investors, employees, community representatives, etc.) play a key role in promoting and engaging in CSR. Because we all are agents of change that can have a positive social impact through our daily activities and decisions. Let’s all together make this world a better place to live!

Ane Fernandez is a former consultant with BRS who recently moved to the United Arab Emirates. Ane is passionate about organisational improvement and working with organisations that make a difference to the community from and organisational and social perspective.