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Big Blue’s Case for Corporate Social Responsibility

According to a recent survey, 68 percent of business leaders are using corporate social responsibility (CSR) to create new revenue streams and 54 percent believe that their CSR endeavors are giving their companies a competitive edge.

These and other findings come from a report issued Feb 12 by the IBM Institute for Business Value, a unit of Big Blue’s business consulting division. The Institute surveyed 250 business leaders worldwide and found that businesses are increasingly using the elements of corporate social responsibility to differentiate themselves from competitors, lower costs, and bolster their bottom line.

“CSR is no longer viewed as just a regulatory or discretionary cost,” the report’s authors, George Pohle and Jeff Hittner write in the introduction, “but an investment that brings financial returns.”

The survey suggests that momentum is gaining in CSR. The survey identified five areas where companies have ‘focused their CSR activities’ … regulatory compliance, strategic philanthropy, formal company values system, cost savings and creating new revenue streams… and asked respondents to rate their companies activities as either mature or recently started.

The areas of ranking highest in new activity were a statistical dead heat: creating new revenue streams with 49 percent, strategic philanthropy with 48 percent and cost savings with 47 percent. Formal company values finished with 44 percent while new activity in regulatory compliance finished last with 28 percent.

The survey also found that companies who say that their efforts are outpacing those of competitors are twice as likely to:

Collaborate
  • Understand well their customer’s CSR expectations.
  • Have increased information on sourcing, composition and impact of their goods, services and operations.
  • Collaborate with consumers and partners.
  • Engage employees in CSR from the janitor to the CEO.
Integrate
  • Place critical importance on (and rate themselves highly) at supply chain management.
  • Rate themselves highly at developing products and services that positively effect the environment.
  • Place critical importance on (and rate themselves highly) at aligning their philanthropy and their business.
This is an useful report from a respected source. The weight of opinion on the business value of CSR continues to grow. I welcome it.

Like all surveys it helps us understand the Zeitgeist of our time. But like any opinion survey it doesn’t tell us how people actually behave in the real world or why.

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