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Canadian private companies fall behind on CSR

It appears that Canadian private companies haven’t got the memo.

(Photo: J.P. Fankhauser)

It appears that Canadian private companies haven’t got the memo. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an imperative for business and, as it turns out, private companies in this country are missing out on opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract a growing number of social and eco-conscious employees and consumers.

According to the PwC Pulse Survey on CSR only 21% of Canadian private companies currently have a CSR plan aligned to their business goals and almost half (48%) don’t have a CSR plan in place at all. This critical gap is also putting private companies at risk. “Many of these issues that are currently being dealt with on a voluntary basis could very well be regulated in the future,” says Mel Wilson, associate partner, Sustainable Solutions Group, PwC. “Companies would be wise to start operating as if there were regulations already in place, so they’ll be in a better position when those regulations actually come along.”

According to PwC, private companies may be more inclined to adopt CSR plans if they understood the opportunities they may be missing out on. Many private companies, for instance, operate in the middle of the supply chain, selling services and goods to large multi-nationals. Increasingly, multinationals are becoming more vigilant in eliminating vendors in their supply chain that are not aligned with their risk tolerance or approach to CSR. “This means private companies have to meet the CSR needs of the end-buyers in order to compete,” says Wilson. “In this new business environment where social and environmental issues are front and centre, private companies should get ahead of the curve or risk being left behind from a competitive standpoint.”

According to PwC, private companies should take the following four steps to create a socially responsible and sustainable business: create a longer-term vision about what CSR means to the company, identify the impacts of the company’s operations are on the environment and on people, measure CSR performance in a quantitative way as much as possible, and communicate performance to key stakeholders.

People running private companies can also refer to a piece I wrote for Forbes that includes five elements of the best CSR programs.

It’s time for Canadian companies to get with the program.